LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Akron have combined to play five games this season, yet neither might have a full grasp of what its team will look like this season until after Saturday’s game.
Three of those five games have come against solid programs in the Power Five conferences: The Cajuns lost in the last minute against Southeastern Conference opponent Kentucky, Akron’s offense was smothered by both Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma and Pitt of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The other two games featured blowouts of FCS programs, as both the Cajuns and the Zips ran for six touchdowns their most recent time on the field while throttling Northwestern State and Savannah State.
Neither team has yet had an opportunity to test itself against an opponent from one of their peer conferences.
Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth doesn’t buy the notion that he hasn’t yet been afforded an adequate barometer for his team, however.
“I don’t know, to me, every game you play gives you a little bit of a gauge of where you’re at,” Hudspeth said. “We wanted to gauge ourselves against an SEC team when we played Kentucky, and in the second half, we played pretty well with those guys.”
The Cajuns emerged satisfied with everything but the result of the game itself. It provided a jolt of confidence for a young team that might have been a bit unsure of where it was heading into the season.
That same confidence doesn’t necessarily translate to Akron, though. Entering last week’s game against Savannah State, the Zips were ranked last among Division I schools in scoring and total offense.
Against Oklahoma, Akron managed 226 total yards and three points. The Zips followed that with 110 total yards and seven points a week later against Pitt.
Despite those awful numbers, some recent history shows it’s not always a great idea to apply the transitive property to the remainder of the season when trying to get a read on a team based on one or two appearances against a superior foe.
Last season, Louisiana Tech managed just 245 total yards in a season-opening 48-16 loss to Oklahoma. A week later, the Bulldogs barnstormed the Cajuns at Cajun Field to the tune of 533 total yards, resulting in a 48-20 beat-down.
An opponent’s production never really matters when breaking it down for a game plan anyway. Hudspeth won’t be worried about the Zips’ lack of yards against Oklahoma and Pitt, but he will pay close attention to the scheme they used.
“More times than not, just like when we played Kentucky, when you’re playing those guys, you’re playing to win the game,” Hudspeth said. “So you’re … going to show what you do when you play those really good opponents.”
The film from those games can also show both schemes and personnel that stand out against solid competition.
Senior left guard Mykhael Quave came away impressed with Akron’s defense, which held Oklahoma to 71 yards on its first six drives, three of which ended in a three-and-out.
“We’re approaching it as if they’re on (Oklahoma and Pitt’s) level, and we have to raise our game to be able to execute,” Quave said.
There’s much more to learn from watching an opponent lose to a Power Five school than watching them dominate a team like Savannah State, Hudspeth said.
“They had the game well in hand early, and if you’re not careful, you get into a lot of tendency breakers that don’t really relate to what they really want to be or what they really want to do in certain situations of the game,” Hudspeth said. “So you’ve got to be careful not combining all that information together.”
After watching the Cajuns rush on 42 of their 50 offensive plays against Northwestern State, Akron is probably feeling the same way about the Cajuns.