LAFAYETTE — The outcome of Saturday night’s game between Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas State might come down to who has the ball last, because neither team has been very effective keeping opponents out of the end zone.
The Cajuns come into the game ranked 102nd in the country in scoring defense at 33.8 points per game. That number balloons to almost 40 points per game in their three losses.
The Bobcats, though, have been worse. Much worse.
Through four games, Texas State is yielding a whopping 49.5 points per game — the worst scoring defense among 128 FBS teams. The Bobcats have allowed at least 56 points in each of their three losses and are ranked in the bottom five nationally in passing defense (337.3 yards per game) and rushing defense (247.8).
Texas State defensive coordinator John Thompson resigned after Houston thrashed the Bobcats 59-14. Coach Dennis Franchione’s son Brad took over as defensive coordinator, so the Cajuns are preparing for what may or may not be a different look this weekend.
“You’ve got to go back and look what he’s done at previous places just to see if it’s something similar to what they’re already doing,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “But they also have got, probably, seven or eight weeks invested into all these schemes that they’re already working, so it may be a fact that they’re just going to try to do it a little better.”
Both teams have been thoroughly gashed by explosive plays. The Bobcats are allowing nearly 8 yards per play and have allowed seven plays of 50 or more yards, while the Cajuns have given up 13 plays of 30 or more yards.
The Cajuns’ biggest problem might be their inability to force turnovers. They’ve come up with just three this season, better than only Wyoming, Wake Forest and Virginia.
These anemic defensive performances are setting up what may be a shootout at Cajun Field, which Hudspeth would welcome at this point after some poor offensive efforts in the first few games.
“You know what? I’ll be honest with you: I’d love to get into a shootout, because that means we’re going to be in the game and we’re scoring points,” Hudspeth said. “I’ve got a lot of faith in our defense and I’ve got a lot of faith in our offense. Once we get rolling, just like we did last year … we’re going to get it going.”
Senior safety T.J. Worthy probably could play this weekend against Texas State after missing most of the last three games with a hamstring injury, but the Cajuns might decide to not rush him back.
“I’m afraid if he does (play) I don’t know how long he’ll last,” Hudspeth said. “I’m leaning on not playing him possibly.”
One of the factors in that decision is the 10-day break between Saturday’s game and the following game against Arkansas State, which is on a Tuesday.
“It could be the difference where he could play the rest of the year,” Hudspeth said. “It’ll be a decision we’ll make later in the week.”
In an otherwise dreadful start to the season, freshman punter Steven Coutts has been a revelation for the Cajuns. He dropped four of his six punts against Louisiana Tech inside the 20-yard line, including two inside the 5.
It was a continuation of a strong start for the Australia native, who is averaging 43.6 yards per punt this season despite playing in his first season of competitive American football.
How has he managed the transition into the American game so quickly?
“He walks around campus with a football and works on his drops on the way to class,” Hudspeth said. “Dangdest thing I’ve ever seen.”