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Football: Elijah McGuire scores 5 TDs in UL’s 44-17 win over NSU

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, September 13, 2015



UL Ragin’ Cajuns running back Elijah McGuire (15) celebrates after scoring his second touchdown of the first quarter during the first half of an NCAA football game against Northwestern State at Cajun Field Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015.(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser)


Sometimes fancy isn’t necessary. But the extras come anyway.

So UL went with what coach Mark Hudspeth called a “vanilla” offensive approach Saturday night. The game plan: Hand it off to Elijah McGuire, and let him do his thing. And he did, in a load-it-all-on Sundae sort of way, bringing everything from syrup to sprinkles with a cherry or two on top.

McGuire, the reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, ran 14 times for 162 yards and five touchdowns including an 88-yarder, leading UL to a 44-17 turnover-free win over Northwestern State in their 2015 home opener in front of 26,824 at Cajun Field.

Torrey Pierce added the final TD run for UL, which is now 1-1 after a season-opening loss at Kentucky.

“It was great to see Eli break a lot of good runs,” Cajuns quarterback Brooks Haack said.

“But that comes with great blocking up front. Our offensive line – I promise they had them pushed at least 3 or 4 yards off the ball, so that just made Eli one cut and go. With his breakaway speed, I think it just left everybody in the dust.”

With McGuire doing his job, Haack – who finished 7-of-8 for 187 yards including three completions to Devin Scott for 90 yards and two to Jamal Robinson for 68 yards – was able to work the rest of field.

But he did so only when need be.

“Eli was running so well, T.P. (Pierce) and all them were running so well,” Haack said, “that it seemed like they started stacking the box, and when they did that, we have so many weapons outside.”

McGuire, though, took care of all of UL’s basic needs.

“Brooks once again managed the game exceptionally well; threw the ball with a lot of accuracy,” said Hudspeth, who suggested Haack would start when UL plays next against Akron on Sept. 26 at Cajun Field.

“But the run game really was working real well. We didn’t feel like we needed to get away from that.”

McGuire scored his fifth touchdown on a 1-yard run with six minutes and 16 seconds left in the third quarter, helping to put the Cajuns up 34-10 and tying the school record for rushing TDs in a game also held by current Green Bay Packers running back Alonzo Harris (against New Mexico State in 2013) and ex-NFLer Brian Mitchell (against Lamar in 1989).

The five also ties Harris, Mitchell, Jason Cherry against North Texas in 2008 and Jim Barton against Delta State in 1968 for most overall TDs in a game by a Cajun.

“Coming off of last week, we had a bad taste in our mouth,” McGuire said. “So we had the mindset of coming out in this game of just, ‘Play hard and give ’em all we’ve got to get that bad taste out.’ … So the plan was just to come out of the gates, hit ’em in the mouth and just keep running the ball.

“I felt 100 percent at Kentucky,” he added with reference to an 86-yard rushing night against the Wildcats. “But things, you know, didn’t go the way we wanted (them) to go. They did a real good job of gapping the holes out and playing great defense.”

Northwestern State had no such luck as the junior’s performance allowed UL to win its eighth straight home opener, including five in a row since Hudspeth took over in 2011.

NSU did get back to within 17 at 34-17 on a 14-yard Cody Jones TD catch with 2:30 left in the third quarter, but Pierce responded by opening the fourth quarter with a 1-yard TD run set up by Haack’s 58-yard pass to Robinson.

It was the third touchdown in two games for Pierce, who ran 10 times for 110 yards and two TDs at Kentucky.

Stevie Artigue added a 26-yard field goal with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter to account for UL’s final scoring.

UL’s opening touchdown Saturday was a 7-yard McGuire run set up by Haack passes of 20 yards to Scott and 27 yards to true freshman Keenan Barnes, marking his first catch as a Cajun.

McGuire didn’t need any setup on the second.

He ran 88 yards for the score on the first play of the drive, beating a lone high safety to mark the third-longest rush in Cajun history and the second-longest TD run in UL history.

(Tyrell Fenroy had the longest UL TD run, going 89 yards at UL Monroe in 2008; Reggie Dupre had a 90-yard run at Southeastern Louisiana in 1971, but it wasn’t a TD).

“It (doesn’t) surprise me,” Robinson said of McGuire’s exploits.

“When he broke that long one, I was like, ‘Hope he (doesn’t) caught. And … he just got faster and faster, and started leaving the defender. I was like, ‘Shhhs.’ ”

NSU did answer with a big play of its own, though, getting a 41-yard TD run from Chris Jones to help make it 14-7 UL with 10:17 left in the first half.

McGuire picked up his third TD run of the game with 3:56 to go before the break, however, running in from 3 yards out one play after Haack scrambled for a 22-yard gain, and with 1:16 remaining he ran in from 24 yards out.

Artigue made 3-of-4 PATs in the first half, missing only after McGuire’s third TD, and the Cajuns allowed the Demons a late 21-yard field goal, sending them into halftime up 27-10.

“I just came out and played my game,” McGuire said, “and I was patient about it, and let the game come to me.

“I really get my confidence from o-line,” he added. “When then know it’s a running play, they told me, ‘Eli, let’s go.’ And I just said, ‘Y’all give me a good push, and let me do the rest.’ ”

He did, with a five-scoop smile.