LAFAYETTE — A week after sacking Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Pete Thomas seven times the Cajuns pass rush came up empty handed last weekend against Appalachian State.
It was only the third time this season the Cajuns have been held without a sack and it ended a bit of a hot streak that saw the Cajuns rack up 19 sacks in their previous five games.
Maybe it was that hot streak that did them in, because when the Mountaineers came to town, they made sure their game plan was aimed at limiting the Cajuns’ ability to get after the passer.
“Appalachian State did a great job of seven and eight man protections,” Hudspeth said. “Sometimes they only set two guys out on routes and double teamed (Justin Hamilton and Christian Ringo). They were able to get the ball off and we did not get any sacks.”
The fact that the Cajuns were shut out in the sack department was especially surprising when considering how often the Cajuns forced Appalachian State into obvious passing situations.
The Cajuns forced the Mountaineers into seven third-down situations where they needed eight or more yards to keep the drive alive.
The defense forced a couple hurried throws, but Appalachian State converted five of those third downs — a 71 percent success rate.
“A couple pressures, but not enough,” Hudspeth said.
How do the Cajuns prevent other teams from using this double-team enhanced protection to beat its pass rush? It all boils down to players winning matchups against the blocker in front of them, Hudspeth said.
“When you double-team two people, you’ve used up four (blockers),” Hudspeth said. “So that means the other guys are all one-on-one. They’ve got to win some one-on-one battles.
“Our defensive ends — (Jake) Molbert, Boris Anyama and Darzil Washington — they’ve got to win some one-on-one battles. They can get sacks, too.”
Big play blues
During its six-game winning streak, the Cajuns offense was as explosive as anybody in the conference, averaging better than six plays that went 20 or more yards per game.
Last week against Appalachian State, the Cajuns had no such plays. Their longest play from scrimmage was an 18-yard run by Alonzo Harris in the third quarter, and they only had one more play that went at least 15 yards.
“We never developed any big plays,” Hudspeth said. “We had only two plays over 15 yards the entire day. To put that in perspective, we’ve been averaging about nine a game. A big drop off there. So we’ve got to improve in that area.”
The Cajuns finished the game averaging just 3.75 yards per play, a season low.
It’s the little things
Hudspeth was still wrapping his head around the series of events that led to the Cajuns’ giving up a 33-yard punt return for a touchdown against Appalachian State.
After an Appalachian State touchdown, Cajuns returner Montrel Carter took the ball out of the endzone on the kick return and was tackled at the 15. A holding penalty on the Cajuns moved the ball back to the eight-yard line, and a sack on third down pinned the Cajuns at their own two.
“So many things led up to that,” Hudspeth said. “Football is such a crazy game. Montrel was not supposed to run the ball out, so if he doesn’t run out we don’t get the holding call and we get the ball at the 25 and we’re never backed up at our own 2-yard line to punt the ball out.
“Because when you do a tight punt, you do a one-step punt to get it off because you’re only nine yards from the ball. Then you’re punting into a straight on wind, and the guy catches it before they’re even out of their stance.
“If we’re at the 25, we go regular punt and (punter Daniel) Cadona booms one down there and it’s a totally different game. But we had the holding call after he shouldn’t have ran it out. … So many little things.”