Few things frustrate a good defense more than a dual-threat quarterback.
South Alabama quarterback Desmond Trotter ran the ball effectively against UL’s defense two weeks ago with 12 carries for 64 yards.
But Trotter only attempted 15 passes in the game and wasn’t much of a passing threat.
Appalachian State’s Zac Thomas rushed for 69 yards on 22 carries and really hurt the Cajuns’ defense on several occasions.
But even he only threw 17 passes that night.
Georgia Southern’s Shai Werts ran for 93 yards on 21 carries as an option quarterback, only throwing 12 passes against UL.
The Appalachian State game on Oct. 9 was encouraging with 21,012 fans. The next game was homecoming against Texas State with 21,063 fans.
And Mississippi State’s Tommy Stevens was a dual threat with 11 carries for 44 yards and a score.
So while there’s been a few dual-purpose quarterbacks on the schedule this season, UL’s defense may be facing the scariest combo quarterback at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in UL-Monroe's senior Caleb Evans.
“The quarterback is dynamic,” UL coach Billy Napier said.
For the season, Evans is 216-of-352 passing for 2,609 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s also run it 126 times for 717 yards and 11 scores.
In last week's 45-42 win over Coastal Carolina, Evans was 19-of-33 passing for 346 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while also rushing it nine times for 69 yards and a score.
“I think he’s very capable in the zone-read game, to pull the ball down and hurt you,” Napier said. “You have to be sound for the running back and the quarterback and the number of different ways that they present that. Certainly they run a lot of quarterback designed runs as well, where they add an extra gap to the field. He’s a very effective passer, the ability to run it to go along with the fact that he can throw it, and I think the offensive line makes all of that go.”
It sounds like the thing to say, and it’s certainly the goal every week.
For his career, Evans has thrown for 9,183 yards and 56 touchdowns and run for 2,091 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Making Evans and ULM’s offense even more dangerous is the upgrade at running back in Josh Johnson with 1,189 yards and 11 scores on 188 carries.
“The addition of this running back has really helped them,” Napier said. “He’s a big, thick powerful, productive guy, good instincts, good vision. They’ve got some weapons there. They’ve consistently been over 400 yards of offense this year, so they score and they move the ball.”
UL defenders are aware of the added responsibility facing a versatile quarterback can bring.
“Just being more disciplined,” defensive end Andre Jones said of the strategy against Evans. “You have to keep an eye on him. It’s not really that complicated. You just have to be disciplined and do what you’ve got to do. Do your job.”
For many around the country, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns are first identified by their three-headed monster in the offensive backfield.
Linebacker Kris Moncrief agreed.
“He’s very mobile,” Moncrief said. “He can throw and he can run, also. He’s pretty good.
“It’s not really complicated. We’re just going to have to use contain and just fight to get him. Nothing major.”
A year ago, Evans ran it 13 times for 24 yards — thanks to three sacks producing 21 lost yards — and was 15-of-24 passing for 201 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Naturally, Napier isn't all that concerned about the past. In addition to possibly being Evans' final collegiate game, it's a rivalry and the Warhawks need the win to get bowl eligible.
"There’s no question, regardless of what happened in the past, this is always going to be an important game for each program," Napier said. "It’s just three or four hours up the road here, they’re in our division, and certainly there’s tons of relationships here. These kids know each other, the staffs know each other, the alumni know each other. There’s a lot at stake, and I’m happy that it’s that way, because I think that gets the attention of our players and that’s what matters at this point."