Get set for Cajuns and Demons: Luke Johnson goes Next Level with Jamal Robinson and has his Four Downs _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- UL-Lafayette wide receiver Jamal Robinson

Next level: Cajuns want to turn Jamal Robinson loose

Louisiana-Lafayette’s first offensive play of the season was an effort to recapture some of the magic that was witnessed only briefly last year.

Brooks Haack heaved a ball deep down the sideline for receiver Jamal Robinson, who routinely hauled in those types of passes in his two full games played a year ago before he was lost for the season to injury.

The ball sailed over Robinson’s head and incomplete.

It was an up-and-down return for Robinson, who came up short on the two deep balls intended for him, dropped another pass and also fumbled inside the Kentucky 10-yard line. He finished with a solid line: 6 catches, 61 yards, no big plays.

UL coach Mark Hudspeth said earlier this week that Robinson didn’t look like himself, and Hudspeth took the blame for that, saying he forced Robinson to take it too easy during preseason practices. Hudspeth wanted Robinson healthy for the season opener, but instead he was rusty. The question now is, how long will it take for Robinson to round into form?

The Demons pass defense wasn’t tested often in the season opener against Southeastern. When the Lions did throw, they weren’t successful, completing just 2 of 10 passes.

The Demons do present one intriguing possible matchup, as 6-foot-4 cornerback Ralpheal Green matches Robinson’s physical dimensions.

But Northwestern will face a different task this week, and after his slow start against Kentucky, the Cajuns will likely try to get Robinson involved early and often.

It might not be the first play of the game, but Robinson will go deep again, and eventually he’ll find his stride.

Four downs

1. Chunk it

Explosive plays — or chunk plays — were often the Cajuns’ undoing on defense last year, and they came back to bite them again in the opener when they allowed eight plays of 25 or more yards. Look for the defense to stay aggressive but limit explosive plays against Northwestern State.

2. Get eli moving

Junior running back Elijah McGuire had a disappointing opener against Kentucky, which devoted most of its resources toward stopping the Cajuns’ big-play threat. He’ll get his share of between-the-tackles runs this week, but the Cajuns will also manufacture ways to get him the ball in space where he’s truly dangerous.

3. How many qbs?

Neither Northwestern State nor UL-Lafayette has settled on a quarterback. The Demons played three in their opener against Southeastern, but coach Mark Hudspeth expects to see Joel Blumenthal the most Saturday. The Cajuns, meanwhile, still aren’t decided between Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon.

4. No letdowns

The second half of the Kentucky game gave the Cajuns a shot of confidence to move forward with. Now, they’ve got to make sure confidence doesn’t turn into hubris against a team they should beat. Remember: The Demons rolled into Louisiana Tech last year and came away with an upset win.