LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team is back to square one at quarterback.
After juniors Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon were inconsistent Saturday during the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 35-14 home loss to Akron, coach Mark Hudspeth said both would get their chances in practice and in Saturday’s contest at Louisiana Tech.
“We’ve got to find a quarterback that’s going to get us into the end zone,” Hudspeth said Monday at his weekly press luncheon. “It wasn’t that Brooks was doing poorly (on Saturday), but we had only seven points, and the quarterback’s job is to put your team in the end zone.
“Sometimes someone makes all the right checks in practice, and in a game, he just doesn’t get it in the end zone. We’re going to evaluate who has the best week of practice and move forward.”
After a performance two weeks ago against Northwestern State when he had only one incompletion and a stunning 283.85 NCAA passer rating, Haack was 8-of-17 for 77 yards against the Zips in just over two quarters.
Nixon, who had sparked a second-half comeback in the narrow 40-33 opening loss at Kentucky but missed the Northwestern State game with a shoulder injury, was 11-of-20 for 96 yards and a late touchdown. But he also was sacked for a key loss and struggled in his normal rushing strong suit.
Both had an interception.
“Both of those guys have to take care of the football,” Hudspeth said. “Both of them did some things that were pretty good, and both of them did some things you just can’t do.”
The Cajuns (1-2) held their regular Sunday practice, and Haack and Nixon both spent time with the No. 1 offense. Hudspeth said that will continue this week heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against the Bulldogs (2-2), even though he’d hoped the quarterback issue would have been settled by now. Along with Saturday’s in-state rivalry, UL-Lafayette begins eight straight Sun Belt Conference games the following week.
“You’re sharing reps in practice once again,” he said. “Each quarterback, instead of getting every rep against every look and every check, he’s getting half the looks. That comes with breaking in a new quarterback. The best thing you can say is we’ve got two, and that’s better than one. ... We just have to find the one that can get it done.”
As in the first two weeks, it’s likely Hudspeth won’t name a starter before Saturday’s kickoff. He was quick to point out that Saturday’s game wasn’t determined by quarterback play.
“This was a team loss; it wasn’t a quarterback loss,” he said. “I don’t think we practiced well last week, and typically when you don’t practice great, you don’t play great. Four turnovers and only getting one, you do that, and it’s hard to beat anybody regardless of what you do. If we’d gotten four turnovers and Akron had gotten only one, we’d probably have won the football game.”
The Cajuns were penalized 11 times for 126 yards, after getting 12 for 105 yards in the first two games combined. Akron was also hit for a season-high 11 penalties for 92 yards, but several of UL-Lafayette’s flaggings came at key times.
Hudspeth took issue with parts of the Mid-American Conference officiating crew’s performance.
“We got backed up on some penalties in the kicking game,” he said. “A couple of those I’m going to be sending to the MAC conference to get their interpretation. It definitely wasn’t my interpretation; unfortunately my interpretation doesn’t matter. But penalties like that do make a difference ... starting at our own 6 instead of the 25 and some other situations that turn into factors.”
The two teams had used a Sun Belt crew two years ago when UL-Lafayette went to Akron in the first game in the series, a 35-30 Cajuns win.
In and out
Hudspeth said safety T.J. Worthy remains questionable for Saturday after leaving the Akron game early in the second quarter with a hamstring injury.
Safety Dominick Jones was also injured Saturday and didn’t return. Rush end/linebacker Darzil Washington missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury, and freshman wide receiver Gary Haynes missed the game with an unannounced suspension for disciplinary reasons.
Senior running back Effrem Reed is slated to see his first action of the season after a shin injury.
“Missing those two DBs hurt us tremendously,” Hudspeth said, adding that cornerback Simeon Thomas is still sidelined with eligibility issues. “We hope we can get them back for Saturday, and that’ll help our depth there tremendously.
“Darzil, there’s a chance this weekend. But if there’s any doubt, we’re going to hold him out. We’ll evaluate that later, but he’ll have to practice Wednesday if he’s going to play. Haynes was back at practice last night, and he had a renewed attitude.
“All we know on Simeon is he’s out until we’re told otherwise. He’s with the scout team and doing some individual things. As soon as we get the green light, we’ll plug him in, and that will change our defense a lot.”
Hudspeth’s comments about turnovers are reflected statistically. The Cajuns are 123rd out of 127 teams nationally in turnover margin with an 8-2 deficit through three games ... The Akron game dropped UL-Lafayette from eighth to 19th nationally in team rushing (239.7) ... Thanks to Aussie freshman Steven Coutts’ stellar punts, the Cajuns are sixth nationally in net punting. He has a 45.3-yard average with six fair catches in 11 punts and three downed inside the 20, with opponents returning only three in three games ... Saturday’s game renews the second-oldest series between Louisiana teams with the 87th meeting. Only LSU and Tulane (98 games) have played more.