Game Thoughts From Ruston – From the Bird’s Nest
Normally when we go on the road, I stay away from talking about the game and concentrate more on the trip itself...and I'll still do that in tomorrow's blog. But today, I'll address the game itself.
I'm no football expert. And, I've never claimed to be. Let me state that right off the bat. And, I'll be honest and say I did not expect the Cajuns to win the football game. I thought they could, but so many things would have had to go right for them. Not many did.
The Cajuns gave up only one big play for a touchdown. And, they did a good job on Kenneth Dixon, to the point where, when he finally got into the end zone, he spiked the football...and got ejected for his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game. That was pure frustration and the Cajuns' defense deserves credit for that. But, in doing that they allowed Jeff Driskel to beat the Cajuns with his legs as well as his arm. And, he was capable of doing it either way.
The Cajuns made the Bulldogs drive the football and take double digit plays to score. But they couldn't stop Tech, and, as has been the problem all season, couldn't get off the field on third down. And, once again, first downs by penalty were a part of the problem.
I don't second guess coaches. The dumbest coach in America is a lot smarter than I am when it comes to football But I will first guess coaches. I've done it to Tony Robichaux countless times. I've done it to Bob Marlin as well. On Saturday, I suggested the Cajuns should just take a knee at the end of the first half. And, when they didn't do it on the first play I said it again. What happened next should not have happened. Period.
But now that we've had four games to see the strengths and weaknesses of this team, there are some realities to face.
Mark Hudspeth is lamenting the inability of the Cajuns to put the ball in the end zone, especially in the first half. And, the problems are pretty easy to point out. Right now opponents defenses are designing their game plan to make sure Elijah McGuire doesn't make a big play. He made one on Saturday on the first drive. While both Cajuns' quarterbacks have had their moments, neither has been able to make a big play and neither has played consistently enough to move the chains and worse, neither has been consistent enough to win the job. The receiving corps has been more than disappointing. Jamal Robinson made one play on Saturday. Gary Haynes made one, but then had two drops and fumble. If players don't step up and this offense remains on just McGuire's shoulders, the issues are going to continue. The coaches are trying to put players in position to be successful. But sooner or later players have to make plays.
The Cajuns' special teams, once again, were poor. That has been the case all year, with exception of Steven Coutts. But he had a punt blocked (wasn't his fault) Saturday and wasn't consistent. The Cajuns haven't found anyone who can return a punt or a kick. And, while the Cajuns kick coverage has improved there have still be a few times when they are one missed tackle away from bad things happening.
Once again, the Cajuns had too many penalties. While they were much better than the 120+ yards against Akron they still had too many yards, especially against the defense. And, there was more than one time where there were offsetting penalties or it could have been worse.
At the end of the day, either you win or you lose. Sometimes there's a crucial play here or there...maybe an inopportune penalty.
Sometimes the other guys are better. And, that certainly is the case with Louisiana Tech. I don't know if Tech is better than Kentucky, but they are better than any team left on the Cajuns' schedule. Sonny Dykes' philosophy of relying on junior college players has paid dividends in some seasons. In others, like 2013, they've been caught short. Skip Holtz inherited a lot of good football players.This particular Tech team has a lot going for it. They have a senior quarterback, a senior star at running back and they start eight seniors on defense. Their cupboard will need some serious re-stocking for 2016.
But the Cajuns don't play Tech next year. This year they were simply a lot less talented than the home team.
With most mid-majors, success comes in cycles. It's very difficult for a program to be successful year after year after year. Are the Cajuns in a down cycle? That is yet to be determined. Conference play begins next week and there are still eight games remaining to get things figured out. But right now, by the standards Mark Hudspeth and his staff have created, this team isn't very good. I still think they can be.
But fans are disappointed it hasn't been figured out already. And, regardless of the reasons or the analysis, fans of any school don't like being beaten by a rival 92-34 over a two year period.
Nor should they.