Ragin Cajuns’ QB Jalen Nixon makes his first start; shows flashes but struggles before shoulder injury _lowres

RaginCajuns.com photo by BRAD KEMP -- Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns quarterback Jalen Nixon gets off a pass against Louisiana Tech during Saturday's game at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston.

RUSTON — Jalen Nixon’s first career start began with a bang but ended with a thud.

The Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback, who earned his first career start Saturday against Louisiana Tech, opened the game with a five-play, 80-yard drive that was capped with a 49-yard touchdown pass to running back Elijah McGuire. But the offense sputtered the rest of the night before Nixon exited in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

“That first drive, we got out to a really good start,” McGuire said. “After that, nothing really seemed to go our way. But that’s on the offense. We have to do better moving the chains more often.”

Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said he was unsure of the severity of Nixon’s injury and will hold off until early next week to make any assessments. It was a re-aggravation of the same shoulder injury that kept Nixon out of the Cajuns’ game against Northwestern State in Week 2.

Nixon spent the early weeks of the season splitting time with Brooks Haack, but until he left the game Saturday night, he took every offensive snap against the Bulldogs. He was not made available for interview after the game.

Hudspeth said Haack most likely would not have played Saturday if it weren’t for Nixon being injured.

Nixon finished with 161 yards and a touchdown on 17-of-33 passing. He tacked on another 60 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

Nixon’s completion numbers also diminished throughout the night; he completed 11 passes in the first half and just six after the break.

“I thought he ran the ball effectively with the option, had some nice pulls and a couple of nice throws — probably wishes he had a couple of them back,” Hudspeth said. “We’ll see where we’re at making a quarterback position.”

The Cajuns spent most of the night attempting short, quick passes as Nixon threw only nine balls more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, completing none of those attempts.

One of the shots downfield came on the last play before halftime, when Nixon threw a ball while being hit. It was intercepted by Louisiana Tech cornerback Bryson Abraham, who returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.

Hudspeth said the lack of deep passes was “probably responding” to what Louisiana Tech showed the offense.

“They did a good job of keeping behind us and not giving up the big play,” Hudspeth said.

Nixon’s injury came with a little more than six minutes to play when he took a hard blow on a fourth-and-long conversion attempt that fell incomplete in the end zone after almost being intercepted.

Haack only played on the final offensive drive of the game for that Cajuns, completing 2 of 4 passes for 21 yards and an interception.

“I’m sort of getting tired of the (questions at quarterback),” Hudspeth said. “I’m about ready to make a decision. We’ll look at the game film and make a decision this week. Once we get into conference play, we’re going to make a decision and roll with it.”