LAFAYETTE — The last time Hunter Stover faced South Alabama, he got all excited for nothing.
The 2013 regular-season finale was Stover’s first game as the Louisiana-Lafayette football team’s primary place-kicker, and he was ready to go out and bang a few through the uprights rather than just booming the ball downfield on kickoffs.
But the Ragin’ Cajuns lost 30-8, going for two after their only touchdown.
“I was all fired up to go, and we ended up not even kicking one field goal or one extra point,” Stover said. “I was disappointed we lost, but I was also kind of disappointed I didn’t get to make any points or anything.”
This time around, things were a little different.
Stover was the Cajuns’ only offense for three quarters of their 19-9 win against the Jaguars on Saturday at Cajun Field. He connected on all four of his field-goal attempts and also hit his lone extra-point try to score a career-high 13 points.
“I kind of did what I was brought here to do — kick field goals,” he said.
With the Cajuns struggling to get the ball across the goal line, Stover couldn’t have been blamed for feeling a little pressure to perform, but the Notre Dame High School product trusts all the work he puts into his craft during practice.
“Pressure always kind of adds to stuff, but as much as we practice and as much time as me and (long snapper) Stephen Morella and (holder) Jake Guidry spend together, I feel like we can always pull through no matter what the situation is,” Stover said.
Coach Mark Hudspeth said he didn’t notice any nerves.
“He just seemed cool and collected, went out there and nailed each one of them,” he said. “He was on tonight, and that was good to see.”
Before this season, Stover — a talented high school linebacker — was known more for his tackling ability than his kicking leg. He had one career field-goal attempt before the season, a 27-yarder that proved to be the game-winner in last year’s New Orleans Bowl. But for once, it was Stover’s leg and not his tackling ability that drew attention.
Did he relish being the guy? Sure, but Stover wouldn’t have minded trading in a couple of those field-goal attempts for extra points.
“A tight game like that one, I feel like we needed some touchdowns when we were getting field goals,” he said. “I don’t mind getting field goals, but it’s definitely better for us to get touchdowns.”
The Cajuns are always looking for different ways to get running back Elijah McGuire the football, and they debuted a new look Saturday night: Quarterback Terrance Broadway split out wide, and McGuire took the direct snap out of the Wildcat formation.
“We had some nice runs the last couple of weeks with Terrance pulling the ball (on the read option) and getting a good eight or nine yards,” Hudspeth said. “We felt like, ‘Hey, let’s get in the Wildcat and put Elijah in there.’ … Those might go for bigger plays.”
The Cajuns used it strictly as a running formation Saturday, but don’t be surprised if McGuire throws a pass out of it later this year. Like most supremely talented high school football players, McGuire played quarterback for his Vandebilt Catholic squad. But he has shown off his arm at the college level, too: He threw a strike to Jamal Robinson this season on a halfback pass that would’ve gone for a touchdown if Robinson hadn’t dropped it.
It may be No-Shave November to some facial-hair novices out there, but for pros like Stover, it’s just another page on the calendar.
Stover’s beard was in full resplendent force after Saturday’s game, and it appears not even a chin strap can tame it. It’s so attention-grabbing that Stover inevitably is faced with questions about it every time he meets reporters.
Saturday’s question: When was the last time you shaved?
“It was before the spring game, but I trimmed it up for my brother’s wedding two weeks ago,” Stover said.
Got to look fancy for the pictures, right?