A Look Back at Arkansas State – From the Bird’s Nest
Gee, Mom do I have to?
Yeah, I do. Can't blow off a weekly feature just because I don't want to re-live the nightmare that was Tuesday night at Cajun Field.
I'm not going to pass blame, here. Rather I'm going to make some observations of what I saw on Tuesday.
OFFENSE--It's quite simple. You finish -5 in turnover margin and you won't beat air. That's five extra possessions for the opposition and with a team that's as talented as Arkansas State, turnovers in football are like drinking hemlock during Shakespeare's time. The Cajuns are -7 the last two games and they lost both. That isn't molecular biology (brain surgery is getting overused).
It's my opinion that the time it takes Terrance Broadway to go through his progressions had a direct correlation to the turnovers. If you recall, the two fumbles were sacks and strips. On two of the three interceptions, he was greatly pressured. Ever since he's been the starter, the number of sacks have increased. Fixing that comes with game experience. He'll be okay, but he's not totally okay right now. On the other hand, he passed for more than 370 yards on Tuesday. He's got very good skills and he's a smart kid.
GIMME BACK MY BULLETS==Let's face it...injuries may be part of the game, but when you have too many, it just gets harder to win. The Cajuns have now lost their starting quarterback, the running back who got the start in game one, their best possession receiver and a returning 1,000 receiver. It just gets harder and harder to win when that happens. The Cajuns could get Harry Peoples back for ULM, but I don't see any way he'll be 100 percent. The injuries have made an awfully promising season one in which the Cajuns and their fans are just trying to survive.
DEFENSE--There have been a lot of opinions as to why the Cajuns have struggled defensively. In reality, the best thing we could say about last year's defense is they were opportunistic. They forced 23 turnovers a season ago. They haven't forced any in the last two games. Zero. Zilch. Nada. You don't win games doing that. When you get down to it, the Cajuns defense wasn't great a year ago and eight starters are gone now. And, boy, it's interesting to see how quickly fans turn on ya. Before the season we were crowing about the fact our coaching staff was returning intact. Now, defensive coordinator Greg Stewart is the second coming of Charles Manson. To be sure, the Cajuns' inability to stop "run to the right" by Arkansas State was disturbing and Stewart is the #1 guy on the defense. And, he, not Mark Hudspeth will be the first to blame Greg Stewart.
But this isn't all on the defense.
Arkansas State scored on ten possessions. Only twice did the ASU offense have to go more than 60 yards. The turnovers, the failed fake punt and too many three and outs led to good field position for the Red Wolves all night long. That was a contributor to the issues as well.
THE FAKE--Boy those things look bad when they don't work. Mark Hudspeth has been known to gamble, whether it's with an onside kick, a fake punt, a fake field goal or lining up to go for it on fourth down. His track record is outrageously good. And because it is, I won't be criticizing the strategy of taking a chance and failing. Stuff happens. And, really, it hasn't happened very often in the 20 games that Hudspeth has been the head coach. Call it again, Hud...just execute better next time, guys.
A lot of things had to go wrong for the Cajuns to get hammered at home the way they did. And things, did, indeed, go wrong. Fans would be wise not to simply point a finger in just one area. There were many contributors and factors to the embarassment we saw on Tuesday night.