From the Bird’s Nest: Thoughts on the Kent State Game
Well, just like the first game of the season against Oklahoma State, there were plenty of ups and downs in Saturday's game with Kent State. Here are my thoughts, not in any particular order.
THE CAJUNS DEFENSIVE LINE--It's been a while since a Cajuns defense dominated a game like they did Saturday night. And, it all started up front. Derrick Dean, Tyrell Gaddies and Chris Tucker started for the Cajuns and all three were very good. Dean and Gaddies blew up Kent State's offensive line on more than one occasion. Tucker recovered two fumbles. And the success up front enabled the other players on defense to pile up some good stats. Their performance wasn't as flashy (read: highlight plays) as guys like Stokes and Bentley, but, in my opinion, the DL was the key to the win.
SPEAKING OF STOKES AND BENTLEY--Stokes had the pick six for the Cajuns. Bentley forced a fumble and broke up a pass. He also delivered some of the best hits by a defensive back since Damon Mason.
QYEN GRIFFEN--His stats weren't that impressive, 24 carried for 51 yards. His longest rush was seven yards. But Kent State's defensive line gets the credit for that. Griffen ran hard and made the defense make plays. And, on his one yard touchdown run, he did a remarkable job of reaching out and hitting the pylon with the football as his body was going out of bounds. That's a play an upperclassman makes.
QUARTERBACK PLAY--I'm giving Chris Masson a pass for most of the night. First of all, Kent State's defense was pretty doggoned good. Middle Linebacker Luke Batton made life miserable for the Cajuns all night long and KSU's defensive line, as expected, was overpowering at times. Masson's made a poor throw early which set up KSU's first score. And, the senior wasn't helped by the poor field position the Cajuns had at times. With the torrential rains that fell, Masson was the best qb option for most of the game, because he made, for the most part, good decisions. The safety happened on what was supposed to be a running play and there was a missed assignment by the running back. But, when the rain stopped and Masson misfired on a couple of open receivers in the fourth quarter, coach Mark Hudspeth went to Blaine Gautier at the perfect time. Gautier gave the Cajuns a spark on a (relatively) dry field and got the Cajuns a huge field goal. But he also fumbled when the Cajuns could have put the game away. This battle, if you will, is far from settled. Given the opponent in game one and the conditions in game two, I don't know if we can draw any conclusions yet. I think both quarterbacks are better players than the stats show. But starting this week, they need to step up.
NIX ON NIX--The MAC defensive POY from a year ago didn't play much. And, when he did, he was a liability to the Flashes. His two personal foul penalties resulted in a Cajuns field goal. He had two tackles in the game, one for loss.
O-LINE--They were frequently overmatched. But, this group played hard and did some good things. The only sack came on the safety. And, the O-line only had two penalties, a holding call against Kyle Plouhar in the first half and a crackback block on Daniel Quave in the third quarter right after the lightning delay. These guys have to get better....but I thought they actually made a little progress Saturday.
BRETT BAER--He's proving to be a weapon for this team. He had one bad punt, when the team asked him to rugby kick (let's not do that again, okay?) but other than that, he averaged 47.5 yards per punt. His field goal out of a puddle in the pouring rain was big time.
KICKOFFS--Still not good. Stover had one good kick which carried to the six yard line. He also kicked another one out of bounds. This has to get better in a hurry.
GIVEAWAYS/TAKEAWAYS--The Cajuns have now forced seven turnovers in two games. Three have come back for touchdowns. If this continues, the Cajuns will win football games. Pure and simple. Conversely, the Cajuns have five turnovers in two games. If this continues, the Cajuns will lose football games. Pure and simple.
The Cajuns' win on Saturday belongs to the defense. Regardless of how pretty or how ugly you perceive the victory to be, it's great to be able to say the Cajuns' defense played winning football. Greg Stewart was a very happy man Saturday night.