BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — “Whipped.”
That’s the word University of Louisiana at Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth used over and over Saturday night after the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 42-23 loss to Western Kentucky University at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium, ending ULL’s six-game winning streak.
Down 21-17 at the half, ULL (6-2, 4-1, Sun Belt Conference) found the end zone just once more in the second half when junior quarterback Blaine Gautier found Ladarius Green for a 6-yard touchdown pass. That touchdown pass got the Cajuns within five points early in the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion attempt by ULL failed.
Gautier, a Paulina native, finished the game completing 32 of 51 attempts for 419 yards. Both of his touchdown passes were to Green. It was the second consecutive week Green had two touchdown passes.
“I think they did a good job of holding us out of the end zone,” Gautier said. “They played pretty good defense. We definitely moved the ball on them, but we’ve just got to get it together and score when we’re the red zone.”
Offensively, the Cajuns moved the ball, finishing with 540 total yards of offense. But ULL was forced to punt three times and scored just two touchdowns on four opportunities in the red zone.
Western Kentucky (3-4, 3-1 Sun Belt) used a potent running attack to score 21 second-half points and secure the program’s first home victory since Sept. 28, 2008. The Hilltoppers had lost 18 home games in a row.
“I think we absolutely got whipped at the point of attack,” Hudspeth said. “Sharpness, I didn’t think had anything to do with it. I think they just absolutely whipped us up front.”
Western Kentucky opened the game with a quick score. Running back Bobby Rainey scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, capping a six-play, 61-yard drive. The Hilltoppers led the entire game.
“We stepped on their throats,” WKU coach Willie Taggart said. “We had them down, and that’s something we didn’t do before. We weren’t playing to lose, we were playing to win.”
The Hilltoppers finished with 236 yards on the ground. Rainey finished with 214 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns.
“When you can’t run and you can’t stop the run, it’s tough to win,” Hudspeth said.
The game was back and fourth through much of the first half. Down 14-3 in the second quarter, sophomore running back Aaron Spikes scored on a 79-yard touchdown run. But the Hilltoppers answered right back. Quarterback Kawaun Jakes connected with Mitchell Henry for a 4-yard touchdown pass, capping a 12-play, 65-yard drive for Western Kentucky.
Jakes finished 15-of-18 through the air for 242 yards and one touchdown.
Hudspeth said he felt like bounces that were going the Cajuns’ way earlier in the season weren’t going their way Saturday night.
Case in point was in the fourth quarter with the Cajuns down 28-23, Jakes scrambled to find tight end Jack Doyle for a 39-yard pass down to the ULL 1-yard line.
Cajun linebacker Lance Kelly tipped the ball before it landed in Doyle’s hands.
Doyle’s catch was originally ruled a touchdown, but after review the ball was spotted at the 1-yard line. The Cajuns’ coaching staff reacted hoping Jakes would be called for crossing the line of scrimmage before throwing.
“Obviously they have a different vantage point, but that wasn’t the difference in the game. The difference in the game is they whipped us up front,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said normally the Cajuns would have made those plays similar to Kelly’s tip.
“That would have been a huge stop,” Hudspeth said. “Tonight, we tipped it to them, and they scored and they got the momentum. So we just didn’t make some plays.”