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Football: Cajuns' loss raises more questions + game photo gallery

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Nov. 26, 2017

Athletic Network footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas. Click here for game photo gallery.

If it was possible to come away from a UL football game in this topsy-turvy season with more questions than you had going into it, Saturday’s 34-24 loss to Georgia Southern might have done it.

For starters, how in the world do you start true freshman Levi Lewis?

Coming off the best performance of the season in the 47-34 homecoming win over New Mexico State, surely the Cajuns had to go with the veteran quarterback Jordan Davis, right?

More: Freshman Lewis talked his way into being No. 1 UL QB

After Davis had thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Aggies, surely he had earned at least one more start in hopes of keeping the ball rolling and getting that precious sixth victory, right?

As it turned out, no.

In fact, Hudspeth said the decision was made early in the week to stick with the plan to finish the season with Lewis once the red-shirt was revoked.

Unfortunately, Lewis looked very much like the true freshman that he is with three three-and-out drives, including an interception.

By the time Davis was inserted into the game, the visiting Eagles already had a 17-0 lead.

Looking back, the game wasn’t totally over at that point. The Cajuns did hang around until the fourth quarter, but some would argue UL never recovered from that poor start.

More: Georgia Southern puts a dent in UL's bowl aspirations

To be fair, it is a tough spot the UL’s coaching staff found itself in. Lewis’ red-shirt season was wasted. One could argue you had to get as much out of him as possible once you make that call.

But after he couldn’t answer the bell against New Mexico State and Davis responded with such a solid performance, shouldn't getting bowl eligible playing a 1-9 team at home trump the red-shirt issue?

Amazingly, and most likely a pure coincidence, as soon as Davis entered the game, he pitched it to Darius Hoggins, who promptly broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run to make it 17-7.

That brings us to the next question: How in the world do you run for 75 yards for a touchdown and then get one carry the rest of the game?

Being behind by double figures practically the entire game does make it tough to utilize backs, and the Eagles got off 74 offensive plays compared to just 48 by the Cajuns.

That really hampers your options.

More: Column: At quarterback, Cajuns don't want same mistake

Still, it just looks curious for a back to have only two carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.

Perhaps the next biggest question of the night, though, arose midway through the third quarter. Down 24-7, the Cajuns booted a 50-yard field goal with 8:51 left in the third quarter.

At the end of the play, Artigue was roughed for what could have been a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down. Instead of taking the penalty and the first down, the Cajuns declined the penalty and kept the field goal.

In Hudspeth’s mind, it was “100 percent the right thing to do.”

I undertand his line of thinking, sort of.

Down 17 points, you need a field goal and two touchdowns. You had the field goal guaranteed and you had 21 minutes of football left to make up the two touchdowns.

More: After win over NMSU, give those Cajun receivers a hand

Mike Ditka once stormed out of a press conference in a curse-fest because I was basically asking him if he understood that three plus seven equals 10 just like seven plus three equals 10. So I sort of get the concept Hudspeth's adhering to, but this situation was different.

If the score was 17-0, maybe I’d buy that just to get on the board, or if you were down by 10, maybe.

What does it say about the offense and kicking game to not gamble at that point in the game?

Perhaps Hudspeth was feeling so hamstrung by the lack of depth at wide receivers in the game to “gamble” at that point, but how can you not be aggressive with only one scoring opportunity to that credit at that point?

Hudspeth said he’d do it 100 times over. I can think of a few situations where you might go that route. That situation just wasn’t one of them.

With all of that said, not all of the questions evoked by this game are directed toward Hudspeth and his staff.

More: Three late interceptions seal wild win for the Cajuns

As a fan, were you fooled by Georgia Southern’s 1-9 record, assuming the Cajuns would beat them? If so, you were being very naive.

Under this new head coach, the Eagles fumbled twice late to lose 21-17 to Georgia State, lost at Appalachian State and crushed South Alabama 52-0. The first seven games shouldn’t have been factored into your expectations for this game.

Under coach Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern is 2-2 and probably should be 3-1.

Plus, Georgia Southern's rushing scheme is so unique that it was almost guaranteed to give UL trouble.

Personally, I think the Cajuns made a mistake starting Lewis and then just got out-schemed the rest of the way by an efficient rushing attack that apparently threw UL a big curve ball with more pitch plays than usual.

Either way, where do the Cajuns go from here?

There’s only one chance left to avoid a losing season and that’s at Appalachian State at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

More: QB Davis gets the start for UL on 20 minutes' notice

Hudspeth hinted he may not have a choice but to start Davis next week in Boone, North Carolina

That thought process might be one week too late.

Over the last two troubled seasons, each time it appeared Hudspeth’s teams were down and out, they somehow responded with an unexpected win.

This time, the Cajuns might have bit off a little more than they can chew.