LAFAYETTE — UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth spent the week leading up to the Northwestern State game saying he’d need more time and evidence to answer to his ongoing quarterback question.
All he got Saturday was time.
Fourth-year junior quarterback Jalen Nixon did not play in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 44-17 win because of a shoulder injury he suffered against Kentucky.
“He could’ve dressed tonight, probably could’ve played if we needed him to in the run game,” Hudspeth said. “He’s not ready to throw the ball yet. I would say it’s about 100-percent chance he’ll be back for the Akron game, though. That’s two weeks. I see him back without a doubt.”
Nixon, caught on the sideline after the game, gave the same timeline as Hudspeth for his return.
Nixon forced his way into starting consideration after a strong performance in the season opener that lifted the Cajuns back into contention in their 40-33 loss at Kentucky. But in his absence Saturday, Brooks Haack delivered a strong performance of his own.
He connected on passes of 27, 48 and 58 yards and completed 7 of 8 attempts. Hudspeth said after the game that he would never remove Nixon from consideration because of an injury, but Haack’s performance was compelling enough to probably make him the starter the next time the Cajuns take the field.
“When you’re playing and the other guy’s not, that obviously gives you a little bit of a heads up on the competition,” Hudspeth said.
Freshman wide receiver Keenan Barnes drew comparisons to a young Jamal Robinson throughout preseason practice, and he showed why in the first quarter Saturday.
Haack saw Barnes in single coverage and lobbed the ball his way deep down the sideline. Barnes adjusted beautifully to an underthrown ball, fighting back against momentum and leaping to catch the ball at its highest point for a 27-yard completion. It was Barnes’ first career catch and it set up the Cajuns’ first touchdown.
Also making his debut was redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Davis, who played the last series of the game. Davis was in the mix for a starting job at the beginning of preseason camp but lost out in part because of his lack of experience.
Davis’ only pass attempt was incomplete — dropped in the end zone by Lorenzo Cryer — but he did show some elusiveness on a 5-yard run.
Nixon wasn’t the only player to miss the game because of a shoulder injury. Receiver Al Riles, safety T.J. Worthy and linebacker Darzil Washington all missed the Northwestern State contest because of shoulder injuries they suffered against Kentucky.
Like Nixon, Hudspeth said Riles could’ve played Saturday, but he didn’t want to take the chance of putting him out before he was ready. The shoulder plague continued in Saturday’s game, as defensive backs Christian Goodlett and Troy McCollum both left the game with shoulder injuries.
Want a demonstration of Jeryl Brazil’s speed? Go back and watch the Cajuns’ lone punt in the first half against Northwestern State.
Freshman punter Steven Coutts drilled a line-drive punt 48 yards downfield — the type of punt that usually precedes a big return because the coverage doesn’t have time to get into position.
But Brazil was fast enough to meet returner Ed Eagan as soon as he caught the ball, and Brazil drilled him for no gain.
Called his shot ... and missed
Hudspeth guaranteed earlier this week that Northwestern State would call a fake punt at some point, and Hudspeth was right, the Demons did.
The only problem is the Cajuns weren’t ready for it. The Demons gained 26 yards on fourth-and-5 as the upback snagged the snap and beat the Cajuns around the edge. Hudspeth was all smiles after the game and acknowledged the Demons for pulling one over on him.
“I told you,” Hudspeth said. “Sometimes, you just have to admit that you got got, and boy, I got got.”