LAFAYETTE — When the Georgia State Panthers visit Cajun Field on Saturday, the Sun Belt’s most prolific passing attack will be accompanying them.
Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle’s 1,315 yards leads all Sun Belt quarterbacks. Combine that with Louisiana-Lafayette’s struggling pass defense — the Cajuns are giving up 268.5 yards per game, the worst in the conference — and Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth has cause for concern Saturday.
“Any time you’ve got a really good quarterback that likes getting the ball out, you’ve got to do some things to disrupt him,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve got to try to get some pressure on him and get him out of the pocket. You don’t want to have to bring everybody an awful lot or pressure all the time where you leave your guys on islands. All they have to do is make one guy miss and the band plays.”
Both Tyren Alexander and Corey Trim preached about making Arbuckle uncomfortable in the pocket. Trim said he likes to sit in the pocket and said the Cajuns defense wants to force Arbuckle into deep throws.
“We’re playing more man on the routes,” Trim said. “(Arbuckle) doesn’t like to run, so we know he’s going to be back there. We have to make him uncomfortable and maybe have him throw some interceptions and get some pass break-ups.”
With the Cajuns having only six sacks in four games, Alexander said getting to Arbuckle will be a key to forcing errant throws.
“He’s a really good quarterback,” Alexander said. “If he sits in the pocket, he’s going to throw the deep ball. Putting more pressure on the quarterback will help the safeties out. The safeties getting better coverage will help us with the quarterback holding the ball. We work as one.”
The primary reason the Cajuns hope to force Arbuckle into the deep ball is Panthers tight end Joel Ruiz. The six-foot-four junior is a major target in the short passing game and will present a mismatch to the smaller Cajuns’ secondary.
“He can definitely body you out and catch the ball,” said Trevence Patt, who is moving back to safety from corner against the Panthers Saturday. “(Arbuckle) can throw the deep ball well, but they have spot routes where he tries to find the tight end. Instead of being like we have been the last few weeks — kind of soft in the secondary — we want to mash their routes. We want to get our hands on people and stop them from running away from us.”
Hudspeth acknowledged Arbuckle’s ability to spread the ball around and take what the defense gives to him. He said they have a stable of capable wideouts and the Cajuns will need to pick their moments with blitzing the quarterback.
“They’ve got some consistency with Arbuckle and he’s got a very quick release. He’s a very accurate passer. You’ve got to pick and choose your moments. You’ve got to be good tacklers, and then when we do get there, we’ve got to get there. We’ve got to make him get the ball out before he’s ready, and we’ve got to do a good job covering those wideouts.”