LAFAYETTE - Blaine Gautier felt all week that the North Texas defense was a quarterback’s dream and, on Saturday, he woke up to find that what he anticipated was all too real.
Gautier threw four touchdowns and completed 70 percent of his passes as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette established Sun Belt Conference history with a 30-10 homecoming victory over UNT before 32,823 - the fifth largest crowd in the 41-year history of Cajun Field.
ULL’s 6-1 start is the best ever by a SBC team and the Cajuns’ six-game winning streak is the best in 18 years.
The Cajuns also improved to 4-0 (in the SBC) to sustain their first-place conference lead. North Texas dropped to 2-5 and 1-2 in the conference.
ULL’s average attendance for its first four home games is 29,420.
Gautier threw for 238 yards a week after leaving last Saturday’s Troy game with a first-quarter ankle injury. The former Lutcher High standout said as he watched video of North Texas, it became apparent that the ingredients for a good game throwing the ball were there.
“The type of defense they (UNT) play is somewhat of a quarterback’s dream, because they play a lot of man-on-man coverage,” Gautier said. “With the playmakers that we’ve got, it meant we could go one-on-one with our playmakers, take some shots and go right at them.”
Gautier completed a pair of first-half touchdown passes to tight end Ladarius Green and came back with two more during a six-minute span during the fourth quarter to wide receivers Daryl Surgent and Javone Lawson.
First-year coach Mark Hudspeth said his players made the proper adjustments offensively and defensively as the game progressed.
“I thought we played a not so great first half, then we had what I consider to be an outstanding second half and then our guys really stepped it up in the fourth quarter,” Hudspeth said. “That’s the type of mentality that we wanted to create this year, having a team that will put the game away late.”
Hudspeth said the Cajuns are enjoying the moment.
“We’re just having fun right now,” he said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team and how hard it is playing, especially in the second half.”
The Cajuns’ defense shut out UNT in the second half, limiting the Mean Green to 108 total yards. UNT was stopped at the ULL 1-yard line as the game ended. ULL also limited North Texas running back Lance Dunbar to 77 rushing yards.
The Cajuns’ defensive effort wasn’t lost on UNT head coach Dan McCarney, in his first season at the school.
“When you score only 10 points, there aren’t too many games that you are going to win in Division I football,” McCarney said. “We played a good team, one that’s 6-1, but going into the fourth quarter, it’s a 13-10 game.”
“Then they took it over in the fourth quarter. The missed opportunities, ridiculous penalties, that’s something we will get fixed.”
McCarney praised ULL’s passing game.
“It was good execution on their part and poor coverages on ours,” he said.
ULL defensive coordinator Greg Stewart said the Cajuns made some halftime adjustments that helped better defend UNT.
“We thought North Texas was more of an in-the-box type of team, that is, they liked to run between the tackles,” Stewart said.
“Early in the game they were doing a good job of getting out on the edge against us, so we set the edge out a little wider.”
The Mean Green used a first-quarter fumble by ULL’s Qyendarius Green to score the game’s first points - a 24-yard field goal by Zach Olen, that ended a 24-yard drive with 10:42 left.
Gautier got the Cajuns in the end zone on the next possession with a 6-yard pass that Green caught outstretched in the corner of the end zone (8:34). The drive’s big play was a 65-yard completion to Sturgent that placed the ball at the UNT 4.
North Texas led 10-7 at the end of the period after going 68 yards in nine plays. The Mean Green gained 50 of that on the drive’s first two plays - a 10-yard pass from quarterback Derek Thompson to wide receiver Ivan Delgado and an 30-yarder to receiver Brelan Chancellor.
Dunbar scored on a 2-yard run with nine seconds left.
ULL took the lead for good with 8:57 remaining before halftime on a five-play, 66-yard drive that ended on Gautier’s 25-yard TD pass to Green.
The Cajuns also scored on the first play of the fourth quarter when Surgent made a 44-yard reception of a Gautier pass.
ULL’s final TD was set up after linebacker Lance Kelley intercepted a Thompson pass that was returned to the UNT 31.
Gautier then found Lawson behind the North Texas defense on a 24 yard crossing pattern.