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Cajuns linebacker Jourdan Quibodeaux had a secret and didn't tell mom

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

He knew he was going to make his first start as a Ragin’ Cajun.

The Cajuns were trying to keep it secret.

So UL linebacker Jourdan Quibodeaux wasn’t about to say a thing – not even to his mother, Dodie Quibodeaux.

“I am very superstitious,” Quibodeaux said, “so I didn’t tell my mom until after the game.”

She knew, though, as moms tend to do.

Someone had broken the news in the stands at Cajun Field shortly before last Wednesday night’s ESPN-televised Sun Belt Conference game against Coastal Carolina: Usual starting Will linebacker Ferrod Gardner, a sixth-year senior, was out with an injury, so the call would go to his backup, Quibodeaux, a redshirt junior from Acadiana High.

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Ragin' Cajuns linebacker Jourdan Quibodeaux (43, left) battles with tight end Roger Carter (45) during UL's overtime win over Georgia State last month in Atlanta.

With Gardner – UL’s No. 2 tackler – unavailable, starting Mike linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill, backup Mike Kris Moncrief and Quibodeaux all got more snaps than usual.

But the load was especially heavy for Quibodeux, who felt ready to take on the starting assignment because of all he’s experienced since arriving at UL in 2017.

Following in his footsteps of his father, Dale Thomas, a former All-Southland Conference defensive lineman from Northside High who played for the Cajuns in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Quibodeaux began as a walk-on and worked his way up.

He played mostly on special teams in 2018, then had 35 total tackles while appearing in all 14 games for 11-3 UL a season ago. Eight of those tackles, including one for a safety, came during a late-November win over Troy.

Quibodeaux also had three tackles last January in UL’s LendingTree Bowl win over Miami (Ohio) at Mobile.

During the offseason, his position coach – defensive coordinator Ron Roberts – left for the same post at Baylor. Safeties coach Patrick Toney was promoted to d-coordinator, and his influence evidently made an immediate impact.

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“I’m way farther ahead of where I was last season,” Quibodeaux said shortly before a 2020 season-opening win at then-No. 25 Iowa State that vaulted UL into the Amway Coaches Poll, giving the Cajuns their first national ranking since 1943.

“A lot of it has to do with Coach Toney and how he’s decided to go about (the) offseason. We must have gone over our entire install, it feels like, 40 times. And that’s not an exaggeration.”

PREPARING TO BE 'THE GUY'

So when he was asked to start, Quibodeaux didn’t blink.

“Everybody in our room prepares that way,” he said, “because that’s the mindset we’ve gotten together and decided to go out with.

“We prepare like we have to be ‘the guy,’ that way whenever you are you’re ready.

“(So) as far as my week-to-week getting ready for the game and everything,” he added, “nothing really changed.”

When McCaskill briefly was out with an injury of his own sustained late in Wednesday’s opening half, Quibodeaux and Moncrief found themselves manning the two inside linebacker spots together with – Quibodeaux suggested – no worries.

“We all pretty much know both positions, just because of the way we learn it,” he said.

“When Lorenzo went down, me and Kris kind of both know both – so as far as lining up and responsibilities, it wasn’t really a problem.”

UL did lose 30-27 to Coastal Carolina, pushing the previously No. 21 Cajuns out of the Top 25.

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But Quibodeaux had four total tackles, and Moncrief five, leaving Cajuns coach Billy Napier confident the backups can deliver.

“Both of those guys have played a lot of ball around here,” Napier said Sunday. “Obviously Quibodeaux (has) played well for us for a long time.”

'THAT SMILE'

The Cajuns hope to get Garner back when then they visit UAB on Friday night in Birmingham (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

And they missed him, without a doubt, against Coastal Carolina.

“Ferrod’s one of our best defensive players,” Napier said of Gardner, a rotation regular in 2018 and usual starter last year who is coming off offseason shoulder surgery.

Gardner was sixth among UL tackling leaders two seasons ago and fifth in 2019.

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“So, I think that’s kind of understood that when one of your best defensive players and most productive players isn’t out there – in particular a guy that communicates well – it affects the people around him,” Napier said.

“So not only (with) his production but his leadership and his ability to communicate – there’s no question we’re better when he’s in the lineup.”

Respectful of his older teammate, Quibodeaux understands that.

He also knows how the Cajun defense can look when everyone on it is doing what they should.

“I feel that whenever our defense plays together as 11,” Quibodeaux said, “that it’s a scary sight.”

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Almost as frightening as that postgame when you neglect to tell Mom you were going to make your first career start.

“She knows how I am with certain things,” Quibodeaux said of Dodie. “It goes back to high school. Even when I was a little kid I always picked one thing that I was very superstitious (about).”

But after Wednesday game?

“She just kind of gave that smile,” Quibodeaux said, “like I should have told her.”

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