LAFAYETTE — It was becoming more and more clear to Louisiana-Lafayette football coach Mark Hudspeth.

If Hudspeth were going to continue preaching that he would put his best players on the field, he was going to have to use freshman defensive back Travis Crawford. Up until Saturday night’s game against Georgia State at Cajun Field, Crawford hadn’t played and could’ve redshirted.

Not anymore. Not only did Crawford see a ton of playing time against the Panthers, but he was productive, racking up six solo tackles. Hudspeth said he didn’t really consider using the redshirt.

“He’s been improving every day in practice,” he said. “He’s a guy we’re going to start utilizing a little more on special teams. There’s a long season left.”

While the starters’ jobs seem secure, Hudspeth likes what the 5-foot-11 freshman from New Orleans’ Holy Cross High brings to the game in the Cajuns’ pass defense packages.

“He’s a physical kid, and he can run,” Hudspeth said. “He gives us a little more speed and mobility back there. He’ll definitely factor into some of our nickel packages and things we are going to do. I thought he played well for his first game.”

Flagged down

Hudspeth wasn’t about to go on a postgame tirade on the quality of officiating in the Cajuns’ 34-31 win, but his lack of comment said enough.

“I was disappointed,” he said. “I guess for the fact that we had that many penalties. We lead the conference in fewest penalties. I can’t comment on that a whole lot other than we had too many penalties.”

It’s hard to argue with Hudspeth’s logic. Coming into the game, his team had been penalized just 10 times all season. It was flagged 13 times Saturday.

One call Hudspeth didn’t have a problem with was senior defensive lineman Justin Hamilton’s targeting penalty late in the first half. Under the rule, Hamilton had to sit the rest of the game.

“I tried in my mind not to want it to be, but it looked pretty close,” Hudspeth said. “It wasn’t the fact that he got there late; it was bang-bang and the ball was out, we got pressure on him and we hit him. That’s what we wanted to do. We’ve just got to make sure it’s shoulders down.”

What a rush

The Cajuns finished the game with just one sack, but they got after Panthers quarterback Nick Arbuckle and forced his hand early.

The Cajuns did it primarily with their standard four-man rush, which pleased Hudspeth. Dialing up more pressure has been something the Cajuns have been talking about for weeks.

“I was proud of the way the defensive line played hard and got to the quarterback,” Hudspeth said. “We had a lot more four-man pressures tonight.”

Fooled, not faked

The Panthers converted a fourth down on what appeared to be a fake punt, but it was really just a blown assignment.

The Cajuns turned their backs on Georgia State punter Will Lutz, who made a heads-up play to run 26 yards for the first down.

“It wasn’t a fake they had called; the punter just didn’t see anybody rushing him, so he ran off and converted the fourth down,” Hudspeth said. “That was on me.”

Point taken

It didn’t come back to bite them, but Hudspeth was not pleased that the Cajuns left the door open for the Panthers at the end of the game when kicker Hunter Stover missed the extra point following the go-ahead touchdown. After the missed kick, the Panthers needed only a field goal to tie.

“That could’ve come back and been very costly,” Hudspeth said.

It’s the second extra point Stover has missed this season. But for the first time this season, the Cajuns went the entire game without turning the ball over.

“We did a great job of keeping the ball tight all night,” Hudspeth said. “Another step of progress tonight with the ball security.”