LAFAYETTE — Just when it looked like the Ragin’ Cajuns had their quarterback situation figured out, it plunged back into the murky waters where it was at the beginning of the season.
Brooks Haack, who started his third consecutive game, was ineffective against Akron’s stout defense. Haack completed just eight of his 17 pass attempts for 77 yards, and he threw an ill-advised interception on the opening series of the second half deep down the field into double coverage.
Haack led one more drive in the third quarter, but after the Cajuns went only 16 yards on five plays, coach Mark Hudspeth decided to turn the reins over to Jalen Nixon for the remainder of the game.
“All I know is we had seven points going through three quarters,” Hudspeth said. “That wasn’t enough to merit getting the last quarter or last quarter and a half, so I made a change and went with Jalen.”
Nixon didn’t necessarily out-perform Haack statistically. He finished 11-of-20 for 96 yards and a touchdown — the first passing touchdown of the year for the Cajuns — but he also turned the ball over twice, one of which was a fumble that Akron returned deep into Cajuns territory and turned into its final touchdown of the night.
“(Akron was) just playing football,” Nixon said. “There wasn’t anything in particular that was special about it. They run to the ball hard. They chase after the ball, which every defense should. Unfortunately we were on the unfortunate side, we missed a few blocks, a few run checks. Just simple things that we can fix and learn from.”
It wasn’t a standout effort by either, but it sounded like it was enough for Hudspeth to open a full-scale competition back up.
“We’ve got to find a quarterback that can put our team in the end zone,” Hudspeth said. “Right now I don’t know who that’s going to be. We’ll decide that this week. We’re going to open up the quarterback position. I don’t know who the starter’s going to be right now. Don’t know.”
Airing our laundry
The officials earned themselves plenty of face time on the ESPN3 platform Saturday night, especially in the first half.
Akron was penalized 10 times for 87 yards in the first half, while the Cajuns were hit with 76 yards on six penalties.
How bad is that? Those first-half figures were season-worst totals for both teams. And worse, some came at crucial times.
The Cajuns committed a pair of automatic first-down penalties in third and long situations that kept Zips drives alive.
The Zips committed a pass interference on a second and long that kept the Cajuns’ only touchdown drive of the first half alive, then the referees flagged them for a holding penalty to back them out of the red zone on a drive that would end in a missed field goal.
“I’m very concerned (about penalties) considering we haven’t had many all year long and miraculously we had a lot,” Hudspeth said. “So we’ll go back tomorrow and figure that out. We’ve got to clean that up.”
McGuire, Robinson move up
With a 19-yard catch and run in the second quarter, Jamal Robinson moved into seventh place on the Cajuns’ all-time receiving yardage list.
Robinson finished the game with 22 yards, and is 20 shy of becoming the sixth Cajuns receiver to top 2,000 in his career.
Later on that same drive, a 5-yard Elijah McGuire run put him past Darren Brister for fifth place on the school’s all-time rushing list. McGuire is now 385 yards shy of tying Michael Desormeaux for fourth all time.
Odds and ends
The Zips held a 12:59-to-2:01 time of possession advantage after the end of the first quarter … The Cajuns finished the game with a -3 turnover margin, putting them at -6 for the year … Nick Byrne caught back-to-back passes in the fourth quarter. Prior to those two plays, the Cajuns tight ends hadn’t caught a ball all year … Gabe Fuselier caught the first passing touchdown of the season … The attendance for Saturday’s game was 24,679.