ATLANTA — As somewhat expected, Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Brooks Haack was rewarded with a start against Georgia State after leading his team to a comeback win against ULM last week.
What wasn’t necessarily expected was how much playing time Haack would get.
The Cajuns had Haack line up behind center for all but five of their 68 plays from scrimmage.
The only time he left the game for Jalen Nixon was on the Cajuns’ third offensive possession. Nixon threw too high for his intended receiver on the fifth play of that drive. It was intercepted, and that was his last play of the day.
“After the interception, we just felt confident, the way Brooks was playing, that we were going in a pretty good direction,” coach Mark Hudspeth said.
All told, Haack received 93 percent of the offensive snaps. Hudspeth gave a wide range of possibilities when discussing the potential usage of his quarterbacks earlier in the week, including a 90/10 split.
Once the Cajuns determined Haack would get the start, the plan was to script their offensive play calls to get Nixon in on the third offensive series. They stuck with the plan even as Haack completed 6 of 7 passses for 65 yards and a touchdown on the first two series.
“We knew he was going to get the third series of the game,” Hudspeth said. “We were going to use him in some situational things also, some third-and-shorts.
“After his series, depending on how he did, he may could have gotten another series at some point later in the game.”
But Nixon’s interception left him on the bench for the remainder of the game, leaving Haack to finish 18-for-25 for 162 yards through the air. He rushed for 15 yards.
After the game, Hudspeth said the team didn’t utilize Nixon’s strengths well enough.
“We probably didn’t give Jalen enough opportunities to run the read option,” Hudspeth said. “That’s what he does the best.”
Haack, meanwhile, got the opportunity to do what he does best — sling it around the yard.
His best throw of the night came on a 33-yard strike to receiver Al Riles on the Cajuns’ 12-play, 75-yard first-quarter touchdown drive. He finished that possession rolling to his right and finding Riles in the flat for a touchdown on third-and-goal.
But that was the last touchdown the Cajuns scored on the night. After a first half in which he completed 8 of 9 passes for 93 yards, Haack and the Cajuns offense didn’t move the ball as well in the second half, as the Cajuns only had one drive longer than 35 yards.
They finished the night with just 16 offensive points, and their 307 total yards was their third-lowest total output of the season. This night belonged to the Cajuns defense.
“That’s one of the things I want to challenge the offense with,” Haack said. “When we get in that type of moment and we need to end the game with the offense, we need to end it — not punt it, pin them back and have our defense bail us out again.”
But the only number that matters at this point for Hudspeth and the Cajuns is the plus-one in the win column. The offense, while still a work in progress, has done enough in the last two games.
“We’ve got to put the ball in the end zone more. We’re settling for way too many field goals,” Hudspeth said. “But we’re doing enough to win games, and that’s what’s important.”