Through four games, senior running back Alonzo Harris has yet to find his stride while the UL-Lafayette offense has sputtered.
He’s averaging just 47 rushing yards per game. It would be a career low if the season ended today, and it’s 25 yards per game less than he averaged a year ago.
“We need to get Alonzo going,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “When he gets in that rhythm, we seem to do a little better. I’d like to see our stats for what our record is when he runs for 100 yards. I would say it’s probably pretty good.”
It’s better than pretty good. It’s pristine. The Cajuns are 9-0 when Harris rushes for 100 or more yards. But Harris doesn’t even need to be that prolific: The Cajuns are 14-0 when Harris rushes for 75 or more yards.
But Harris hasn’t reached that magical 75-yard barrier this season, falling just short with a season-high 74 yards against Louisiana Tech.
Some of it has to do with a lingering thigh bruise, which Harris has dealt with for the past several weeks. But other players have underperformed, and it’s possible that the team’s overall struggle has led to an individual’s lower-than-expected output, rather than the other way around.
A big problem, as far as Harris is concerned: Early deficits have crippled the UL-Lafayette offense this year, and especially Harris’ role in it.
The Cajuns haven’t been able to deploy their 238-pound wrecking ball in situations where he’s most effective against a worn-down defense late in games.
“Those backs get better as the game goes on because those guys get tired of tackling those guys that run hard and get physical,” Hudspeth said. “That’s what he (Harris) does.”
Harris has only gotten 20 carries in the second half of games this season — 11 of which came against Ole Miss. In the other three games, Harris only has nine second-half carries for 24 yards.
So what do all these stats mean? If the Cajuns are able to establish a healthy Harris in the ground game, their offense is operating the way it’s supposed to.
The Cajuns can’t just forcefeed Harris the ball to get their offense back on track. But if he is getting consistent carries and yardage, it probably means the offense is running smoothly.
“One man can’t change the outcome of a whole game,” said junior left tackle Mykhael Quave.
Workin’ for the weekend
As the calendar turned to October, an odd schedule stared back at the Cajuns.
Saturday’s game against Georgia State will be the only Saturday game the Cajuns will play October. After the Georgia State game, the Cajuns have a 10-day break before they play on back-to-back Tuesday nights, after which they’ll have another 10-day break that carries them into November.
Hudspeth thinks he’s a little better equipped to handle the strange schedule brought on by the Sun Belt’s special Tuesday games than he was at the beginning of his tenure.
“The first year we didn’t do very well in that category,” Hudspeth said. “Then last year, we won both those games on the road on Tuesday night. This year, luckily, we’ve got a home game on one of the Tuesdays. That’ll be a big plus. But we felt like we have a much better plan.”
Movin’ on up
With a win Saturday, Hudspeth would tie Raymond Didier and Sam Robertson for eighth place on the school’s all-time wins list with 29 career victories.
With 11 pass completions, quarterback Terrance Broadway (446) would move ahead of Jon Van Cleave (456) into third place in the school’s career list. Broadway also needs one passing touchdown and 305 yards passing to move into second place on the school’s all-time list in those respective categories.
Wide receiver Jamal Robinson needs 33 receiving yards to pass Marcus Wilridge for eighth on the school’s all-time list.