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Football: Bourque’s contributions to UL special

 Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, October 4, 2013

Zach Bourque

Zach Bourque

One play two Saturdays ago at Akron summed up the satisfaction for Zach Bourque, a UL junior whose contributions to the Ragin’ Cajuns football team really do live up to their special billing.

The Cajuns had just gone up 28-24 on the MAC’s Zips halfway through the fourth quarter, and coach Mark Hudspeth daringly decided to go for the kill.

The story of Hunter Stover recovering his own onside kick, UL scoring five plays later on a 14-yard touchdown throw from Terrance Broadway to Darryl Surgent and the Cajuns going on to win 35-30 has been told time and time again since then.

But the tale of Bourque’s big block that made it all happen has not.

“It was very rewarding,” Bourque said of the signature play four games into his junior season.

Similarly gratifying is the mere ability to make a mark for someone who might not otherwise have had a chance – even if opportunities sometimes are few and far between.

The alternative – standing on the sideline watching – is not exactly palatable.

“Everybody has their role, and I’m just more than glad I can contribute,” Bourque said. “Even if it’s special teams, I love it.

“It took me a while (to accept that), but it’s definitely worth all of the offseason training and all the work we go through. … It wouldn’t be worth all of the hard work that I put in in the summer and spring and everything else just to not do anything.”

Bourque played running back, strong safety, kicked, returned kicks and ran track – sprints up to 400 meters – at North Vermilion High.

Soccer and baseball too.

As a senior with the Patriots he rushed for 1,101 yards and 14 touchdowns, made 70 tackles and forced five fumbles.

He knew all along he wanted to play football at the next level, and sensed leaning on his track background might make that happen.

And he was right.

“He’s got a lot of straight-ahead speed, and that allows him to cover a lot of ground special-teams wise,” said Hudspeth, who doubles as UL’s special teams coach.

“I probably wouldn’t even be on this team if I didn’t have speed,” added Bourque, who also ran track for the Cajuns as a freshman. “That’s the main thing that got me noticed is how fast I was, actually.”

Bourque had to fight for his chance at UL, though.

“I bugged them so much they probably got tired of me,” he said.

Bourque started working on the Cajun scout team’s special teams, and it wasn’t long after that one thing led to another.

Now he’s on three UL special-team units: kickoff, punt and punt-block.

In 2011, Bourque played in eight games, and last season he was a regular special-teams contributor in all 13, finishing with four tackles, including two in the 9-4 Cajuns’ New Orleans Bowl win over East Carolina.

This season he already has two tackles, not to mention that memorable block.

“He’s earned a spot,” said Hudspeth, who watched Bourque block a couple punts and run with abandon for the scout team early in his freshman season.

“We could never block him,” Hudspeth added. “So we decided if we couldn’t block him on the scout team, let’s put him on the real kickoff team – and he did a really nice job.”

Every program that hopes for special-teams success needs one – or, ideally, two or three or more – like him.

Christian Sager is another at UL.

“He understands his role, is a hard worker,” Hudspeth said of Sager, a junior from Monroe’s St. Frederick High. “He knows every position on every special team, so I can plug him in anywhere and he doesn’t need a lot of reps to get it done. He’s really dependable.”

In UL’s case, such specialists help keep certain starters off the field when they don’t absolutely need to be.

Hudspeth cites starting cornerback Trevence Patt.

“That allows me to take T-Patt off of these special teams when he’s playing every rep at corner and we really don’t have any depth,” he said.

“(It) saves T-Patt from having to run 60 yards down the field, make a big hit, then have to line up the next play at corner.

“When you have guys like Bourque and Sager,” Hudspeth added, “that allows you to rest some of your starters that don’t get any rest any other time because of lack of depth.”

Bourque’s block was a big help too for the 2-2 Cajuns, who’ve been idle since beating Akron and face Texas State on Saturday night at Cajun Field.

“We’ve been practicing that ever since I’ve been here,” Bourque said.

“My freshman year, Coach (Hudspeth) didn’t trust me to do. He’d bring in (then-senior Devon Lewis-Buchanan). So it felt good to know he trusts me (now) to make that block.”

Bourque, lined up next to Stover, got ahead of the ball and wiped his man out. Cajun Zachary DeGrange, a sophomore from New Orleans, made his block too.

“They both executed it to a T – knocked their guy out, and that allowed Hunter (Stover) to slide in on the ball,” Hudspeth said.

“I knew he wasn’t ready for it, and whenever he saw me coming he let up a little bit,” Bourque added. “That’s why it probably looked a little better than it really was. But it felt really good to make it happen.”