Next Level: Has fate finally elected Nixon as the mainstay at quarterback?
You’re sick of it. Coach Mark Hudspeth is sick of it, too.
This, of course, is referring to the ongoing question regarding who will start at quarterback for the Ragin’ Cajuns. A practice battle that has raged since the start of spring ball carried into the first few weeks of the season without a clear winner.
Maybe until now, that is. Jalen Nixon moved the ball well in relief of Brooks Haack against Kentucky and Akron and was rewarded with his first career start last week.
While that didn’t go as well as the Cajuns had hoped, it appears they might be sticking with Nixon for the foreseeable future.
That depends on his performance, though. And the Cajuns could offer him a little help in that department.
Nixon has shown the ability to be a capable passer, but his true strength lies in his ability to run the read option. He’s been highly successful when given the chance this season.
In recent years, the offense has been at its best when this area of the game is running smoothly. It opens up plays in the passing game as well as running lanes for Elijah McGuire.
This week’s opponent, Texas State, struggled to contain Houston quarterback Greg Ward, who ran for 91 yards and a pair of scores against the Bobcats. A year ago, Cajuns quarterback Terrance Broadway burned them for a season-high 113 yards, many of which came on read-option plays. Nixon is the closest approximation the Cajuns have to Broadway’s skill set.
If the Cajuns are able to take advantage of Nixon’s strengths, that lingering question may finally have an answer.
1. Searching for stops
Could the Cajuns’ scoreboard operator have a difficult time keeping up with Saturday’s game? Neither the Cajuns nor the Bobcats have been able to come up with consistent defensive stops this season, particularly the Bobcats, who have given up 59, 56, and 59 points in their three losses this season. Ouch.
2. Shuffling the deck
When the Cajuns were hit with the unfortunate news they lost senior LG Mykhael Quave for the season, they decided to mix up their starting offensive line to get their best five in. Grant Horst went from left tackle to center, Eddie Gordon from center to left guard, and backup right tackle D’Aquin Withrow stepped in at left tackle.
3. Seizing opportunity
Last season’s game at Texas State marked the definitive turnaround for the Cajuns defense. It forced multiple turnovers for the first time all year, one of which was returned for a touchdown, while holding a solid offense to 10 points. A similar effort in the turnover department would be huge for the Cajuns’ beleaguered unit.
4. So, about that rush
The Cajuns got off to a tremendous start rushing the passer this season, but have since fallen flat. Zero sacks in the past two games have allowed opposing quarterbacks time to carve up the secondary. The return of Darzil Washington (separated shoulder) should pay immediate dividends for the pass rush.