LAFAYETTE — He’s accomplished a lot during the 2012 football season, more than most thought during a year in which he seemed destined to a “learn-the-system” role.
He’s also had varying measures of success at three different football stops — at Capitol High Academy, where he led the Lions to the state semifinals as a senior, as a true freshman with Houston’s Cougars and now with Louisiana-Lafayette. Easily, though, his greatest success has come this year in leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to another record-breaking year.
But Terrance Broadway judges success differently.
To him, there’s only one measure of success, and that’s a tangible piece of proof that he can wear on his size-11 finger.
“I don’t have a ring,” he said week as the Cajuns began serious preparations for Saturday’s R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. “I never got one in high school ... didn’t get one last year. But now I have another opportunity.”
The former Capitol standout will be one of the keys for the 8-4 Cajuns when they face East Carolina (8-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It’s the second straight trip to the Crescent City game for ULL, a fact that hit home this week for Broadway and his teammates when they were measured for bowl rings.
“We know we have to win this game first,” he said, “but just the thought of being sized up for one, that drives me to win.”
The Cajuns have won a lot of games with Broadway at quarterback this year, with ULL winning four of its last five entering the bowl. But just the fact that the redshirt sophomore was under center in that streak would have been a surprise at the start of the year.
ULL took a pulsating 32-30 win over San Diego State in last year’s New Orleans Bowl, with junior quarterback Blaine Gautier guiding an improbable drive in the final 30 seconds that led to Brett Baer’s last-play 50-yard field goal. Gautier, a product of Lutcher, threw for a bowl-record 470 yards and three touchdowns in that game in taking MVP honors.
More heroics were expected this year from Gautier, who set school records for yards passing (2,958), touchdowns (23), completion percentage (.628), passing efficiency (153.6), total offense yards (3,444) and touchdowns responsible for (26) in 2011. And he didn’t disappoint, as ULL won three of its first four and its first two Sun Belt Conference games with Gautier as the starting quarterback.
In that fourth game, though, Gautier was sacked by an FIU defender in the first quarter and fell on his left (throwing) wrist, breaking his thumb. The injury required surgery and sidelined Gautier for almost two months.
Enter Broadway, who had seen action in the previous two games when Gautier was hampered with sore ribs suffered in the league-opening 37-24 win at Troy.
“When you lose a guy that won nine game for you, your bowl MVP, it’s a shock,” ULL offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said. “When Blaine went down, we had all confidence in Terrance, but I also knew that when you play that position, you need game snaps. It’s hard to simulate that in a practice setting.”
Broadway had extensive time on the practice field. He had transferred to ULL from Houston in time for the 2011 spring semester, sitting out last season to meet NCAA transfer guidelines, and worked with the top two offensive units in spring and fall drills.
And in his first few games, he was more than impressive. Over the final three quarters against preseason Sun Belt favorite FIU, he hit 15 of 19 passes for 228 yards and a 78-yard touchdown to Harry Peoples, and also ran for two scores on runs of 13 and 4 yards. One week later, in his first ULL start, he threw for two more scores and ran for a third in a 41-13 home win over Tulane in front of 29,758 happy Homecoming fans.
“He did exactly what we’d seen in practice,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “We had all the confidence in the world that he could step in and we wouldn’t miss a beat.”
That beat, though, turned into a couple of Tuesday night nationally-televised beatings over the next three weeks. A late North Texas touchdown provided the host Mean Green with a 30-23 upset, and one week later the Cajuns were humbled at home 50-27 by eventual Sun Belt champion Arkansas State — the only home loss since Hudspeth took over two seasons ago.
Against ASU, Broadway threw for 374 yards but was intercepted three times and also lost two fumbles. The five turnovers were an aberration (the Cajuns had only 15 in the other 11 games combined), but they helped the Red Wolves build a 20-0 lead as ULL fell to 4-3 and 2-2 in league play.
“Those two games, I put that on myself,” Broadway said. “It was all about being confident. The ASU game was the hardest because I wasn’t comfortable and didn’t play anywhere near like I was capable.
“I learned a lot from that game. We found ourselves in a big hole, and the only thing we had was each other. Our offensive line guys were always confident in me and my ability. ... They believed in me and they knew I could lead them.”
Others outside the program weren’t so confident, especially with key tests against Sun Belt leaders Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky and a non-conference outing with top-five-ranked Florida coming in the next three weeks. But Broadway accounted for a career-high 460 offensive yards, leading six scoring drives of 75 or more yards as ULL pounded the Warhawks 40-24 in Monroe.
A blocked-punt return for a touchdown with two seconds left cost the Cajuns a chance at overtime against Florida in a 27-20 loss, but Broadway came back the following week with a 403-yard offensive performance in an unlikely 31-27 win over WKU. The Cajuns trailed 27-17 in the final three minutes before Broadway hit backup Jamal Robinson with a 4-yard scoring pass with 2:43 left, and then ran in the game-winner himself on a 14-yard run with 38 seconds remaining.
An injury-plagued receiver corps had a lot to do with those mid-season struggles, Broadway said.
“Some of those interceptions were just timing and bad chemistry,” he said. “It was on me, but having guys like Harry, Javone (Lawson) and the guys we have in the offensive line ... they should be in bigger programs. They might have gotten overlooked, but I’m happy they were.
“When I got here and saw the athletes that were here, I knew we could get to the top. It was just a matter of how fast we could get there.”
Last year’s inaugural bowl appearance was a start, but it wasn’t a pleasurable one for Broadway. As an ineligible redshirt, he didn’t take part in all the pre-bowl activities, and his sideline spot for the game was behind the Cajuns bench.
“Coach Hud’s rules are that if you’re not dressed out, you’re out of the way,” he said. “I wasn’t really involved. It was a great atmosphere, but it hurt a lot not being involved. I’d practiced all year with the scout team, but knowing we couldn’t go down for the whole experience hurt. But it drove me to work harder.”
“He was so on-point last spring, coming off that year with the scout team,” Johnson said.
“But that’s the type of person he is. You could just tell from the way he handled himself that he was going to do some good things for us. It was just a matter of time and game experience, and now that’s evident in the way he’s playing.”