LAFAYETTE — Three games, 59 touches from scrimmage that have gained 621 yards and seven total touchdowns — yep, Elijah McGuire has been on a bit of a hot streak.
Going by McGuire’s performance the last three weeks, it might be hard to blame the Cajuns if they found a way to get the ball in McGuire’s hands on every play.
But coach Mark Hudspeth knows he has to avoid temptation when it comes to his dynamo running back.
“He’s running the ball in the middle, then he’s running the ball outside and he’s running pass routes down the field and then he’s running jet sweeps,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve got to also make sure the guy gets to the fourth quarter with the game on the line.”
McGuire has been especially effective in the fourth quarter lately. He touched the ball on nearly 70 percent of the Cajuns plays from scrimmage in the fourth quarter last week, and his two long fourth quarter touchdowns against Arkansas State the week before iced the game for the Cajuns.
The fourth quarter becomes especially important this week when considering that Alonzo Harris might only be used in “emergency” situations, as Hudspeth said might be the case Thursday night.
Because as good as McGuire is, he can’t do it all by himself.
“Eli, when he has to do it all himself, it takes a toll on him,” Hudspeth said. “Even if Alonzo is not available, we’re going to probably have to spell him even more this week. That would mean Effrem Reed would get a little more (playing time).”
With the Cajuns depth being tested at the position by a season-ending injury to Torrey Pierce and lingering soreness for bell-cow Harris, Reed has been elevated to the primary backup position behind McGuire.
The junior ran for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2012, but has since been buried on the depth chart behind McGuire, Harris and Pierce. Reed has 11 carries for 43 yards.
Behind Reed and McGuire, the Cajuns options are thin. That’s why junior Montrel Carter, who was the Cajuns’ opening-day starter in 2012 before being sidelined for the year with a knee injury, was moved back to running back from defensive back.
Rest for the winning
McGuire isn’t the only Cajun getting some rest these days.
After last week’s hard-fought win against South Alabama, Hudspeth gave his players the rest of the weekend off. He said he might do the same this weekend if his team plays the way it’s capable.
“We’ve dialed it down a little more this year,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve got good players, we’ve got some veteran players. Good players are really good when they’re fresh and healthy. You can make a good player average quickly if he’s leg weary.”
It all falls in line with what Hudspeth has believed to be the key to the Cajuns’ turn-around this year.
“My whole key right now, and I think it has a lot to do with how we’ve been playing these last four weeks, is we’ve been much fresher, not only physically but mentally,” Hudspeth said. “It starts taking a toll on you late in the season when you’ve been out there so many hours and so many times.”
True freshman Travis Crawford, who earned his first career start last week against South Alabama, was named the starter for the second week in a row. Senior Sean Thomas made a strong push at regaining his starting job, though. … Junior defensive end Chris Prater will play, but he sounded as if he may be limited by injury this weekend. … Hudspeth’s four-year-old son Major scored the game-winning touchdown at his flag football game Wednesday, punching it in from 2-yards out. Hudspeth also proudly showed how many professional quarterbacks his son could list (Hint: all of them).