STILLWATER, Okla. - Blaine Gautier and Chris Masson battled throughout the spring and into the fall for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette starting quarterback position.
Gautier apparently won the job, starting and playing most of the way in the 2011 season opener Saturday night as No. 9-ranked Oklahoma State rolled to an 61-34 victory in Mark Hudspeth’s debut as head coach of the Ragin Cajuns at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Oklahoma State had the third-highest scoring offense in the nation a year ago (44.23 points per game), and with All-Big 12 quarterback Brandon Weeden and Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver Justin Blackmon returning, the Cowboys didn’t miss a beat Saturday night in front of the largest season-opening crowd in school history (55,382).
Weeden threw for 388 yards and three touchdowns (five if you include interception returns by ULL’s Bill Bentley and Jemarlou Moten for TDs), and Blackmon caught eight passes for 144 yards. Oklahoma State scored on six of its nine first-half possessions - four touchdowns and two field goals - and accumulated 377 yards to take a 34-10 halftime lead, and the Cajuns never recovered.
It was the kind of display that Hudspeth dreams about from either his quarterbacks, who completed just 4 of 14 passes for 14 yards in the first half against a Cowboys defense that allowed more than 275 yards last season (115th out of 120 teams in FBS).
The Ragin’ Cajuns scored 24 points in the second half, and Hudsepth was pleased with his team’s resiliency in a hostile environment.
“Whenever it’s your first game with your new team, you don’t know what to expect, especially when you’re playing the number nine team in the nation with two Heisman Trophy candidates. To see them come out and battle and never give in, we’ve got a resilient group that I think is mentally tough,” said Hudspeth, making his ULL debut after being offensive coordinator at Mississippi State a year ago.
“I told our team, I am not walking out of this locker room all in a bad mood and mad at the world, and ready to start over,” he said. “We laid a stepping stone tonight. It’s not easy to come into this environment, with this type of noise, with this type of crowd, against the No. 9 team in the country. To see the way our team fought the whole game, and really backed up and kept battling and never gave in, we took a step in the right direction.”
Oklahoma State dominated the first half, as the Cowboys had 377 yards on 53 offensive plays; compared to ULL’s 101 yards on 28.
Gautier, who learned Thursday that he had won the starting quarterback job over Masson, finished 13-of-26 for 106 yards with one interception. Masson was 6-of-10 for 63 yards off the bench.
“We’ll go back and watch the film. I thought Chris came in and did some nice things too. I thought they both did some good things but boy we just can’t turn the ball over,” said Hudspeth, who became the third of the last four football coaches at ULL to start their careers with a game against Oklahoma State (Nelson Stokley lost his debut to the Cowboys 21-20 on Sept. 6, 1986, Jerry Baldwin suffered a 24-7 loss against Oklahoma State on Sept. 4, 1999, and now Hudspeth).
ULL’s only points in the first half were set up by a trick play in which H-back Brad McGuire took a pitch from Gautier before completing a 43-yard pass to Javone Lawson, setting up Brett Baer’s 23-yard field goal.
Cornerback Bill Bentley added a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown. The senior cornerback took the ball off Cowboys receiver Josh Cooper’s helmet after he bobbled the short pass and raced down the ULL sideline in front of his teammates to trim the Oklahoma State lead to 31-10 late in the first half.
Bear’s 29-yard field goal in the third quarter trimmed the margin to 37-13, and Moten added a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the period.
The Ragin’ Cajuns added a pair of fourth-quarter TDs on Gautier’s 1-yard run and backup running back Qyenda Griffin’s 3-yard scoring run.
“I’m going to tell you, if there’s one thing I know that we’ve improved upon from last year, is that we’re a tough football team and we’ll play four quarters. I think that was evident tonight. We’re a tough team mentally. So I think we’re on the right page,” said Hudspeth.
The Cajuns are on the road again Saturday when they travel to Kent State for a 6 p.m. kickoff.