For those following the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns, we have seen an odd trend take place in 2015. A team that cannot get out of their own way in the first half suddenly turns into an unstoppable force in the second half.
In five of the seven games played by Louisiana, they have outscored their opponent by ten or more points in the second half. They made up deficits of 23 points versus Kentucky and 15 points versus Louisiana Monroe. The 23 point comeback versus Kentucky fell just short with the Wildcats scoring one final time to get the win. Only versus Akron and Louisiana Tech did the Ragin' Cajuns get outscored in the second half.
In those five games, the Ragin' Cajuns are 3-2. Losses to Kentucky and Arkansas State had much to do with very poor first halves. In the second half of those five games, Louisiana outscored opponents 112-39.
Significant credit has to be given to the defense for making adjustments at halftime to completely change the course of the game.
What is going on with the offense? Are they not being coached up to start the game or is it completely on the players?
I think it all comes down to quarterback play, or lack thereof.
One of the biggest goals for this season was to find a bit of balance between the run game and the pass game. In the quarterback battle between Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon, neither quarterback was able to gain any distance in the offseason and win the job. Haack is a drop back passer that will run when needed, but is best suited handing the ball off and throwing passes. Nixon is an athlete playing quarterback that is not accurate often enough in the passing game for his running ability to shine.
Haack started the season at quarterback, but it quickly became clear that the coaching staff wanted to see Nixon behind center. Nixon has shown spots of brilliance with his play, including a career-high rushing day versus Arkansas State, but good teams have been able to make him look well below average passing the ball. The mid-game infusion of Haack versus ULM saved the day and quite possibly the season for the Ragin' Cajuns.
Could we see the Louisiana coaching staff head in the direction of East Carolina and run a two quarterback system with a designated running quarterback and a designated passing quarterback?
When the Pirates are successful, they roll out one quarterback to start and base his playing time off of how the defense reacts. If the quarterback is successful, he stays on the field. If he struggles, then he is removed and replaced with the other quarterback. This system has proven to be successful versus Virginia Tech, BYU, SMU, and others. Since running this type of offense, the only truly unsuccessful outing was versus UConn, a game that saw they coaching staff stick with the starter for way too long.
Anyone that knows anything about football would be willing to agree that Nixon was kept in the game way too long versus Arkansas State and ULM. In a two quarterback system, this should not happen.
The biggest question regarding a two-quarterback system is whether the coaching staff can or will actually implement it at this stage. Forcing opponents to prepare for two different systems based on who plays at quarterback should open up more space for star running back Elijah McGuire to operate.
The remaining schedule can be navigated reasonably well, but no team can continually depend on a great defensive performance in the second half to save them every week.