BY CODY JUNOT Special to The Advocate
Louisiana-Lafayette has made a decision: The Ragin' Cajuns are turning to Andre Nunez at quarterback beginning with Thursday's nationally televised contest against Texas State.
Following consecutive games against Louisiana-Monroe and at Idaho, in which he was summoned from the bench to lead the Cajuns offense, Nunez will get his turn from the opening kickoff. Coach Mark Hudspeth reinforced his decision Monday afternoon after originally announcing it Saturday after UL-Lafayette's 21-16 win at Idaho.
"He's earned that right with his play in the last two games." Hudspeth said. "He's come in and played awfully well."
Nunez's play over the past two weeks has sparked a Cajuns offense that previously had been sputtering.
Against ULM, Nunez finished 22 of 37 for 287 passing yards and two touchdowns, including a game-tying score with no time left. In his second relief appearance, Nunez entered on the Cajuns' third series (the first two were three-and-outs) and never looked back.
He finished the afternoon 18 of 24 for 213 passing yards and one TD.
The Cajuns offense has been able to operate efficiently, move the chains, and put up points with Nunez at the helm, but it's his ability to keep an even keel that really has his coach impressed.
"He's very confident, Hudspeth said. "He's pretty cool under pressure, and I think you can feel that. He doesn't get too high or too low."
The junior QB is in a different role this week, but he's not taking any different approach to Thursday's game. Nunez, who walked on at UL-Lafayette after three seasons at Iowa Western Community College and earned a scholarship this fall, prepares every week as if he were the starter, so to him this week is no different than any other.
"I don't think much has changed. I let my play speak for itself." Nunez said Monday. "I've been approaching every week to be the starter, and like I've said, once I get my shot, I've got to do what it takes to earn the respect of all of my teammates."
Hudspeth said Nunez will take about 75 percent of the first-team reps in practice this week, wanting to keep now backup QB Jordan Davis fresh should he be needed.
The biggest advantage for Nunez in working with the ones during practice is getting comfortable with the personnel and building a connection with the rest of the first unit.
"Getting the majority of the reps, I can get more comfortable with my checks and who's in, and different things like that." said Nunez, adding, "I've been working with the twos for the most part, so just straightening that connection with ones and them getting used to me and how I play."
Making your first Division I start can be nerve-racking at any position, especially at QB, but for Nunez, Thursday will be just another day at the office. For that, he credits offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Will Hall and the playing time he's received in the last two games.
"Either way, I think I was going to be ready because coach Hall has got me ready." Nunez said. "He does a great job of preparing us every week for the game plan."
Hudspeth hopes the move will propel his team on a lengthy run through the Sun Belt Conference and bring stability to the position and offense.
"We'd like to have good continuity; you don't want to play musical chairs," he said. "We'd like to get some consistency at that position, and hopefully we'll get that."