TROY, Ala. — Redshirt freshman defensive back Troy McCollum made the most of his opportunity Saturday, because he knows how rare opportunities are.
Coming into the Troy game, McCollum was just a reserve defensive back who’d barely played for UL-Lafayette. But he’d been coming on strong in practice, and coach Mark Hudspeth decided to give him a look replacing injured safety T.J. Worthy as a sort of hybrid between a defensive back and linebacker.
McCollum responded to with six tackles and a forced fumble. The fumble came deep in Cajuns territory and stopped the Trojans from scoring on the opening possession.
“I’m so fired up about that young man,” Hudspeth said. “He hadn’t played very much.”
Two games, actually. McCollum has seen action in just two games this season, and never as much as he saw in the Cajuns’ regular-season finale.
The waiting for McCollum, a Miami native, wasn’t easy, but he didn’t sulk.
“Anything can happen,” McCollum said. “I just stayed positive and looked at everything a positive way.”
So how does he hang on to his new playing time? Coaches have not been afraid to yank an ineffective player this season. Only five of the Cajuns’ opening-day defensive starters have held onto their jobs this season, two of which are at new positions.
“Stick around, stay humble, stay hungry and keep on pushing forward,” McCollum said.
No announcement imminent
Don’t count on hearing anything regarding the Cajuns’ bowl destination in the next couple days.
Originally, it seemed the Cajuns might be able to make a bowl announcement Sunday or Monday, but they might have to wait a few days more.
“We’re in a definite holding pattern,” UL-Lafayette Athletic Director Scott Farmer said. “Until the league gets further direction from the NCAA and the College Football Playoff committee, we are in a holding pattern. We’re waiting on some more information.”
It could boil down to Georgia Southern, which wrapped up the Sun Belt Conference title with a BLANK win against ULM Saturday but is not eligible for a bowl this season because of a rule in place that makes teams ineligible in the first year of their transition from the FCS to FBS level.
Georgia Southern went undefeated in the SBC and finished with the conference’s best overall record at 9-4. They filed for a waiver seeking bowl eligibility earlier this week, but were denied. The school has since sent an appeal.
Elijah McGuire joined an elite club on his first carry of the game.
McGuire’s 5-yard rush off tackle was enough for him to finally crack the 1,000-yard mark that he’s been within striking distance of for the last three weeks. By reaching the mark, McGuire joined Tyrell Fenroy, Michael Desormeaux and Brian Mitchell as the only Cajuns backs to reach 1,000 in one year.
McGuire finished with 169 yards just 14 carries to push his season total to 1,165 yards. To break Tyrell Fenroy’s single season record, McGuire would need 211 yards in the Cajuns’ bowl game.
McGuire also kept a fairly remarkable streak going with a first-quarter touchdown run, giving McGuire a rushing touchdown in nine consecutive games. McGuire had two rushing scores Saturday, giving him 14 on the year.
Alonzo Harris’ 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was his 10th of the season, and he added two more as the game went on. This marks the third straight year Harris has reached double digits in rushing touchdowns. ... Senior Trae Johnson started at middle linebacker, his first start since the Cajuns’ 55-40 win against Arkansas State this year. ... Harris was joined by a couple other Alabama natives as a captain before the game. Joining Harris were T.J. Worthy, Jarad Martin and Marcus Jackson.