By Dan McDonald, McD Media (For Sports Radio ESPN 1420)

It’s a sincere hope that everyone who wanted to get an early look at UL’s stunning new Athletic Performance Center has done so.

There’s now a big padlock across the doors, figuratively.

Ragin’ Cajun coach Mark Hudspeth, only minutes after his team was force-fed a 35-14 humbling at the hands of an Akron team that may not break even in the Mid-American Conference, essentially locked the doors of the 100,000-square-foot facility for everybody’s protection.

“While we’re working all week long, there’s 97 tours going through here,” an obviously frustrated Hudspeth said in post-game interviews. “It’s like the Grand Canyon. You’ve got tour guides leading people to see everything, and we can’t work.

“Every time you look up, there’s 19 people walking down our hallway. So I’m gonna fix that this week. Tours are over. Work is fixing to begin.”

Harsh words, but clearing out the onlookers might be in the visitors’ best interests. From the postgame tone Saturday, there’s a good chance that fur will fly, yelling will be frequent and things will be thrown regularly as the building’s full-time occupants try to get the Cajuns’ attention.

That shouldn’t be difficult after Saturday’s performance, when there were almost no areas in which UL could chalk up a positive:

 

* The Cajuns had precious little offensive consistency. Nine of UL’s 12 possessions went for fives of 16 or fewer yards and six were single digits in yardage. UL had 212 offensive yards before a late drive to a meaningless touchdown.

* Neither quarterback found an answer for an admittedly solid Akron defense. Brooks Haack, after throwing one incompletion in UL’s last game, was 8-of-17 for 77 yards and an interception. Jalen Nixon, who provided a huge spark in the opener against Kentucky, was 11-of-20 with a pick and gave up big chunks of yardage on two rush losses.

* A fourth-and-goal from the Akron 1 came up short – at least, that was the call from a Mid-American Conference officiating crew that didn’t exactly distinguish itself – just before halftime when a touchdown could have changed game momentum.

* UL’s defense continued to struggle with its man-press, with the secondary beaten on a regular basis by an Akron unit that entered Saturday ranked 127th – last – in the country in passing percentage.

* Even more distressing, Akron runners and receivers probably accounted for more yardage after contact than before they were hit. Cajun tackling was anemic, a fact never more obvious than on the Zips’ final touchdown when a 5-foot-10, 200-pound Conor Hundley stayed upright for the final six yards and carried four would-be tacklers into the end zone.

* The defense never came close to forcing a turnover – giving the squad a grand total of one through three weeks – and that contributed to the Cajuns never starting a drive in Akron territory.

* Special teams were less than special. Six kickoff returns didn’t provide starting position better than UL’s own 27, and the reliable Torrey Pierce mishandled a punt that could have provided another scoring chance before halftime.

 

When your high points of the night are Aussie Steven Coutts’ booming punt missiles – three of the five went for 53, 52 and 52 yards and all were fair-catches – it’s not an evening to remember.

If the game had been more competitive, it might have been possible to make a shaky MAC officiating crew an issue. After a particularly vexing series where that crew lost the number of downs and also missed a preliminary ball spot by two full yards, one individual who’s very familiar and involved with Sun Belt Conference football officiating made the unsolicited remark that it wasn’t a Sun Belt crew working the game.

As it turned out, that crew only provided moments of comic relief amidst three hours of depression for Cajun fans, most of whom were struggling to grasp the fact that a team that was moments away from a possible road win over an SEC team to start the season was overwhelmed by a program that hasn’t had a winning season in a decade and has won 14 games in the past six years.

It also doesn’t get any easier. The Cajuns head north to Ruston this week to take on a La. Tech team that embarrassed UL 48-20 at Cajun Field last year, and is probably better this year. There’s only one team on the UL schedule that the Bulldogs wouldn’t be favored against head-up, and it’s not a stretch to say Tech could be better than that Kentucky team.

It’s going to take some monumental changes in a week for the Cajuns to avoid a similar fate to last year, or last weekend. But it’s happened before. In fact, it happened 10 months ago, when UL was humbled at home by Appalachian State – a loss that cost them a Sun Belt title – and came back to pound Troy on the road in the season finale and then totally shut down a solid Nevada team in the New Orleans Bowl.

Until then, don’t get near that new building. It’s not going to be much fun inside those walls this week.

“The last time I checked,” Hudspeth said, “this facility don’t run fast enough to cover anybody man-to-man, and it can’t block.”