Since wide receiver Jamal Robinson exited early in the second quarter against Louisiana Tech, the Cajuns passing game has taken a hit, especially the downfield passing game.
Some of the statistical difference can be attributed to the difference in competition, as the Cajuns faced Southern in the season opener, where Robinson racked up more than 100 yards on five catches, before transitioning to more difficult foes in Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss.
“Playing two good opponents out of the first three games, sometimes their defense has a little to do with it,” Ragin’ Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said.
But the contrast in the passing game, especially in yardage, is stark when looking at senior quarterback Terrance Broadway’s numbers with and without Robinson.
With, Broadway is 28-for-46, with four touchdowns, two interceptions and 300 passing yards. Without, Broadway is 26-for-47 with no passing touchdowns, four interceptions and 216 passing yards.
Broadway has averaged less than 5 yards per attempt in the Cajuns’ past six quarters of football despite playing most of those minutes trying to make up a huge deficit.
Those deficits have been part of the problem, Hudspeth said.
“If I could think of anything that might have to deal with Terrance right now, it might be the fact that we’re down 21 or 28 points,” Hudspeth said. “He’s feeling like he’s got to make that spectacular play to get us back into the game.”
That notion is supported by Broadway’s statistics in the second half of the Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss losses, when the Cajuns were down by double digits.
Broadway threw two interceptions in the second half against Ole Miss, one of which came on an overthrown deep ball down the middle of the field. His lone interception against Louisiana Tech also came in the second half.
But the big deficit doesn’t give Broadway a free pass to be careless with the football, Hudspeth said.
“Even in those types of games where you’re down 28-6, you’ve got to know that you’ve got to take care of the football,” Hudspeth said. “Give our guys, the defense, a chance to show they maybe made some adjustments at halftime to get the ball back and try again.”
Though he’s gotten off to a slow start in the passing game, Hudspeth said Broadway isn’t feeling any ill effects from the broken arm that sidelined him for the last few games of last season.
Instead, it’s a combination of factors.
It hurts not having Robinson, who still has nearly twice as many receiving yards as the next closest Cajuns receiver despite playing in less than half of the action this season.
“As a receiving corps, we’re trying our best to fill in,” said sophomore Jared Johnson, who started in Robinson’s place against Ole Miss. “We’ve got some big shoes to fill, but we’ve been working hard.”
Senior James Butler, who was Broadway’s top target against Ole Miss with five catches for 33 yards, thinks he needs to improve in Robinson’s absence.
“Him being out, now they’re looking to me to be the No. 1 guy,” Butler said. “I have to step up and make more plays. I take the last game upon myself. I have to step up and fill that void that he left.”
But Broadway has also struggled at times with his decision making.
“A lot of those turnovers had to do with decisions and not necessarily the skill set,” Hudspeth said. “He knows he’s much better than that, and I expect him to play really good.”
Broadway has had his difficulties this season, but neither Hudspeth nor the receiving corps seem to be concerned with their senior signal-caller.
“If you listened to Terrance and you see him at practice, that guy is such a competitor,” Hudspeth said. “He is determined to pull this team through, especially with his play and his leadership and his decision making process.”