The Good and Bad From the ULM Game – From the Bird’s Nest
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns' 56-50 double overtime loss to ULM Saturday evening was a frustrating loss for the players, coaches and fans. And, the broadcasters too. We are also fans. We just find a different way to express ourselves.
As always there was good and bad to talk about.
THE COMEBACK--When the Cajuns were down 43-22, my broadcast partner Richie Falgout, said it was time to see if the Cajuns' players had any pride. "Are they willing to play for the name on the front of the jersey?" he asked. Well, we all got the answer. This team fought their butts off to get 21 unanswered points that enabled the Cajuns to tie the Warhawks on the final play of regulation. The question was answered. There was no quit on their part.
THOSE THAT STAYED--I understand those that left early. No lectures from me. I might have been in that number. But kudos to those who stayed. You were rewarded for your loyalty. And, you deserved better in the end.
THE FRESHMEN CONTINUE TO IMPRESS--Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell are still doing their thing. Mitchell's touchdown drive (he got 75 yards by himself) gave the Cajuns a boost when they really needed it. And Ragas is a stud. Pure and simple.
NEXT MAN UP--It was a tough beginning for Andre Nunez. The Cajuns' back up quarterback didn't look comfortable at all early after being inserted into the game Saturday in place of an ineffective Jordan Davis. But he showed tremendous leadership and made play after play in the Cajuns' comeback.
NEXT MAN UP PART II--The Cajuns gave Jarrod Jackson a chance and he didn't disappoint. He had over 100 yards receiving and was one of Nunez' "go to" guys in the fourth quarter. Great job, Jarrod.
NO TURNOVERS--With a quarterback playing his first game, you might have thought you'd see at least one. Didn't happen.
THE GRIDIRON ALUMNI REUNION---Nearly 200 players and their families were on hand. Some of them have not been on campus in a long time. With their families, that was the better part of 1,000 folks that were in for the game. Was especially excited to see Brian Mitchell come in from D. C. Dude is a Hall of Famer regardless of what the voters ever say.
THE DEFENSE--Duh. What is really disturbing (well, everything is disturbing) is everyone knew what Caleb Evans' strength was. And the defense was powerless to stop him. And, a guy who had completed less than 50% of his passes on the season looked like a first team all-conference player. Kudos to the ULM brain trust, who decided to use the short passing game to set up Evans' running ability. Their game plan was solid. The Cajuns' was not. And, neither were the adjustments.
THE KICKING GAME--On Friday, I mentioned this facet of the game. ULM used to be horrendous in the kicking game. No more. Their kicking game was better in almost every facet. They had return yards, their kicking was, for the most part, accurate and they held their own in the punting game. They allowed only one return of note and that was Ryheem Malone in the fourth quarter. Sam Geraci was outstanding in the punting game for the Cajuns' but the rest was lacking.
THE DECISION--I have said many times over the years I am not a second guesser. In fact, second guessers frustrate me. Hell, we're all smarter after the fact. But I WILL first guess. I'll share an opinion about what should happen next. Richie and I both agreed (and we were pretty succinct about it) that the Cajuns should go for two after tying the game, especially after ULM was penalized half the distance for roughing the passer on the final play. You needed 54 inches, you have a bull in the backfield who wasn't stopped up the middle all day and you had a totally gassed ULM defense. I would have defended the coaching staff until the day I die if they had gone for two and failed. But I'm not defending this. Playing at home and having momentum were the explanations about the decision. It was the wrong decision. Period. And, that's not a second guess.