Football: Arkansas State adds insult to UL injuries in 47-3 routing
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Oct. 20, 2017
JONESBORO, Ark. — The indignity came to pass with a fake for the ages late in the first half Thursday night here.
Already down by 24 points with about a minute left before the break, UL went for it — what was there to lose at that point? — on 4th-and-3 from the Arkansas State 34-yard line.
The Ragin’ Cajuns thought they had the first down when Jordan Davis, who came off the bench to replace starter Andre Nunez, threw a pass to Keenan Barnes — only to have the apparent completion overturned upon further review.
That gave the Red Wolves 59 seconds to tack on a few more points.
And after Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen scampered 34 yards to the UL 6, just one second remained.
The Red Wolves hustled to the line of scrimmage, and Hansen spiked the ball to set up one final play for the half.
Hansen actually faked the spike, looked right and found Justin McInnis — who earlier hauled in a 44-yard scoring pass — with a strike.
McInnis had Cajuns cornerback Simeon Thomas looking the wrong way, got a foot down inbounds and helped Arkansas State a 34-3 lead to the locker room in what had to be the most-deflating of manners for UL.
It was a rough end to a rough start for the Cajuns in a 47-3 loss that marked the largest margin of victory in the long-running series between UL and Arkansas State.
“We came out, gave them a quick score — a defensive touchdown,” UL coach Mark Hudspeth said. “They got the momentum early, and just never let up.
“And we just got ourselves in a hole we couldn’t dig out of. Poor job by myself and our coaching staff preparing our team for this game.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked,” Hudspeth added. “But I’m putting this one on myself and the coaches. We’ve got to do a better job preparing our football team.”
Before the faked spike already so little had been going right for the Cajuns this week.
UL had evened its record at 3-3 with back-to-back wins over Idaho and Texas State, and came to Jonesboro with high hopes for keeping the winning going.
But within less than 24 before kickoff, it all started to unravel for the Cajuns with news being made public that linebacker Ferrod Gardner — already out for the year due to preseason foot surgery — had been arrested late last week for felony identity theft and subsequently dismissed from the team.
“This is a game we felt like we (were) gonna come in and compete,” Hudspeth said, “and we did not get it done tonight.”
Nunez made a second straight start for UL after leading the Cajuns to those wins over the Vandals and Bobcats, but with UL down 14-3 and getting only a 51-yard Stevie Artigue field goal in the first quarter Davis took over in the second.
Artigue missed a 49-yarder late in the half, and before those two quarters were done the Cajuns had lost three starters — slot receiver Ryheem Malone (head), offensive tackle D’Aquin Withrow) (back) and defensive back Levarious Varnado (head) — to injuries.
A fourth Cajun, defensive end Chaiziere Malbrue, exited in the third quarter, also with what was called a “head” injury, and, around the start of the fourth quarter it was announced Nunez was out with a “head” injury as well.
That’s right: Four head injuries, three starters.
Davis, meanwhile, briefly left in the third after hurting the left knee he injured earlier this season, then returned after Nunez got hurt.
UL had opened in a special-package dime defense to combat efficient- and prolific-passer Hansen, and even that was hurting as the Red Wolves needed just six plays to go 73 yards and score on their first offense drive
That helped to put Arkansas State up 14-0, as Nunez was stripped by Javon Rolland-Jones and Caleb Caston ran in from 24 yards out with the fumble recovery.
But while what happened early on initially put UL in that aforementioned hole, it was what happened late in the half that really buried the Cajuns.
To a series that has seen its share of craziness in the current Hudspeth UL coaching era — a cheap shot on a Cajun player, spitting by one of the Red Wolves, reprimands for several from both sides, Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson’s apology and the officiating crew’s suspension in 2014; field-storming by both teams, a helmet tossed in the air and police intervention to separate the sides late in the game, an apology from Hudspeth afterward — there is a new entry.
Hansen’s fake spike really put salt in the wound of some hurting Cajuns.
And yet half of the night still remained.