BOONE, N.C. — The very first drive of Saturday’s game at Appalachian State served as an unfortunate foreshadow for the Louisiana-Lafayette offense.
On third-and-7 from his own 19, quarterback Brooks Haack took the snap. He didn’t even get past the first read in his progression before he was buried by linebacker Eric Boggs.
It was the first of three sacks on the day for Boggs and six for the Appalachian State defense, which lived up to its billing as one of the most active in the Sun Belt Conference behind the line of scrimmage.
The Mountaineers finished their 28-7 victory by making nine tackles for loss, resulting in a total loss of 48 yards for a Cajuns offense that had fewer than 200 total yards until the final drive of the game. Forty-one of those lost yards came on their six sacks.
“Just look at these numbers,” Haack said. “They came out and did what they were supposed to do. Offensively, we could never get anything going. We’d get a good drive going, something would happen here or there and we’d get stuffed.”
Appalachian State hounded Haack when he dropped back behind the line of scrimmage, often forcing him to leave the pocket early if it didn’t drop him for a loss.
In an area where the Cajuns typically excel — entering Saturday’s game, they’d given up just 11 sacks — what really irritated Hudspeth was that this was the second straight year the Mountaineers have dominated his offensive line.
Last season, Appalachian State turned in an almost identical statistical line when they beat the Cajuns 35-16 at Cajun Field. The Mountaineers dropped quarterback Terrance Broadway six times in that game as well, for a nearly identical total loss of 40 yards.
“That’s two years in a row that we couldn’t protect against those guys,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve got to do a better job in our protection plan, and that’s two years in a row I felt they outschemed us. Got to give them credit.”
That burden fell on the coaches, Hudspeth said.
“Their players aren’t better than ours,” Hudspeth said. “They’ve got good players; don’t get me wrong. We’ve got good players too. But I thought they got the better of us scheme-wise, and obviously some of that was breakdowns and fundamentals.
“But we hadn’t given up that many all year long. That puts you in some long-yardage situations.”
Actually, the Cajuns usually found themselves in fourth-down situations. Four of the six sacks came on third down — and none of them were in obvious passing situations.
The sacks were a large part of why the Cajuns went just 6-for-17 on third downs Saturday.
“They had to have had one of the best fronts that we’ve faced,” Haack said. “(Defensive end Ronald Blair) was everywhere. They came out and did a few things on third downs that they haven’t shown.”
One of the two sacks that didn’t come on third down may have hurt the most. The Cajuns were on the brink of cashing in on one of two first-half turnovers, with the ball at the Mountaineers’ 8-yard line late in the second quarter.
But Haack took too long to make a decision on that play — one of the few sacks that could be pinned on his shoulders — and he was dropped for an 8-yard loss, setting up a third-and-16 from the 19-yard line. The Cajuns did not score.
“We knew they were going to bring a lot of pressure, and they did,” Haack said. “I guess they were a half-tick faster than we were. It’s tough because you want to score every time you get the ball, and when you don’t, you take it hard on yourself.”