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Football: Cajuns suffer humbling loss to Akron 35-14

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, September 26, 2015



The Ragin’ Cajuns fell 35-14 Saturday to the Akron Zips.(Photo: Scott Clause, Special to the Advertiser)


PHOTO GALLERY: Ragin’ Cajuns arrive for Cajun Walk


He told his team. He told his wife. He told UL’s director of football operations beforehand, and told just about anybody who would listen afterward.

Ragin’ Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth knew it. He just knew it.

Akron of the MAC jumped on UL early and did not let up Saturday night, beating the Cajuns 35-14 in front of 24,679 at Cajun Field.

Zips quarterback Thomas Woodson ran eight times for 93 yards and one touchdown while completing 13-of-29 passes for two TDs, Conor Hundley ran 20 times for 77 yards and two TDs and Akron’s defense limited the 1-2 Cajuns to 285 yards of total offense while its own compiled 458.

And Hudspeth practically predicted it.

“I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen,” the Cajun coach said. “Saw it coming a mile away.

“It was just too much of a distraction, too much to do in the middle of the season, bad timing on everybody’s part, with moving in, or planning to move in, during the season.”

Hudspeth was speaking of UL’s move from its old digs in the Cox Communications Center into its new $15 million-plus athletic performance center, which includes all sorts of amenities, during its bye week and early in the week prior to playing Akron.

“We’re over there in the slums, and we move into some shiny new Disney World,” he said in his opening remarks after the loss. “These are kids.

“It’s just been too much. Too many things to do over here. Game room, fancy locker room, fancy weight room, everybody’s thinking ‘Aw, we got this, we’re automatically gonna win because we’ve got this great facility.’

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

The move kept the Cajuns from focusing, Hudspeth believes, as much as they needed to deal with a team that played as well as Akron did Saturday.

The Zips led 14-0 early in the second quarter, 14-7 at halftime and 28-7 after three quarters en route to improving to 2-2.

With Woodson giving the Cajuns fits with his size and mobility, and UL’s offense struggling before and after backup quarterback Jalen Nixon replaced starter Brooks Haack, the night really was long for Hudspeth.

Haack finished 8-of-17 for 77 yards with one interception; Nixon was 11-of-20 for 96 yards with one interception too.

By the time Nixon threw an 8-yard TD pass to Gabe Fuselier with just more than six minutes left, the Zips had proven themselves.

After an opening exchange of punts, Akron took a 7-0 lead after Woodson found Andrew Pratt for a 9-yard scoring pass with 7:10 left in the first quarter.

Akron dominated those first 15 minutes, running 28 plays in the opening quarter to UL’s while possessing the ball for 12:59.

The burly 6-foot-1, 240-pound Woodson ran in from 17 yards out on a draw to help Akron take a 14-0 lead six seconds into the second quarter.

“Distractions played a role,” Cajuns linebacker Dominique Tovell said. “But at the end of the day, I’m gonna be honest: We just didn’t go out there and do our jobs, as a whole, I feel.”

“We just have to be sound in what we’re doing,” added UL nickel back Zach DeGrange, who did come up with an interception. “(Be) more sound than what we’re doing, and everything else will take its course.”

UL got back into it when Elijah McGuire scored on a 17-yard run, capping a seven-play, 75-yard drive that included two helpful Torrey Pierce runs. McGuire juked the last Akron defender standing to score, and Stevie Artigue’s PAT cut the Zips lead in half at 14-7.

UL’s bid to tie the game at 14 was stymied when an illegal chop block negated a would-be touchdown run by Pierce, and McGuire was later stopped short by a tough Akron defensive front on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

“I thought they whipped us physically,” Hudspeth said. “We couldn’t score from 6 inches out.

“I told (Akron) coach (Terry) Bowden, ‘That was just a good butt-kicking, Coach.’ So I shook his hand, I looked him in the eye, and sometimes that’s what you do. They came (and) took it took us.”

Pierce lost a punt late in the first half, and the Cajuns’ opening drive in the second half ended with Haack throwing long into double coverage for Jamal Robinson getting intercepted by DeAndre Scott.

The Zips took advantage, ending a quick drive with a 1-yard Hundley TD run that helped Akron pushed its lead back to 14.

The Zips made it 28-7 after Woodson beat Cajun man-press coverage and hit Jerome Lane for a 72-yard touchdown with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter.

UL’s next four drives ended with two Steven Coutts punts, a Nixon interception and a Nixon fumble as he trying to pass, ending all hopes for a Cajun comeback.

“While we’re working all week long, there’s 97 tours going through here,” said Hudspeth, whose 1-2 Cajuns visit Louisiana Tech on Saturday. “It’s like the Grand Canyon, and you’ve got tour guides leading people to see everything, and we can’t even work.

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