LAFAYETTE — For those who doubt whether the broken bones in his left throwing hand have healed, Blaine Gautier is willing to prove that he can still throw a football long distances with a certain measure of accuracy.
“Give me a ball right now and I can throw it 50 yards, all in the air and through the goalposts, too,” said Gautier, who is one of 18 University of Louisiana at Lafayette seniors making their final appearance Saturday at Cajun Field.
Just how much Gautier plays when the Cajuns host Sun Belt Conference opponent South Alabama at 4 p.m. is uncertain.
Gautier, who holds five ULL single-season passing records, hasn’t taken a snap since breaking his middle and ring fingers against Florida International Sept. 24 at Cajun Field.
Since then, Gautier has been rehabilitating his hand as sophomore Terrance Broadway has led ULL the rest of the way, to a 6-4 record and four victories in six conference games.
Gautier said he is physically “100 percent.” At his weekly news luncheon Monday, ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said he will make sure Gautier gets to take a snap in his final home game.
Since taking over, Broadway has started every game and thrown for 2,053 yards and 13 touchdowns. Broadway is expected to start against USA (2-9,1-6). The Jaguars are competing for the first time in the Sun Belt as an FBS school after starting the program in 2009.
Gautier said his convalescence has been helped by remaining around his teammates and attending every game on the sideline after the injury.
Running onto Cajun Field for the last time Saturday will be memorable, Gautier said.
“It’s been a long five years with a lot of memories on Cajun Field,” he said. “For me to come back and get a chance to play again and for my family to have a chance to see me play one more time is certainly special. I don’t know how much I will play, but I’m thankful and ready for whatever the situation is and be a part of this team.”
After throwing for 492 yards in the first four games and 2,958 last year, Gautier admitted 2012 has been tough.
“I had so much high hopes for this year after coming off a great year,” he said. “But you know, things happen, and I wish this season had been a little bit different. Now I’m happy to just be able to play again and continue to be a big part of this team.”
While the Cajuns qualified for a bowl game with last Saturday night’s 31-27 win over Western Kentucky, USA lost to Middle Tennessee 20-12, which is in second place behind league-leading Arkansas State.
Hudspeth said he’s impressed with the Jaguars’ defense, ranked second in the SBC.
USA coach Joey Jones said ULL’s spread offense featuring Broadway and the Cajuns’ array of receiving talent are going to be a challenge to slow.
“(The Cajuns) are running their quarterback a lot more,” Jones said. “(Broadway) is really scary when he pulls it down and runs with it. They seem to be playing well and with confidence right now. Getting to a bowl game, that’s on their agenda right now.”
Jones said the Jaguars are proving to themselves and the other SBC teams that they belong in the league.
“We’re playing well, and we’ve become a better team throughout the season,” Jones said. “Playing well (against Middle Tennessee) has allowed us to find out we can play with SBC teams right now.”