LAFAYETTE - Mark Hudspeth is obviously getting used to the Cajun culture.
That was evident Monday at his weekly news conference when the new coach of Louisiana at Lafayette danced around the question of whether he has finally settled on a starting quarterback after three games.
Call it Hudspeth’s version of the Cajun two-step.
“If you go back and look at the film and the way our offense sort of moved the football there in the fourth quarter (Saturday), I thought that last quarter and half, that we saw some continuity,” said Hudspeth, beginning his lengthy answer. “We’d get a nice run, then a nice play-action, then a nice run. ? It started to flow like we had hoped.
“And then we were able hit a big play and we hadn’t been a big-play offense to this point so. ? I’ll say this: I think with the performance that Blaine (Gautier) showed (against Nicholls State) that he’s definitely going to have an increased role and he probably showed that he’s pretty comfortable with the system we’re doing, which does allow us a little more offense with his mobility.
“So right now, I’d say we’re probably leaning toward him playing him a little more.”
OK, let’s get this straight, coach: So, Blaine Gautier will start at 5 p.m. Saturday, when the Cajuns (2-1) kick off Sun Belt Conference play at Florida International (3-0) in Miami, right?
“I have not decided yet,” said Hudspeth to laughter. “But he definitely played well enough to get that nod, that’s for sure.”
Gautier started the season opener at Oklahoma State, but he has been relegated to a relief role since then, and in that role he has flourished. He’s entered in the second halves of the last two games and added a much-needed spark to an offense that had been sputtering.
In the latest, Saturday’s 38-21 victory over Nicholls State, he entered midway through the third quarter in relief of Chris Masson and promptly engineered a pair of scoring drives while rushing for 36 yards and throwing for 78 and one touchdown.
Over the first three, games, Gautier is 18-for-32 passing for 212 yards.
“It doesn’t make a difference to us who starts, we have confidence in both of them” said versatile back Brad McGuire, who needs just five touchdowns to crack the top-five career rushing TD list at ULL.
Whoever it is under center, the Cajuns must improve dramatically if they hope to compete against FIU on Saturday and eventually compete for a Sun Belt Conference title.
Presently, they rank 114th among 120 FBS teams in total offense - 112th in passing (132 ypg) and 88th in rushing (121 ypg).
That is in stark contrast to their defensive standing - 61st in total defense. They also rank fifth nationally in takeaways.
“Offensively, I think we showed (Saturday) that once we get in a little bit of rhythm that we’ve got some playmakers, and we showed that the last quarter and a half of our football game,” Hudspeth said.
He and the Cajuns will need all the offense they can muster against FIU. The Panthers are already 1-0 in SBC play after a 41-16 pounding of North Texas, and they also own victories over Louisville (24-17) and Central Florida (17-10).
“It will be a huge barometer for us,” Hudspeth said. “We’ll know coming out of that game how far we are away from being Sun Belt Conference contenders year in and year out.
“They really have their program on track. They struggled four years ago, but they made up ground and are now coming off a Sun Belt Conference championship.”