The University of Lousiana in Lafayette, simply known as the Ragin Cajuns, head to the Swamp this Saturday to take on the Florida Gators in their annual homecoming game. The Ragin Cajuns led by 2nd year head coach Mark Hudspeth will field a dynamic offense sparked by athletic quarterback Terrance Broadway.
Broadway who took over for injured starter Blaine Gautier (broken left hand) three games ago has played well in his place. Last week he passed for 373 yards with four touchdown passes and added 87 yards on the ground and a rushing td leading them to a victory against Louisiana-Monroe.
After gaining over 5000 yards in Hudspeth’s inaugural season in Lafayette, expectations were high coming into this season with almost all the starters returning. However, they have played without three of their major starters for all or some of the season. Starting qb Gautier was knocked out with a broken left (throwing) hand in game five, starting receiver Javone Lawson is out with a broken wrist, and starting running back Montrel Carter was lost for the season in game one with a torn ACL.
The Ragin Cajuns, however, have not missed a beat as others have taken advantage of the opportunity and stepped up in this offense. Daryl Surgent and Jamal Robinson have been the main receiving targets with Surgent leading the team with 443 yards on 25 catches and Robinson providing a deep threat catching 14 balls for 423 yards an amazing 30 yards per catch.
At running back, Alonzo Harris has stepped in leading the team with 473 yards on 98 carries and 4 td’s. It’s Broadway, however, that makes this offense go. He’s played extremely well since taking over the reins and is a legitimate run/pass threat. He’s passed for 1624 with 12 passing td’s and a passer rating of 151.33, and he’s second on the team in rushing with 379 yards and 5 td’s on the ground.
He hasn’t faced a defense near the level of the Gators though. With Floyd clogging the middle, and a strong edge rush from freshmen Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler, Broadway may need to utilize his running skills a little more in this one. The defensive backs, led by Jaylen Watkins, Marcus Roberson, Josh Evans, and Matt Elam will be a formidable test for Broadway and company.
In one of the more interesting twists, both teams boast top kickers, Caleb Sturgis for the Gators and Brett Baer for UL-L and both were named semi-finalists for the Lou Groza award this week as the nations top placekicker. Interestingly, Baer is also the punter and has been effective ranking 26th nationally averaging over 42 yards per punt with 17 of his 35 punts being downed inside the 20 yard line. Amazingly he’s had only one touchback and only 34 return yards on the season. Of course, the Gator’s counter with punter Kyle Christy, fifth in the nation in punting average at 46.7 yards per punt helping Florida rank 2nd in net punting at 43.5 and who is equally adept at dropping punts inside the twenty.
The big question on everybody’s mind is what will the offense do? While they haven’t so much played poorly this year they are definitely slow starters and have been very inconsistent in the passing game. If there’s a game to get that untracked it would certainly be this one. The Ragin Cajuns are ranked 114th in the nation giving up almost 300 yards passing per game.
I don’t expect to see Muschamp and Company straying too far away from what they’ve been doing so look for a lot of downhill running, with some conservative pass plays, and a few downfield shots as the opportunity presents itself.
I do expect to see a little more of the no-huddle look when the situation presents itself. They looked good and got some rhythm going in the short time they used it last week against Missouri. Brent Pease cautioned you have to be careful when you do it, adding that you can put the defense in a tough situation if you get off the field too quick.
Overall, this should be a homecoming cakewalk for the Gators and this week is a chance for Florida to work on Florida as Muschamp likes to say. The Ragin Cajun offense while potent just doesn’t have the horses to compete in this one unless the Gators come out entirely flat, and defensively they won’t be able to stop the Gators potent running game.
The Gators should win this one going away as they continue to prepare and look ahead to the FSU game in a couple of weeks.