(The Daily Advertiser) – It wasn’t a one-time deal.
The wide-open offense UL let out of the jar during a 33-26 ESPNU-televised win at Georgia Southern last Thursday night is not one the Ragin’ Cajuns intend, if they can help it, to bottle back up anytime.
At least that is the intention when the 4-5 Cajuns visit Georgia of the SEC on Saturday morning for a late-season step out of Sun Belt Conference play.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely,” UL coach Mark Hudspeth said when asked Monday it was something he hopes to see regularly.
“I don’t want to say, ‘Take it to the bank,’ because you never know, but I’m saying that is our plan.”
The Cajuns rolled up 482 yards of total offense against the Eagles, which is the most they’ve compiled since putting up 512 in a Sept. 17 Sun Belt win over South Alabama that preceded a three-game losing streak.
“I was really proud of (offensive coordinator) Jorge Munoz and the offense staff for the game-plan creativity that they demonstrated throughout that game,” Hudspeth said.
The Cajuns had four players behind center at one point or another Thursday, including starter Anthony Jennings, backup Jordan Davis, No. 3 Dion Ray and even slot receiver Al Riles – who completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Barnes – at Wildcat.
And it was all by design, which is something the Cajuns might have to rely on as they head into SEC territory for the first time this season.
“Going into the (Georgia Southern) game we were going to let it hang out,” Hudspeth said. “That was the plan from Play 1.
“We had the first 16 plays scripted, and I don’t think we veered from the script but twice, and that was on the third down.”
Jennings finished 17-of-26 for 210 yards, including a 38-yard completion to Riles and a 28-yarder to running back Elijah McGuire.
McGuire ran 11 times for one touchdown and only 35 yards, but UL’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards, points and total touchdowns also had six catches for 66 yards.
Jennings, UL’s graduate transfer from LSU, also ran nine times for a season-high 96 yards, including a long of 28 yards and a 10-yard TD run.
“We hit more big plays than we hit at any point this year,” Hudspeth said, “and I thought our offensive line did a really nice job.
“I thought Anthony (Jennings) was really sharp. I thought he threw the deep ball extremely well.
“Our guys just stepped up and made plays. We let them play, and they made plays, and I think that was the thing I was most-excited about.”
Perhaps most satisfying for Hudspeth at Georgia Southern, though, was the fact the Cajuns were able to run out the clock to win the game.
They did it with nine plays that consumed four minutes and 16 seconds, including two end-of-the-game kneel-downs.
That drive featured a 12-yard pass to Riles, a 21-yard Jennings run and a 9-yard Jennings pass completion on third-and-8 on the third-to-last play of the night.
Meanwhile, Ray – a redshirt freshman – saw his most-extensive action as a Cajun.
He ran eight times for 71 yards, including a 16-yard TD.
“The reverses, the long passes, the spread formations, getting Dion Ray in the game early – all those things were all scripted,” Hudspeth said.
“And we stayed with the script and we kept letting them make plays, not always worried about being in the perfect play, but being in a play that gave us some opportunities to hit some big plays.”
It hasn’t always been that way this season for the Cajuns, who’ve won two of their last three and both of their last two road games including a 27-3 win at Texas State.
More often than not, the UL offense circa 2016 has been more vanilla than Neapolitan, more predictable than deliciously surprising.
“When you see kids making plays,” Hudspeth said, “that wants you to give them the ball more to make more plays.
“There have been some times this year when we may have had a couple opportunities when we didn’t make a play, and you sort of draw back.”
Not any longer, Hudspeth vows.
“We’re gonna let it roll,” he said.
With three games remaining – at Georgia, at home against Arkansas State on Nov. 26 and at UL Monroe on Dec. 3 – why not?
That’s especially the case with UL needing to win two of its last three in order to become bowl-eligible for the fifth time in six seasons.
“If you go back and look at our two most-successful offensive games,” Hudspeth said, “I think it’s no secret that it was South Alabama way back Week 3 and this week.
“So,” he added, “hopefully we can continue building on that.”
No holds barred, opposing defenses permitting.