JONESBORO, Ark. — On the second play of Tuesday’s gameat Arkansas State, Jalen Nixon faked a handoff to running back Elijah McGuire and sprinted around the left side of the UL-Lafayette line for a 41-yard gain.
But what might’ve been most telling about the play was the way Arkansas State’s defense lit up McGuire on the play, busting through the Cajuns offensive line to deliver a punishing blow.
The message was clear: After McGuire gutted them for 265 yards and four scores last year, the Red Wolves weren’t going to let him beat them again.
“We knew they wanted to establish the run,” said Arkansas State’s Xavier Woodson-Luster. “They had been running the ball good all year. So we wanted to take away the run game and limit their offense.”
Arkansas State keyed on McGuire and all but took him out of the game while building up a huge 34-14 halftime lead. By the time the first half was over, McGuire had just 15 rushing yards on nine carries, eight of which came on his last carry of the half, an 8-yard touchdown run.
“They loaded the box pretty well,” McGuire said. “There was nothing there in the run game.”
The Cajuns tried to use this to their advantage by frequently running play-action on first down, but Nixon was rarely able to convert the throws.
McGuire was also held without a catch for the Cajuns’ first nine possession before Nixon found him four times for 42 yards through the air on a 75-yard touchdown drive to close the first half.
With McGuire’s impact limited, the Cajuns couldn’t get any of their other playmakers going and dug themselves a big hole.
It took him a while to get going, but once he did, McGuire toppled a couple career milestones in the process.
With an 13-yard reception late in the second quarter, McGuire topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark in his career.
The milestone made him the first player in Cajuns history to top 2,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his career. He entered the game needing just one receiving yard to reach the milestone.
He finished the game with a career-high 134 receiving yards to go along with 32 rushing yards. The 166 all-purpose yards made him the third Cajun in history to total 4,000 all-purpose yards in history.
YEAH, BUT THE PUNTER ...
There were almost no bright spots for the Cajuns in the first half as they were outscored 34-14.
But there was a bright spot: freshman punter Steven Coutts punted out of his mind.
By the time the first half was over, Coutts had a career-high 307 punting yards, averaging 51.2 yards per punt. He drilled punts of 64 (another career-best) and 62 in the half, which the Cajuns needed because they were consistently backed up deep in their own territory.
Three UL-Lafayette players left the game Saturday. Only one returned.
Offensive guard Donovan Williams walked off the field with a right shoulder injury after the first play of the game, but returned 10 plays later after being spelled by Adrian Goodacre.
Safety Travis Crawford, who started in place of T.J. Worthy, left the game in the second quarter with an elbow injury and did not return.
Wide receiver Jamal Robinson, who entered the game needing just 34 receiving yards to move into the top five in school history, left the game in the second quarter with a right foot injury.
That’s the same foot that Robinson broke to end his 2014 season, though Hudspeth said it was too early to determine the severity of the injury.
Fans were given small American flags as they entered the Centennial Bank Stadium as part of “Heroes Night,” during which the school honored public service personnel such as military, firefighters and police officers.
Arkansas State wore black helmets with the usual “stAte” decal in block lettering, but the inside of the decal was decorated with stars and stripes.
ODDS AND ENDS
Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson was in attendance at the game … The Cajuns string of four consecutive wins on Tuesday night came to an end. They are now 4-3 in Tuesday night games under coach Mark Hudspeth … The Cajuns were represented by McGuire, Darzil Washington, Karmichael Dunbar and Jeryl Brazil as captains.