OXFORD, Miss. — Mark Hudspeth didn’t have to gaze long into his crystal ball to come up with a message to his team before the opening kickoff of UL-Lafayette’s 56-15 loss to the No. 14 Ole Miss Rebels on their home field.
“I told our team before the game that the team that wins the turnover battle is going to win the football game,” Hudspeth said.
I won’t rip Hudspeth for pointing out the obvious to his team, because he needed to drill it into their heads as much as possible after last week’s three-turnover performance in a lopsided home loss to Louisiana Tech. The Cajuns entered Saturday’s game having turned the ball over five times, but they had not yet forced one.
“For us to even keep it close, we’re going to have to be perfect with the turnovers, and we’re going to have to get some,” Hudspeth said. “If we do that, we’ll have an opportunity to maybe get this game to the fourth quarter and find a way to pull this thing out.”
I appreciate Hudspeth’s brutal honesty with his team. He let them know what they were up against. Let them know that it was going to take a darn-near perfect effort to come out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a win. Or at least the Cajuns were going to have to force the Rebels to be far from perfect.
This is where the problems come in. “But” signifies the train went off the rails. When “but” is introduced, it means things didn’t go the way the Cajuns had hoped.
In this instance, it meant things went about as poorly as they could’ve gone.
“But when you turn the ball over four times …”
“... on the road …”
“… in the SEC, against a top-15 team …”
“… there is no hope to win a football game.”
It wasn’t rocket science.
Offensively, the Cajuns had to treat the ball like it was the Hope Diamond. Defensively, the Cajuns had to be master thieves.
They did neither.
If you’re looking for a culprit, quarterback Terrance Broadway is not hiding from accountability’s icy gaze. He threw three interceptions on the night, one of which was returned for a 59-yard touchdown.
It’s the second time in as many weeks a Broadway pick has been taken to the house.
Broadway did what starting quarterbacks are supposed to do after the game. He bit the bullet.
“I’ve got to play better,” Broadway said. “It’s no secret my performance tonight was unacceptable. It won’t happen again. I will fix it.”
Senior running back Alonzo Harris was not about to let Broadway fall on the sword by himself.
After all, it was the normally sure-handed Harris who lost a critical fumble for the second time in as many weeks — wait, didn’t I just write about that? — that ended a promising Cajuns drive and led to six for the other guys.
“I think I kind of got relaxed with it not having any (fumbles) last season and the first game,” Harris said. “… That’s my fault.”
How about a defense that didn’t force its first turnover of the year until Saturday? They surely deserve their own share of liability for the Cajuns going through the first three games of the year with a minus-8 turnover margin.
Yes, they do. The problem is, there are plenty of people to share the blame with the Cajuns right now. When there are this many people sharing the blame, it means there aren’t nearly enough people doing things right.
And that’s why the Cajuns are currently a 1-2 football team. That big ol’ “minus-8” is the second-ugliest blemish in the Cajuns’ record books. Right next to the two losses.
The Cajuns know what they’re supposed to do. That much is clear.
Now it’s time to put words into action.