LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The stars were shining on a clear night in Las Cruces as Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire and quarterback Terrance Broadway had big games in the Cajuns’ 44-16 Sun Belt romp over New Mexico State on Saturday night.
While those two repeatedly get attention — and deservedly so — from opposing defenses, it was the contributions from some of the less-heralded players that helped the Ragin’ Cajuns roll to such a dominant performance.
Sophomore wideout Jared Johnson and junior running back Effrem Reed, who had combined to touch the ball 20 times in the first eight games, each turned in their best games of the season. The pair combined to score three of the Cajuns’ six touchdowns after they were asked to help offset some of the injuries the Cajuns have suffered over the course of the season.
Johnson was one of the young receivers the Cajuns needed to take on a bigger role in the wake of Jamal Robinson’s season-ending injury. The Cajuns have tried to take advantage of Johnson’s 6-foot-5 frame before, but it worked particularly well Saturday as Johnson hauled in a pair of fade routes in the end zone.
Once he showed what he was capable of with his first-quarter touchdown, when he fought off a defensive back to make a physical grab, the coaches called his number again.
“The first one, I wanted to see him make a play. I wanted to see what he could do,” Broadway said. “Our coaches actually called the second one after he made the first one.”
Johnson’s game was another step in the right direction for a group of young Cajuns wideouts that has begun to show glimpses of potential in recent weeks.
“The young wideouts are gaining confidence each week, and for him to come up and make big plays like that will only help in the future,” coach Mark Hudspeth said of Johnson.
Playing without running backs Alonzo Harris and Torrey Pierce, Reed was the second man up behind McGuire in the Cajuns’ steady ground attack. He finished with 11 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown.
“You’ve got to give credit to Effrem,” Broadway said. “He made some key blocks in the passing game, made some key runs, some physical runs.”
McGuire had already racked up a career high in rushing attempts midway through the third quarter. With a big lead in hand, it was up to Reed and Darius Hoggins to ice the game.
Hoggins received his first two career carries, one of which resulted in a touchdown.
“(Reed) executed well tonight and ran the ball effectively,” Hudspeth said. “And Hoggins comes in, who has shown effort during practice, so I’m glad to see we could reward him with some carries.”
Not so fast
Even when the Cajuns had missteps Saturday, they found a way to come out on top.
After receiver Teldrick Morgan broke three tackles on his way to a 42-yard score, the Aggies lined up for an extra point to cut the Cajuns’ lead to 28-10. But Darzil Washington stormed through the line to block the kick, and defensive back Corey Trim scooped it up and raced the length of the field for two points.
It was the first such play for the Cajuns since Bill Bentley did it in 2009 against Florida Atlantic.
Better team, better program
New Mexico State coach Doug Martin had some nice things to say about the Cajuns after the game.
“We got beat by a better football team and a better program tonight,” he said. “We knew that going in from watching film, and what you see from Louisiana is a model for what we are trying to build here, and they have done a great job getting that established over the years.”