Football: QB Davis gets the start for UL on 20 minutes' notice
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Nov. 19, 2017
Mark Hudspeth said on his weekly coach’s radio show Thursday night that UL quarterbacks Jordan Davis and Levi Lewis both would play Saturday against New Mexico State.
It didn’t exactly unfold that way, but that wasn’t anything Hudspeth could control.
As it turned out, Lewis — who sprained an ankle in a loss at Ole Miss one outing earlier — did not take so much as one snap.
Two Ragin’ Cajun QBs did play in a 47-34 win over the now 4-6 Aggies, but it was Davis — who lost his starting job, first to Andre Nunez and later to Lewis, earlier in the season — who assumed the load, with an assist from Wildcat Dion Ray.
Davis, according to Hudspeth, did not learn he would be starting until about 20 minutes before kickoff.
“I hugged him after the game in the locker room and gave him one of the game balls,” Hudspeth said, his voice seemingly on the verge of breaking.“When you keep a good attitude, and you keep working hard in the midst of adversity … that says a lot of about his character, and it says a lot about team.”
“Levi (Lewis) practiced limited on Tuesday. He practiced the full day Wednesday, a full day Thursday,” he said. “Every day he got better, and he just kept telling us, ‘Coach, I think I’m gonna be 100 percent, or close enough to it.’
“So, in our mind, we really thought he probably was gonna get the start. And give him credit: During pregame warm up I was watching him closely, watching him move, throw, and I thought he was looking OK.
“And he just came out, when we came up the tunnel (leading to the locker room), and said, ‘Coach, I just, I don’t want to hurt our football team. I just don’t think I can get away from people effectively enough,’” Hudspeth added. “And that’s what he does, is get away from people. He said, ‘I can sit in the pocket, throw it around, but I’m not gonna be able to make some plays with my legs.’ And he said, ‘I’d rather Jordan play.’”
Davis could make plays Saturday, with his legs and his arm.
He wound up 18-of-31 for 203 passing yards and two touchdowns Saturday, and also ran seven times for 71 yards including a 43-yard TD.
Ray pitched in with five carries for 16 yards and one TD, a 3-yarder that was UL’s first. He also was 2-of-3 passing for 16 yards and threw a rare deep ball that resulted in a key pass interference call.
UL’s top target Saturday, slot receiver Ryheem Malone, ended up with seven catches for 113 yards, all but 10 of those from Davis. Thirty-three of them came on a 33-yard TD pass that put the Cajuns ahead to stay in the fourth quarter.
UL quarterback Jordan Davis scrambles from the pocket as the Ragin' Cajuns take on New Mexico State at Cajun Field Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE / USATODAY Network)
All in a day’s work, according to Davis, who took a spot behind Lewis on the depth chart when Hudspeth essentially declared the Scotlandville Magnet High product to be the Cajuns’ quarterback of the future.
“Throughout the week, me and Levi were splitting reps,” he said, “so I was preparing, still, to be the starter, just in case I did get the opportunity … and I’m thankful that I did get (it).”
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At the half, Davis was 13-of-20 for 145 yards and the one touchdown, a 3-yard throw to Michael Jacquet, and he had six carries for 86 yards and the TD.
Cajuns wide receiver Michael Jacquet leaps to make a catch and score a touchdown as the Ragin' Cajuns take on New Mexico State at Cajun Field Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/The Advertiser)
Going back to the fourth quarter of the prior Saturday’s 50-22 loss at Ole Miss, when Lewis sprained an ankle and Davis came off the bench to replace him, that gave the fourth-year junior three TD runs in three quarters.
“That was something I was able to do, before the A&M game, was definitely use my legs,” Davis said. “That’s a good part of my package that I’ve been able to use and utilize.
“Throughout the stretch that I was hurt it was definitely a struggle. But now that I’m back to 100 percent, I’m able to use whatever I can — all my tools — to be able to effectively play the game well and execute.”
So although things did not exactly go as scripted for UL, it worked out anyway as the Cajuns improved to 5-5 and kept their bowl hopes alive.
All because a QB who learned late that he’d be starting came through in the clutch.
“You rather know (earlier), for sure,” Hudspeth said of Lewis’ unavailability. “But I had to rely on what he was telling me.
“I think he was being honest with me. And he looked good at practice Friday. It’s not a full-scale scrimmage, (so) it was hard to tell. But he was out there moving around, running and not really limping.
“For him to come up and just be mature enough to say that says a lot about his maturity,” Hudspeth added, “but also (much about) his belief in his teammates.”