LAFAYETTE - New team. Newcomers. New direction.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette football coach Mark Hudspeth finds the current situation of his team and Kent State to be strikingly similar as they play at 6 p.m. Saturday at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio.
- ?Hudspeth and Kent State coach Darrell Hazell are both first-year coaches trying to revive programs.
- ?Like Hudspeth (at Mississippi State), Hazell was a receivers coach (at Ohio State) before landing a head-coaching job.
- ?Both teams were trounced by top-10 teams on the road last Saturday to start the season, the Cajuns losing at No. 9 Oklahoma State 66-34 and the Flashes losing 48-7 at No. 2 Alabama.
- ?Also nearly identical are the young players on the rosters of each team who made first-game contributions. Each team played 20 newcomers.
“They really look a lot like us, with a new team, a new staff and players that are coming in for the first time and making contributions,” Hudspeth said.
Both coaches even sounded alike following last Saturday’s defeats as they lauded their teams for their attitudes.
Hudspeth praised his team for rallying for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Hazell did likewise, following the 39-point defeat.
“There are definitely some positives I saw on (Kent State’s) offense and defense,” Hazell said. “They never gave up, but we didn’t execute that well.”
Inside linebacker Lance Kelley said the Kent State game is crucial to the type of season ULL expects under Hudspeth.
“From Week 1 to Week 2 is when you make the most progress,” said Javone Lawson, a junior, who had three catches for 67 yards against Oklahoma State.
Lawson said the main improvement for the offense is reducing dropped passes. And Hazell echoed that sentiment for his Flashes.
“I thought (quarterback Spencer Keith) did a great job,” Hazell said. “I don’t know how many drops we had, but I guess it was in the double digits,” Hazell said.
Kelley, a senior who has played offense and defense and three different positions in his four seasons, said the defense gave up too many big plays because of misalignments and missed tackles.
ULL played three linebackers at new positions against OSU, but Kelley said the inexperience didn’t seem to be the major problem.
“(Playing the new players) was not as bad as you would have expected. Everyone was on the same page for most of the game,” said Kelley, who had nine total tackles in his first game as a ULL linebacker.
Hudspeth said the Cajuns need to be aware of two Kent State players: Keith, who was 20 of 47 at Alabama and has started 13 consecutive games; and sophomore defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix, who had a sack and two tackles for losses.
“(Nix) gave Alabama fits,” Hudspeth said. “He was in their backfield all afternoon.”
Although the Cajuns compiled only 108 rushing yards against OSU, Hudspeth said he is encouraged by his two freshman running backs, Qyen Griffin and Alonzo Harris, who combined for 67 yards.
Sophomore Aaron Spikes is the projected starter, but Hudspeth said Griffin and Harris will see increased playing time as they become more familiar with the offense.