RUSTON — For the third time in four games, the Louisiana-Lafayette football team went to the locker room at halftime with just seven points to its name. That needs to be fixed immediately if the Ragin’ Cajuns are going to turn around this 1-3 start, coach Mark Hudspeth said.
“We have got to find some answers on offense,” he said. “It comes down to that. Seven points at half every week is not going to be enough, and so we have got to go back to the drawing board there and look at where we are at.”
It looked like the Cajuns were going to get off to their first fast start of the year when Jalen Nixon whipped a pass to Elijah McGuire in the flat, and McGuire did the rest for a 49-yard touchdown on the Cajuns’ first possession Saturday at Louisiana Tech.
That was the fast start the team had been looking for all year, McGuire said.
“We talked about it all week, starting off fast,” he said. “We did that on the first drive, got off to a really good start. But after that, it seemed like (nothing) went our way.”
After that, each of the Cajuns’ next seven drives went for 32 or fewer yards, including three that ended as a three-and-out.
The rest of the first half was particularly fruitless. The Cajuns put together a 10-play drive on their second possession before it stalled in Louisiana Tech territory after Nixon was dropped for a 6-yard loss on a first-down play.
The next four drives of the first half had the following results: 14 plays, 29 yards, three punts (one of which was blocked for a safety) and a devastating interception returned for a touchdown on the last play before halftime.
“When you are having success with your plays, you can get in a rhythm, but when you are three-and-out or you are four- and five-and-out, it is just hard,” Hudspeth said. “Rhythm is success in your offensive plays. We just have to get some continuity. We got to be able to move the chains.”
The Cajuns were never able to sustain drives, chiefly because they put themselves in hard-to-convert situations on third down.
The Cajuns faced seven third downs in the first half, and they needed to get 7 or more yards on five of them. The second half was a little better: The Cajuns faced third-and-7 or longer just twice, but by that point the game was well out of reach.
Facing those third-and-long situations, the Cajuns routinely threw it short of the first-down marker, hoping for the receiver to break a tackle and pick up the first down. It only happened once in the first quarter, when Jamal Robinson broke a couple of tackles on an 18-yard catch-and-run.
The Cajuns finished 5-of-13 on third down — and only 1-of-7 when they needed 7 or more yards to convert.
After scoring just 14 points in each of their past two games, the Cajuns are now ranked 84th nationally in scoring offense.