LAFAYETTE — In addition to providing his team with a little more film to dissect, Arkansas State’s 49-31 win against South Alabama Tuesday night also answered one critical question for UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth.
“I think some of the things Arkansas State’s doing are similar to some of the things we’ve already seen, and some things even that we do (on offense),” Hudspeth said. “The key there is if Fredi Knighten plays. If he plays? That kid is one of the best in the conference.”
Knighten, the Arkansas State quarterback who missed the previous three games to injury, was back directing the Red Wolves offense Tuesday night.
That isn’t great news for the Cajuns.
While Knighten didn’t post tremendous numbers in the win — he completed 10 of 17 passes for 119 yards and two scores while rushing for 40 yards on 20 carries — he played his part in igniting a furious fourth-quarter comeback, going 4-for-4 for 73 yards and a touchdown on back-to-back touchdown drives that rallied the Red Wolves back from an 11-point deficit.
Big things were expected from Knighten this season after he totaled 4,056 yards last season, throwing for 3,277 and rushing for an additional 779 with 35 total scores.
The Cajuns got a first-hand glimpse at how dangerous he could be when he gouged their secondary for 344 yards and three touchdowns while completing 70.3 percent of his passes in the Cajuns’ 55-40 win at Cajun Field last season.
“He is an exceptional player, a great competitor and I’ve got a lot of respect for that kid,” Hudspeth said.
What can Brown do for you?
The Cajuns were without starting cornerback Troy McCollum last week and could be without him again against Arkansas State. But the man who filled his shoes has been making strides this season.
“Savion (Brown) is really improving each week, especially in his coverage skills,” Hudspeth said. “He’s our best tackler ... in the secondary. He’s a big defensive back that can tackle and can run and he’s really improved.”
The 6-foot-2 Brown, a Shreveport native, came to the Cajuns from Tyler (Texas) Junior College. Hudspeth said he was a raw talent that has come along nicely under defensive coordinator Melvin Smith’s tutelage.
Brown has 15 tackles — including a career-high five last week and two tackles for loss the week before — and two pass breakups this season.
“Coach Smith took him from scratch and has taught him the fundamentals of how we play the game,” Hudspeth said. “I’m really proud of how he’s progressed.”
Needs more improvement
Brown was also responsible for the Cajuns’ lone takeaway last week — a fumble recovery that came on a backward pass, which likely would’ve been returned for a score if the officials didn’t blow the play dead.
It marked the first game of the year where the Cajuns — who didn’t have a turnover of their own — didn’t finish with a negative number in the turnover margin column. Still, Hudspeth was left wanting more after the game.
“We got one; Tracy (Walker) had his hands on two more; Dominique Tovell almost had an interception; we had another fumble that we didn’t get on,” Hudspeth said. “They’re there. We’ve just got to make the plays.”
The Cajuns entered the game with one of the worst turnover margins in the country (minus-8). The plus-1 margin Saturday night didn’t improve their standing much. Currently, they’re tied for 119th nationally with North Texas.
Arkansas State, meanwhile, is tied for the national lead in interceptions (13) after picking off South Alabama three times Tuesday.