LAFAYETTE — Whether he’s getting his players to hold the rope or to sharpen their blade, UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth is always looking for ways to motivate.
Maybe that’s why his eyes lit up when he was asked about the New Mexico State offensive line, which comes into Saturday’s game having allowed just five sacks this season, the third-lowest figure in the country.
“You gave me a good idea,” Hudspeth said. “Every week, you’re always trying to find something to challenge your guys with.”
Pass rush is something Hudspeth knows his players will have to generate Saturday, because he’s seen first-hand what happens when teams don’t pressure the Aggies.
New Mexico State jumped all over UL-Lafayette at Cajun Field last season behind a couple of big plays in the passing game. By the time the second quarter was halfway through, the Aggies had sprinted to a 28-7 advantage, leading to one promise from Hudspeth.
“We won’t be in zero coverage, that’s for sure,” Hudspeth said, referring to straight-up man-to-man defense.
But coverage, Hudspeth said, isn’t all about how well the defensive backs line up against the opposing wide receivers.
And that’s where this comes back to that Aggie offensive line and how it stacks up against the UL-Lafayette pass rush. The way they’ve played lately, the Cajuns like their odds.
Since the Cajuns switched primarily to a 4-2-5 defensive alignment after the Boise State game, they’ve racked up 13 sacks. Senior defensive lineman Christian Ringo has led the charge with seven of his eight sacks coming in the last four weeks.
“Last year, we were mostly three-down (linemen) and we didn’t get a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” Hudspeth said. “Now we’re four down with some three-down in there. We’re able to get Ringo on some one-on-one matchups and get pressure on the quarterback.
“When we’ve done that, we’ve been effective in the back end.”
Wallerstedt working in
Matt Wallerstedt, the defensive consultant who became interim outside linebackers coach in the wake of David Saunders’ abrupt resignation, has been getting his first hands-on experience with the roster this week.
So far, so good, Hudspeth said.
“I thought it was a smooth transition,” Hudspeth said. “I thought he stepped in and did a nice job.”
Usually, the Cajuns would split their linebackers up into two groups — inside linebackers and outside linebackers. Saunders would take the outside group and defensive coordinator James Willis would work with the inside group.
Tuesday, Wallerstedt had the entire corps of linebackers to himself, allowing Willis to oversee the entire defense for a few practice segments.
“It allows him to roam in certain periods of practice,” Hudspeth said.
Senior running back Alonzo Harris was a “very limited” participant in practice Wednesday, but that wasn’t stopping Hudspeth from sounding confident about Harris’ availability this weekend.
“We expect him to play,” Hudspeth said.
Harris is still dealing with soreness that caused him to be ineffective and eventually sidelined against South Alabama.
Harris has rushed for 458 yards and nine touchdowns this season, but is averaging a career-low 3.95 yards per carry.