LAFAYETTE — Despite the constant rain and wind in the area Saturday night, there weren’t any lightning strikes until Brooks Haack’s right arm delivered one late in the fourth quarter of Louisiana-Lafayette’s 30-24 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Haack, who started the game on the bench, fired a 64-yard rainbow through the rain and the wind to a streaking senior receiver Jamal Robinson for the go-ahead score with 3:10 remaining.
“Jamal ran a great route, got the corner’s hips turned and everything,” Haack said. “I saw it and just prayed that it would get there — because it was very tough out there.”
On the play, ULM brought everyone down near the box as it consistently had while the Ragin’ Cajuns tried to nickel and dime their way down the field. Robinson pleaded with receivers coach Jorge Munoz to take a shot; Munoz relayed the information, and coach Mark Hudspeth felt it was time.
Robinson beat his man on the post route, and there was no safety to help. All Haack needed to do was lay it out in front of him. Robinson saw it wobble through the air, but it wobbled to the right spot.
“I was hoping it would hit me in stride; I had some separation,” Robinson said. “The ball was kind of ugly, though. I told him that. But it was on point.”
It capped a dramatic and seemingly improbable comeback for the Cajuns (3-4, 2-1 Sun Belt), who looked lifeless against the Warhawks (1-6, 0-3) in the first 30 minutes.
Having gained just 90 yards and posted nine points in the first half, the Cajuns again decided to make a quarterback change. Haack came on in relief of starter Jalen Nixon on the last drive of the first half and stayed in the remainder of the game, with the exception of short-yardage rushing situations.
While Haack did not have a huge game statistically, finishing 6-of-13 for 84 yards, he did what Nixon could not by leading the Cajuns to the end zone.
With Haack leading the offense, the Cajuns’ first drive of the second half went 65 yards in nine plays, with all but 8 yards coming on the ground. Elijah McGuire punched it in from 5 yards for the Cajuns’ first touchdown.
The next three drives didn’t generate anything as the Cajuns gained just 15 yards and punted three times. But the Cajuns defense did its part to keep the team in the game.
After allowing ULM to find holes in its secondary consistently in the first half, the Cajuns started getting after ULM quarterback Garrett Smith. Suddenly, the Warhawks offense went cold.
The Warhawks punted on five of their seven second-half drives as they couldn’t find any room to breathe, and when the Warhawks punted, it usually was good news for the Cajuns.
Freshman Chaiziere Malbrue stormed through the ULM punt blocking unit to block a punt that set up great field position for the Cajuns. Haack capped a 31-yard drive with a 13-yard rushing touchdown.
The Cajuns defense had one more huge stop. After Haack’s touchdown pass to Robinson, ULM had a shot at a winning drive. But Cajuns freshman Mario Osborne effectively ended the game with a strip sack of Smith near midfield. The Cajuns recovered and ran out the clock for the win.
Hudspeth said it’s too early to make a decision at quarterback for next week, but he was obviously pleased with what Haack did Saturday.
“We’re going to digest this game tonight and look at the film tomorrow,” Hudspeth said. “Both guys have really played well this year. I don’t know what to tell you right now other than we need to look at the film and talk about it as a staff.”
The Cajuns’ first-half struggles continued; they went to halftime trailing 24-9. It was the fifth time in seven games the Cajuns have gone to the locker room trailing by a touchdown or more.
The Warhawks’ first two touchdowns came on fourth-down plays. The first came on fourth-and-4 when Smith faked a throw to the flat before coming back to find a wide-open Marcus Green in the middle of the field.
On their next possession, which started at the Cajuns’ 29-yard line after a poor punt, the Cajuns held them to what appeared to be a three-and-out. But ULM took a timeout on fourth-and-10 as it had the field goal unit on the field.
ULM opted to send its offense back out on the field, and Smith hit Ajalen Holley for a 29-yard score down the middle of the field. Troy McCollum looked like he had a play on the ball, but he mistimed his jump.