One play of one drive told the Cajuns everything they needed to know about their backup quarterback.
“His poise in that situation, he came in and didn’t miss a beat at all,” said junior left tackle Mykhael Quave. “He gave us what we needed on that drive.”
Trailing Georgia State 31-28 with a little more than six minutes to play, Brooks Haack entered the game for the Cajuns in relief of starter Terrance Broadway, who was dealing with some muscle cramps that made it impossible to take a proper drop.
It was a high-pressure situation, but Haack looked unfazed. He moved the team downfield, already converting one key third down with a gutsy toss to tight end Larry Pettis over the middle, and the Cajuns crossed into Panthers territory. But after a safe play call on second down was stopped for a minimal gain, Haack needed to come up money again on third down.
He saw the blitz coming off the edge. Rather than panicking and trying to get outside of it, he instinctively moved up in the pocket then broke an arm tackle as the blitzer flew by him.
“(Senior running back) Alonzo Harris missed his protection,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “(Haack) had to step up and spin out of a tackle. He had to roll out and throw off his back foot as he was getting hit, and he just threw a strike.”
Haack wasn’t done using his legs. Another Panther gave chase, and this time Haack had nowhere to go up field. He ran to his throwing arm side and backward, buying time. He saw where he wanted to go downfield and heaved.
By the time Haack let the ball go, he was 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage and his momentum was carrying him backward. The ball wobbled a bit in the air as it made its 36-yard trip downfield, but it hit the spot where only his receiver, Al Riles, could catch it.
“It was a phenomenal play,” offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said. “I think he showed a great deal of poise.”
And with that, Haack’s day was done. The lengthy review of Riles’ catch allowed Broadway the time he needed to overcome the cramping. Broadway threw a touchdown on the next play to put the Cajuns ahead for good. After the game, Broadway wanted to “gave credit where credit is due.”
“He (Haack) put us in that situation. He was ready to go,” Broadway said. “I’m proud of the effort that he had, I’m proud of the work that he put in to be ready for that situation. You can’t give me all the credit. Brooks Haack put us in that situation.”
Saturday’s drive wasn’t an isolated incident. Haack has played tremendously in relief of Broadway this season, completing 18-of-21 pass attempts for a pair of scores.
He’s certainly displayed more poise than he did last season as a redshirt freshman, when he struggled in his only start of the year for an injured Broadway, a 30-8 loss to South Alabama in the regular-season finale. But as well as Haack has played this season, he still needed to prove himself in Saturday’s game.
Up until Saturday, all of Haack’s action came in garbage time. He went 4-for-4 with a score at the end of the Cajuns’ blowout win against Southern, and 10-for-13 at the end of the Cajuns blowout loss against Louisiana Tech. The Cajuns didn’t have an accurate gauge of how Haack would hold up when it really mattered.
It’s safe to say that question was answered.
“It’s very encouraging,” Johnson said. “You always want those second-team guys to be locked in, because you never know when those opportunities are going to come. That’s just a great example of him being focused and being into the game. He made a bunch of plays for us.”
The job is still Broadway’s, and that isn’t likely to change. The Cajuns are sticking with the quarterback who will end his career as one of the most prolific passers in school history.
But the Cajuns know they’ve got someone they can trust if they need him this season, and now maybe Haack knows that as well.
“After that series, I think he gained some confidence in himself and I think the team gained a lot of confidence in him, too,” Hudspeth said.