LAFAYETTE - When Mark Hudspeth named Blaine Gautier as the starting quarterback for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s season opener at Oklahoma State, the announcement caught more than just a few by surprise.
Many had suspected senior Chris Masson would be the starter as he had been 21 other times in his career. But Hudspeth instead chose Gautier based, he said, on the Cajuns’ game plan and the type of team the Cowboys presented.
Now, heading into Week 2, Hudspeth again isn’t sure who will be the Cajuns’ starter for Saturday’s game at Kent State.
“Both guys are very capable, both are very talented and both are good enough to be our starting quarterback,” Hudspeth said Monday at his weekly news conference. “So each week, the game plan may dictate who gets the start and dictate who plays the most based on the type of defense we see.”
Hudspeth said that if an opposing team appears to be vulnerable to the run and options that Gautier most likely will get the start. On the other hand, if a defense is strong against the run but struggles against the pass, Masson will likely be the starter.
“It will somewhat be week to week,” said Hudspeth of his decisions. “The best thing about it is that we’ve got a lot of other things we have to improve on and fix, and I’m not sure if quarterback is the biggest one.
“We’ve got some other things, to me, that are a lot more pressing.”
Gautier, making only his second career start, completed 13 of 26 passes for 106 yards against the Cowboys. He also rushed for 14 yards on as many carries and had a 1-yard touchdown run.
Masson, who ranks sixth all-time in passing at ULL (4,383 yards) completed 6 of 10 passes for 63 yards. He led the Cajuns on their most impressive drive - an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the finals second.
Hudspeth said the Cajuns are still working on the game plan for Kent State, but he doesn’t anticipate waiting until game time to name a starting quarterback.
“We’ll make a decision this week; I don’t plan on making a game-day decision again,” he said. “But they’ll both play, and they’ll both play in the first quarter.”
Asked if he would consider platooning the two quarterbacks, Hudspeth said he would do so only if he “had to.”
“Sometimes what that does is that sort of lets you find how who the guy is,” he said. “Sometimes you have to platoon them a little bit to see who adapts to your system and who sort of fits the mold.
“Right now, we’ve got a lot of moving parts; we’re trying to put this together. We’ve got a puzzle we’re trying to piece together and see which one of those pieces with our quarterback fit’s the best.”
Hudspeth said a total of 20 Cajuns players saw collegiate playing time for the first time Saturday, and as expected, there were good moments and not so good moments.
“The more we watched the film, the more I sort of felt like I did on the sideline,” he said. “When we came out at halftime, I told our team: It would have been one thing if they had just run over us and really dominated us on both sides of the football up front. But that wasn’t the case. I felt like we sort of were beating ourselves a little more than OSU was beating us in the first half.
“When we did the good things, when we punted deep and made them have to go 85, 90 yards, they couldn’t do it; our defense held them to a field goal or they had to punt.”
Hudspeth said field position stymied the Cajuns the entire game, while helping the Cowboys. The Cajuns’ starting field position for the game was the 21-yard line; for the Cowboys, it was the 41.
“The field position was the key to the game,” he said. “When we had it in our favor to start the game, we were in great shape. It was a 10-3 ballgame, and I thought we were battling.”
The Cowboys went on to outscore the Cajuns 51-31 over the final three quarters.
Nonetheless, Hudspeth left the game feeling optimistic as to where his team is headed.
“I thought our guys battled and played hard until the very end, and that’s what I was most proud of,” he said. “Once we cut (the deficit) to 44-20 and we had the ball and were driving. ? If we had scored right there, it 44-27 and then, who knows?”