ATHENS — Let me introduce you to Tim Buckley. Buckley has been covering the Ragin’ Cajuns of the University of Louisiana-LaFayette — or ULL — for the last six seasons for the Daily Advertiser in LaFayette, La. But his knowledge of sports goes much deeper than football.
Buckley covered the NBA’s Utah Jazz for more than 10 seasons for the Deseret News and before that he covered the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning for the St. Petersburg Times. But he has settled into the heart of Cajun country and it’s from there that we reach out for Buckley’s expertise.
The Georgia Bulldogs play host to Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday at noon at Sanford Stadium and I turned to Buckley to provide us some insight on this week’s visitors. You can follow Buckley on Twitter @TDARaginCajuns or read his stories on the Daily Advertiser’s UL page on its website.
Here’s what I learned from him.
1. Please tell us what’s going on with the Trump Video Controversy. How’d that get started and where is it now?
Buckley: “The Trump song video controversy kind of blew up last week while the Cajuns were at Georgia Southern enjoying a 33-26 win over the Eagles. A cell-phone video taken in the Cajuns’ locker room after practice on the day of the election before the results were in went viral. Some Cajun players were dancing and singing profanely and lewdly a protest rap song. It got out and after the game (head coach Mark) Hudspeth addressed it. The was quite a bit of furor on Friday in the local community and then the story kind of went national and the video went viral. Some donors threatened to pull support. Since then things have calmed down a little bit, maybe even a lot.
“On Monday, an emotional Hudspeth issued a number of measures in response. Among them, there will be no more videos permitted in the locker room, they’re no longer allowing players to pump their own music into common areas through their cell phones and they’re also going to start an initiative of doing 1,000 hours of community service as a way to address the situation. At least four players were disciplined, although none were suspended as a result.”
2. What has been your impressions of and the impact of Anthony Jennings at quarterback? Do you think he’s particularly motivated for this game since he’s coming back to his home state?
Buckley: “He was in his home state last week actually so this will be his second trip in as many weeks. These two games are actually the first two times he ever played in the state of Georgia as a college player because he didn’t do it while he was at LSU. More importantly, he’s focused on trying to help a team get bowl eligible for the fifth time in six seasons. They need two more wins in their last three games to do that, so obviously it’s a tall task.
“Jennings has been up and down throughout the season. He struggled one game in particular with some decision-making issues and in one or two games with some turnover issues. But he’s had some solid games as well and he’s coming off probably one of his best games of the season in the win over Georgia Southern. They kind of opened up the offense a bit and he threw for 200 yards and actually ran for almost 100.”
3. Coach Smart was saying Elijah McGuire is a special back. How would you describe his style and what makes him such a good back?
Buckley: “He’s somebody who, I don’t know if he’ll be playing on Sundays but he’ll certainly get consideration. A lot of people think he will be drafted. He works well in space, on the edges. The last two seasons he hasn’t had the benefit of a complementary power back, so he sort of has been asked to do both, which has been a little bit of a tough task for him but he’s handled it. He has terrific hands out of the backfield. In the open field he has some of those great stanky-leg moves that have shaken quite a few defenders. All that being said, he has dealt for much of the season, ever since the quadruple-overtime loss to Tulane, with not only turf toe but also a sprained foot and a sprained ankle. And that has limited him significantly in the ground game.”
4. Looks like ULL is really good at stopping the run. What has made them so and is there a belief they can handle Georgia’s run game?
Buckley: “They were 29th against the run going into the Georgia Southern game and allowed only 50-something yards in the game, so they are one of the top teams in the country against the run. They’re pass defense, obviously, has been susceptible and that’s how teams mostly have been successful against them. The biggest difference-maker for them is they changed their base after the first game of the season. They actually fired their defensive coordinator (Melvin Smith) one day after a 45-10 season-opening loss to Boise State. They changed the base at the same time and it’s just been a huge difference-maker as far as what they’ve been able to do against the run.”
5. What’s the background of coach Mark Hudspeth and what is his rep with the fans the the community?
Buckley: “Mark Hudspeth is in his sixth season coaching the Cajuns. He came in with quite a lot of fanfare and lived up to it the first four seasons. The Cajuns went 9-4 each of those first four seasons, won the New Orleans Bowl each of those seasons, which obviously for a Sun Belt team is a big deal. They struggled last season at 4-8 and missed out on bowl play for the first time under his command. They have dealt recently with an NCAA investigation that was recruiting-related. That led to several wins, including two of the bowl wins, being vacated. With the losing season last year and now a losing season currently, obviously fans are itching for more of the good times they enjoyed before.”
BUCKLEY’S PREDICTION: “I’ll be very vague and say it will be a tall task for UL to pull off the upset. In the event the Cajuns play the way they did against Georgia Southern and Georgia plays similar to the way it played against Nicholls earlier in the season, the Cajuns could have a shot. But if the Cajuns play like they did in some other games and Georgia plays like it did against Auburn, chances of an upset certainly are on the very slim side.”