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Football: UL kicking crew of Artigue, Morella, Guidry keeps calm

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Oct. 4, 2015

UL snapper Stephen Morella blocks in a 2015 win over Northwestern State.(Photo: PAUL KIEU/THE ADVERTISER)

They are three locals, and beyond the essentials — a solid snap, a proper hold, a kick through the uprights — perhaps the best part about it is the collection of personal fans in the stands.

“I love it,” UL’s Stephen Morella said. “All of our parents are always at the games.”

Morella, a fourth-year junior snapper, and Stevie Artigue, a true-freshman kicker, both are from Lafayette High. Jake Guidry, a fifth-year senior holder, is from Carencro High.

Two former Lions and an ex-Bear, oh my.

Before this past summer, however, the trio — responsible for three first-half field goals in UL’s 30-24 Homecoming win over in-state rival UL Monroe last Saturday night at Cajun Field — had never before worked as a unit.

Morella and Artigue overlapped for a year at Lafayette High, but with Morella missing his senior season because of a broken leg, the two never played on the field together.

Morella snapped and Guidry held for the Cajuns last season, though, and that’s been critical.

“That’s the first part,” Guidry said. “If you can’t get the snap and the hold, you can’t really make the kick.”

But UL’s kicker last season was another local, Hunter Stover, a Notre Dame High product.

So when Artigue joined Guidry and Morella earlier this year, and the three got together just a few short months ago, a new leg of the triangle had to be welcomed into the fold.

How rough was it?

Because of a team rule that prevents true freshmen from talking with the media, Artigue can’t speak for himself. Morella and Guidry, though, give voice to their new teammate.

“It wasn’t that bad, because Stevie is a great kicker. He was a great kicker in high school,” Morella said. “So he had that going for him. And me and Jake already had a year under our belt (together).”

“The timing issue really wasn’t a big problem,” added Guidry, who has been holding full time since 2013 and has doubled this season and last as UL’s punt team snapper. “He (Artigue) came in and really just started hitting on all cylinders.”

It did take a full summer, though, for the three to refine things.

Their work together started with OTAs, when they’d spend 45 minutes or an hour each day doing nothing but trying to perfect their routine, and continued in August with preseason practice.

“By the end of camp,” Morella said, “it’s almost like you’ve done a thousand reps.

“Timing is not necessarily something you ‘start to work on.’ It’s more of something that the more you do it, it comes naturally. At first your timing is gonna be a little slower than you want to be.

“The more time you spend together, the more times you do it,” Morella added, “the more fluent it becomes, and it gets to the point where you don’t even have to think about it. You just do it. Bam, bam, bam.”

Specialty players like Artigue, Guidry and Morella aren’t always doing drills and scrimmaging with their teammates, so spending quality time together during the season helps too.

“They’re with each other whole practice,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said, “so you can develop some chemistry pretty quickly and get your timing down to where you’re really good.”

The transition from Stover to Artigue meant minor adjustments and a new leader of the three-man band.

“Stover was in charge of everything going on,” Guidry said.

“(Artigue) is doing very well for being a true freshman. But I kind of try to show him the way we do things over here, and he’s really adapted well.”

The biggest change for the three boils down to how Guidry places the snap.

“I try to adapt to how (Artigue) likes the lean of his ball,” Guidry said. “Me and Morella, we’ve got a little spot that we like to go to on his snaps — where I like ’em, where he likes to snap ’em. As long as we get that all together, we’re good.”

And UL has been good much more than not on field goals and extra points this season.

Artigue is 22-of-23 on PATs, missing 1-of-6 in a Sept. 12 win over Northwestern State.

He is 5-of-8 on field goals, including makes from 40, a career-high 41 and 33 yards against ULM in addition to a 31-yarder in a season-opening loss at Kentucky and a 26-yarder in the win over NSU.

Tight end Evan Tatford (88), snapper/holder Jake Guidry
Tight end Evan Tatford (88), snapper/holder Jake Guidry (right) and the Cajuns take the field against Arkansas State in 2014 (Photo: Advertiser file photo)

The misses came from 49 yards in a win over Texas State, 41 yards in a loss at Arkansas State and 37 yards in the second half against ULM.

The hooked 37-yarder was a potential game-winner in a pouring rain with just less than five minutes to go against the Warhawks, but one Cajun possession later Brooks Haack connected with Jamal Robinson on a 64-yard touchdown pass that helped UL improve to 3-4 heading into Saturday’s visit with Georgia State in Atlanta.

“If he doesn’t hit a kick,” Guidry said, “it’s just, ‘We’ll get ’em next time. Can’t leave our head down. We’re gonna get our chance again.’ … I tell him that after every time something doesn’t go our way.”

Artigue, however, doesn’t often need pep talks.

He arrived at UL, on scholarship, with four makes over 40 yards including a long of 52 during his senior season at Lafayette High.

“Stevie sort of won (the job) by default (because of injuries to Dylan Scheurich and Carlos Alvarez),” Hudspeth said, “and then just never looked back and is really hitting the ball extremely well.”

“He’s real confident,” Guidry added. “I mean, whenever we go out for a kick I have no doubt he can make it. If Coach Hud throws us out there, I feel like he thinks we can make it too.”

The state of Artigue’s coolness under pressure?

“I’d say as good as you’re gonna get, especially for a true freshman,” Morella said. “Confidence wasn’t something he was lacking (upon arrival at UL).”

Morella suggests there might have been some nerves for Artigue, though, for the Cajuns’ season-opener in front of 62,933 at Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium.

“After that,” he said, “I don’t think confidence has ever been a real issue for Stevie.”

The result for the parents — Morella’s Robert and Leslie, Guidry’s Karl and Susan, Artigue’s Mike and Carlyn — is fewer jitters than one might otherwise suspect.

Still, the tension when all three trot out for a field goal attempt is just high enough that having all the parents seated together at Cajun might be ill-advised.

“I think that would too much nerves, in one area,” Morella said. “The place would set on fire.”