NO QB CONTROVERSY: Terrance Broadway may have come into his own for the Cajun squad at Troy on Saturday, but that doesn't mean coach Mark Hudspeth is ready to make a change.
Blaine Gautier left Saturday's game late in the first quarter with bruised ribs, and Broadway went the rest of the way in UL's key 37-24 Sun Belt Conference victory over the Trojans. Broadway hit 10-of-16 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 43 yards, while guiding the Cajuns to two second-half touchdowns that all but ensured UL's first road-opener win in over two decades.
But Gautier will be back behind center Saturday when the Cajuns battle Oklahoma State's Cowboys.
"This is still Blaine's football team," Hudspeth said Monday at UL's weekly press gathering. "He looked better in the locker room after the game. He was moving around pretty good. But if we need Terrance again, he'll be ready. I thought he did a great job of running the offense. He prepared hard all week, and when Blaine went down he was ready to go."
Gautier left Saturday's win after scoring on a 10-yard run with 3:37 left in the first quarter that tied the game 7-7. Broadway, who played almost all of the second half in UL's opening 40-0 win over Lamar one week earlier, came on and led the Cajuns on two drives that ended in field goals. He then engineered the offense to two touchdowns and a field goal in a 14-minute second-half stretch.
|Photo by Brad Kemp/UL Sports Information|
UL coach Mark Hudspeth says Gautier will be back behind center Saturday when the
X-rays on Sunday showed no breaks or fractures, and Hudspeth said that Gautier would start in Saturday's 11 a.m. contest in Stillwater, Okla.
Broadway sat out the 2011 season after transferring from Houston, and hit six of nine passes for 61 yards in mop-up duty against Lamar two weeks ago. He'd been penciled in as Gautier's eventual successor — he still has two more years of eligibility after this season — when the Lutcher product finishes his career and graduates this fall.
Gautier himself had taken over as UL's starter well into last season, and went on to throw for 2,958 yards and 23 touchdowns, both school records. He then capped his junior season with a 470-yard, three-TD performance in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, earning the Most Valuable Offensive Player honor.
But Gautier also rushed 118 times for 486 yards — both second on the ULL squad — was sacked 21 times and had to leave games on a handful of occasions with minor injuries last year. That left Hudspeth and the Cajun staff knowing that they'd likely be turning to Broadway at times during this season.
|Photo by Brad Kemp/UL Sports Information|
|Sophomore running back Alonzo Harris had 137 yards and a touchdown in the Cajuns' 37-24 Sun Belt Conference win at Troy last Saturday.
That turn came Saturday night, just like when Gautier had to leave last year's game against the Trojans early because of an injury. In that game, Masson stepped in to complete 21-of-29 passes for 211 yards and two scores in UL's 31-17 win at Cajun Field.
After Troy drove to a field goal to open Saturday's second half and cut the margin to 20-17, Broadway broke loose on a 32-yard option run on the first play after the kickoff. Moments later he hit Darryl Surgent with a 23-yard pass to the Trojan 17, and one play later hit Harry Peoples for a 9-yard score that sparked a run of 17 unanswered points.
A later 28-yard strike to Surgent set up the clinching touchdown with 9:10 left that made it 37-17.
"We had planned on using [Broadway] regularly," Hudspeth said Monday. "This is the second year we had to beat them [Troy] with a backup quarterback and that's not easy. But it helps when Terrance Broadway prepares himself just like a starter."
IT GOT CHIPPY: UL's surprisingly-easy win at Troy snapped a couple of multi-decade streaks, but it also showed a mean streak.
The host Trojans, who were 3-9 last season but are only a couple of years removed from a five-year run of winning or sharing the Sun Belt Conference title, had won 25 straight home openers — 21 of them under long-time coach Larry Blakeney. The last time Troy lost its first home game in a season, Ronald Reagan was president.
On the other hand, the Ragin' Cajuns hadn't won a road opener in 22 years, dating back to a 1990 game in the now-named Mercedes-Benz Superdome when they hammered Tulane 48-6.
"[Troy] took a lot of pride in winning those 25 in a row," Hudspeth said Monday. "For us to not back down from that challenge and find a way to win says something. We won a tough road game, and it's hard to win on the road in college football."
The Cajuns found out just how hard the road can be late in Saturday's game. In fact, a game that included taunts and shoves from the start descended into more ugliness in the final few minutes after the visiting UL squad had locked up the win.
In the final minutes, Cajun sophomore defensive lineman Justin Hamilton — who ranks nationally in tackles for losses after two weeks — was ejected from the game after joining an altercation between teammate Brandon McCray and Troy offensive lineman Kyle Wilborn.
Several Cajun players, speaking on condition of anonymity, complained about questionable blocking tactics by the Trojans following the win. Hudspeth didn't go that far in his statements, but came close, and it was obvious that he was less than happy with the way the game officials handled — or didn't handle — the animosity between the teams.
"You go back and look at the number of cut blocks, especially cut blocks away from the play and from behind, and that was really discouraging to me," he said, adding that he has appealed Hamilton's suspension from Saturday's Oklahoma State game, a Sun Belt rule if a player is ejected. "If you look at the video, he was taking a lot of negative shots and he got frustrated ... what he did was not that monumental or to the extent that he should have to sit out.
"I have the utmost respect for Coach Blakeney, and I know it wasn't either one of us that let the game get out of hand late. It wasn't us ... I'm not going to say who let it get out of hand."
Hud can't say what he was thinking for fear of league retaliation, but that would have been the Sun Belt officiating crew, whose only action to calm things down during the game was Hamilton's suspension. From a look at some of the video lowlights — many of which UL compiled and forwarded to the league office as part of Hamilton's appeal — Troy's offensive front spent much of the night taking dead aim at the knees of anyone wearing the white road jerseys.
The rest of the time, the Trojans were finding creative ways to hold defenders and not get caught. Since umpire William Lee — the closest game official to the mayhem — never called the hosts for holding, he might have been better off with a ticket and a nice seat in the stands. Maybe there he could have figured out how most of UL's defensive linemen wound up with misshapen jerseys flapping outside their pants before the first quarter ended.
WHERE WAS EVERYBODY? There were plenty of good seats to be had at Troy's Veterans Memorial Stadium Saturday, and for that the Trojan fan base should be embarrassed.
The announced crowd was 17,981, and the actual attendance was well below that figure. Troy's facility is listed at a 30,000 capacity, and it looked less than half full.
This was for a home opener, which Troy had won for 25 straight years. This came one week after the Trojans knocked off a Conference USA team and a state rival in UAB on the road, and it came after a solid off-season buildup that promoted improvement after last year's uncharacteristic 3-9 team. Before that, Troy had won or shared five straight conference titles, and the Trojans have far and away the best home record and the best conference record in the Sun Belt since that streak began. Troy has a Hall of Fame coach in Larry Blakeney, who has won more games than all but eight active coaches in the country.
And still the fans didn't turn out. Shame on them.
BIG DAY FOR THE 'HAWKS: UL Monroe posted the biggest upset so far in the 2012 college football season on Saturday, but to listen to ULM quarterback Kolton Browning it wasn't a surprise.
"We feel like we deserve it," Browning said not long after ULM's shocking 34-31 overtime win over the previously-eighth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. "We believed the whole time, and we've believed for two years that we could put something like this together. We knew this moment was coming."
Browning accounted for 481 offensive yards and four touchdowns, including a scrambling 16-yard fourth-down touchdown run in overtime, to provide most of the heavy lifting as the 30-point-underdog Warhawks took the biggest win in the Sun Belt Conference's football era. No other squad in the league's 12 years of football had ever beaten a top-10-ranked team.
And ULM did it after falling behind 28-7.
"There's a lot of people that doubted us and I understand that," said ULM coach Todd Berry minutes after the landmark win. "I really thought as this team grew up and matured, they'd have a chance to do this together. We didn't play perfect, but we played against a very, very good football team and did a nice job of having the will to win."
Browning's will went unquestioned as he made a series of second-half plays that keep the Warhawks' upset hopes alive. Browning — named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week on Monday — completed 42-of-67 passes for 412 yards, and personally had a hand in all six of ULM's fourth-down conversions out of seven attempts. The last 16 of those yards left a War Memorial Stadium crowd in stunned silence.
"[Browning] did a great job," UA coach John L. Smith said not long after snubbing Berry and leaving without the traditional post-game coaches handshake. "He made play after play after play after play after play. We couldn't tackle him, we couldn't stop him."
AND BIG DAY FOR THE BELT: ULM's seminal victory was part of one of the best weekends in the Sun Belt's football history. Along with that win, league teams posted wins over Conference USA (Arkansas State topped Memphis 33-28) and the MAC (FIU beat Akron 41-38 in overtime), and all but one league team won their non-conference games. Only Western Kentucky's 35-0 loss at top-ranked Alabama marred a perfect week.
"It really gets in my craw when I hear people talking about some of these leagues and they don't talk about the Sun Belt," Hudspeth said Monday. "Head to head, I'd put us up against a lot of people. What happens head-to-head speaks for itself."
The league is currently 9-6 against non-conference foes this year, and in a first in league history every team in the conference has posted a victory by the second week of the season. That's something the SEC, the Pac-12, the Big Ten, the Big East, the Mountain West and Conference USA can't say.