Photos: Cajuns beat Northwestern State 44-17 _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Ragin' Cajuns quarterback Brooks Haack (9) throws the ball ahead of pressure from Northwestern's Rico Robinson (66) on Saturday at Cajun Field.

The next level: Brooks Haack has the green light; now it’s on him to go

Junior quarterback Brooks Haack earned a vote of confidence from coach Mark Hudspeth this week.

Even with fellow junior Jalen Nixon returning to action after missing the Northwestern State game with a shoulder injury, Hudspeth said Haack had done enough to merit his third start in as many games.

It’s the first time this season Hudspeth has made the starter clear before kickoff — he even held out for the Northwestern State game despite knowing Nixon would miss the game with an injury.

So what has Haack done to make Hudspeth comfortable with rolling with him for the foreseeable future? It starts with what Haack did the last time he was on the field.

Haack only had a few opportunities to show what he could do, but he was razorsharp against Northwestern State, completing 7 of his 8 pass attempts for 187 yards and a 252.32 rating. That’s the highest single-game rating by a Cajuns quarterback since Terrance Broadway carved up Georgia State for 234 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 completions in 2013.

This week, against a stout Akron front seven, Haack is going to need to be on his game again.

The Zips have allowed just 2.7 yards per carry this season, and that’s with two-thirds of their games coming against “Power Five” schools. They’ve been a bit more susceptible through the air, however.

If the Cajuns want to create some room for Elijah McGuire to gash Akron, it will help if Haack is able to take the top off the defense with some deep passes downfield, as he showed last week.

The coaches have shown Haack that they have confidence in his ability. Now he’s got to prove them right.

Four downs

1. Needs improvement Even after scoring 52 points in a blowout win against Savannah State last week, Akron, at 20.7 points per game, is ranked 115th nationally in scoring offense. The Cajuns have given up eight plays of 30 or more yards, a figure that ranks among the worst in the country — even though the Cajuns have only played two games.

2. Zippy QB carousel Akron will turn to sophomore Thomas Woodson to start at quarterback this weekend. This will mark Woodson’s third career start. The Zips have played three quarterbacks extensively already this season, and it’s possible all three could see playing time against the Cajuns, depending on the health of Kyle Pohl.

3. Containing Hundley Running back Conor Hundley has been basically the Zips’ only big-play threat through three games. Hundley broke free for 127 yards on just 11 carries against Savannah State. He’s averaging 7.0 yards per carry this season, and the Cajuns should make containing him their top priority.

4. Size advantage The Cajuns will enjoy a huge size advantage across the board against Akron’s defense. Only one player in the Zips’ defensive line rotation tops 280 pounds, and every member of their starting secondary stands 6-feet or shorter. The Cajuns should take advantage of this on the ground and through the air.