Cajuns beat Texas State, but Hudspeth has QB call to make

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser

After beating Idaho last Saturday and before beating Texas State on Thursday night, UL coach Mark Hudspeth made it known he hopes decision-making regarding his starting quarterback does not become a week-to-week proposition.

Following the Ragin’ Cajuns 24-7 ESPNU-televised victory over the Bobcats at Cajun Field, Hudspeth was asked if the play of juco-transfer Andre Nunez – who was making his first start as a Cajun – made his decision going forward easier or harder.

Cajuns quarterback Andre Nunez rolls out to throw a pass as Louisianas Ragin Cajuns take on the Texas State Bobcats at Cajun Field. Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

He deftly danced around the question.

“I want to go back and watch the film,” Hudspeth said.

“We missed on a couple short throws, and we missed on a few decisions – whether it’s reading the coverage, going to the wrong spot.

“We’ve still got some improvement to do there,” he added. “So we need to go back and evaluate the tape, and put a heavy grade on it, and see if we think we’re getting enough production from that position.”

Nunez made his Cajun debut against UL Monroe, coming off the bench with Jordan Davis still hurting from a left-knee ligament injury sustained against Texas A & M and rallying UL from 21 points down to force overtime in an eventual 56-50 double-OT loss.

With a healthy Davis pulled after two series in the 21-16 win at Idaho, Nunez threw for 213 yards and was named starter afterward.

More:Starting UL's Nunez now is easy, tough call comes later

He got into it right away Thursday, throwing a 50-yard pass – almost all air – to Keenan Barnes on his second play of Thursday’s game to set up an 11-yard Trey Ragas touchdown run.

The Cajuns’ second TD of the night, a 2-yard Ragas run, was set up by a 20-yard Nunez completion to Ryheem Malone.

With just more than 10 minutes remaining, he threw an 8-yard fade to Barnes for a touchdown that helped to seal the win.

But the Cajun offense fell out of rhythm in between, as one UL drive after another stalled.

It makes the decision between Nunez and Davis, who started the season’s first five games, a tough one for Hudspeth, whose 3-3 Cajuns visit Arkansas State in another Thursday-night game next week.

“We’ve got two good quarterbacks,” he said, “and we just need to be a little bit more consistent there.

“At times, we look really good. And at times we get bogged down, and we don’t move the ball like we feel we can.”

Nunez finished 17-of-27 for 232 yards, including five completions to Barnes for 99 yard and the TD.

Hudspeth on new No. 1 Cajuns QB:'Cool as a cucumber'

He wasn’t intercepted, and the Cajun offense – which finished with 367 yards of total offense against the 1-6 Bobcats – didn’t have any turnovers.

“I’m not saying we are or we’re not (making another change),” Hudspeth said.

“I thought Andre did some good things tonight at times, and at times, you know, he showed he’s got to improve too. We all do.

“We had a dropped pass on an easy sprintout. We had a dropped swing route,” he added. “So some of the stuff’s not always on the quarterback.”

Nunez vowed to continue competing.

“For me, I think it’s always a competition,” he said after the win. “Nothing is promised in this game.

“So I’m not gonna sit back and lay back. This is my spot now. I’m gonna do everything I can just to keep it.”

Hudspeth really doesn’t want to have to make a call each week.

But he may have to.

More:UL-Texas State live scoring updates

“You’d like to get some stability and continuity,” he said early in the week. “You don’t ever want to play musical chairs. So you’d like to settle in on one.

“You’d like for one of them to sort of take the reins, and say, ‘You know what? I’m gonna play well consistently each week so the coaches don’t have to make an evaluation (of) do I start the other guy, do I put him in?’ ”

Hudspeth’s criteria for settling on a long-term QB, he suggested then, is simple.

“When you get in the game you’ve got to make plays. Your team has to move the ball,” he said. “That’s the end of the story.”

Nunez and Davis both seemed to understand it was still a competition even after Nunez got named the starter for Thursday night.

Tweeted Davis on Tuesday night: “Don’t count me out.”

“Me and him are cool. Real tight,” Nunez said the day before. “We support one another, for whatever happens.

“Whoever is the best man for the job is gonna do that job,” he added, “so we’ve just got to take it like that.”

Breakdown:Big defensive plays help Cajuns pull away from Texas State

It’s not exactly the situation Hudspeth figured he’d have on his hands before the season started.

“I thought from the beginning (Davis) was gonna be our guy – and (he) still may be our guy,” he said before Thursday’s game.

“We’ve got a good problem. (It) is we’ve got two good quarterbacks, and they both have done some good things.”

With that in mind, Nunez was more focused on Thursday than the big picture before he faced Texas State.

“I’m not worried about all that,” he said when asked early in the week about holding onto the job. “I’m gonna do what I’ve got to do for this team to get the win. That’s all that matters for me.”

He got one Thursday, and, for one night at least, that really was all that mattered.