LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette football coach Mark Hudspeth is no stranger to Louisiana-Monroe’s exotic defensive looks.
In 2013, the Cajuns were in the middle of an undefeated conference season before losing to ULM at home 31-28. In that game, the Warhawks had three interceptions and knocked out Cajuns quarterback Terrance Broadway with a broken arm.
Hudspeth said that game is still fresh in his mind as the Cajuns enter Saturday’s game against the Warhawks in the middle of an undefeated Sun Belt Conference season. Hudpseth said ULM’s unique defensive scheme has created some issues.
“When you see four-man fronts each week, you tweak a little bit and try to find matchups,” Hudspeth said. “Against (ULM), it is something totally different that you haven’t seen all year long. They’ve been very successful since we have been here. You just hope you’re good enough to be successful.”
Unlike the four-man fronts the Cajuns are accustomed to seeing, ULM will play a 3-3 stack defense: The linebackers bunch up behind the defensive line, creating loops, stunts and blitzes that require discipline to execute.
Of course, it also requires discipline to block it. Hudspeth said, most times, it forces the offensive line into one-on-one blocking.
“Your center will be one-on-one, so he has to snap, get his hands up and pass-protect without a lot of help from the guards,” he said. “It’s a difficult scheme. It’s one you don’t practice against very often because you don’t see it. The toughest part about pass protection is that, when there’s five down linemen, we have to be 5-for-5. They only have to be 1-for-5.”
Cajuns center Terry Johnson said he has a lot of respect for the Warhawks defense and said some of their looks make him reconsider his play on the field.
“They have a lot of looks that appear to be blitzes, but they aren’t,” he said. “It makes you rethink everything you were taught when you look at their defense. I respect that they are so fundamentally sound to run that defense.”
The Cajuns will look to continue the strong rushing attack they have enjoyed over this five-game winning streak but, to do that, they will have to find holes in the Sun Belt’s top rushing defense.
“That will be a great battle,” Hudspeth said. “They do some great stuff against the run. It is hard to run when you’ve got guys unblocked. You’ve got to disguise some things, break some tackles and formulate some plays for deception. We need to occupy defenders because you are just not going to block all the guys they put in the box.”
Johnson said he knows ULM’s scheme places a lot of pressure on the offensive line, but he said they aren’t backing down from that challenge.
“If one person messes up, that could mess up the entire scheme,” Johnson said. “We have to all be on the same page and have the same mind.
“They’re a fast defense. They aren’t physical; they’re just fast. You have to hit fast guys in the mouth and stun them. That’s what we have to do.”