Grading the NOLA Bowl: Poor performances abound in three-peat win

After a 40-year postseason drought, Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns won the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl for the third time in as many years. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s 24-21 win over the Tulane Green Wave witnessed several memorable and suspenseful moments nostalgic of past New Orleans Bowls. The following is a report card grading UL Lafayette coaches, players and units for their individual performances in front of the record-breaking crowd of 54,728.

Photo by Bianca Stakes/The Vermilion

Photo by Bianca Stakes/The Vermilion

 

Head coach Mark Hudspeth: C

    The Cajuns (9-4) dominated the first half, scoring 21 unanswered points before entering the break with a 7-point lead, but they managed only three points in the second half. They escaped with the win, but no thanks to Hudspeth’s play-calling on the sidelines.

One common criticism of the coach, who is entering his fourth year at UL Lafayette, is that he frequently seems content, choosing to run or punt on drives, rather than showing a will to win with daring passes or plays on fourth down.

This complacency resurfaced when he often called the same running plays that were previously ineffective earlier in that same drive. The Cajuns punted five times in the second half — four times when they were tied and once when they were up by only a field goal. On the last series, on 3rd and 7, Hudspeth called for redshirt freshman running back Elijah McGuire, but he rushed for no gain. Australian punter Daniel Cadona booted it to the Tulane 5, and Green Wave kicker Cairo Santos missed a 48-yard field goal with nine seconds left, so UL Lafayette became back-to-back-to-back champs in spite of Hudspeth’s lack of courage.

 

Photo by Bianca Stakes/The Vermilion

Photo by Bianca Stakes/The Vermilion

Quarterback Terrance Broadway: D

    The 2012 New Orleans Bowl MVP had an F-worthy performance — completing 12-of-19 passes for no touchdowns and two interceptions — but his game-time decision to play because of a hand injury he sustained in the last game of the season somewhat excuses his sub-par passing statistics. But his 14 carries for only 21 yards is almost unexcusable for the junior from Houston who gained double that yardage on almost half the carries in each game throughout the regular season.

 

Running back Alonzo Harris: B

    Although he gained 77 yards and reached the endzone once on 13 carries, Harris’s biggest contribution on the night came the second time he touched the ball: a 15-yard run on the first play of the second drive that ignited the crowd, which still stayed hot even when the Cajuns cooled. Alongside McGuire, Harris gained the most yards for UL Lafayette in the second half, those awful 30 minutes when it had only eight first downs (compared to 11 in the first half).

 

Defense: B   

    The Cajuns defensive unit — particularly the secondary — held the Green Wave (7-6) nearly four points below its 25-point average it maintained throughout 12 regular-season games. UL Lafayette also picked off each of the three quarterbacks Tulane played, including NFL legend Joe Montana’s son, Nick Montana. Freshman cornerback Simeon Thomas shined, breaking up two plays and collecting five solo tackles. Junior cornerback Sean Thomas, a New Orleans native and St. Augustine graduate, snagged two of the interceptions and raked in three solo tackles. The Cajuns held the Green Wave scoreless in both the first and fourth quarters and applied strong pressure when Tulane missed what would have been the game-tying kick with 9 seconds remaining in the match-up.