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Football: With Geraci holding, Artigue having his kicks in camp

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Aug. 11, 2017

Early last season, before he got on a real roll, perfection eluded UL kicker Stevie Artigue.

In one game, a Sept. 17 win over South Alabama, he missed two PATs and was 1-for-2 on field goals. In another, a 24-9 loss to Appalachian State, the misses came from 40 and 49 yards.

At one point, Ragin’ Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth evaluated — and considered making a change with — Artigue’s holder at the time.

Flash forward to 2017, with a flourishing Artigue having gone 9-for-9 on field-goal attempts to close last season and having finished 2016 29-of-31 on PATs, and there is little question as to who will hold this season.

The answer is one that could go a long way toward bolstering the confidence of Artigue, who is said to be having a super camp now almost two weeks into it.

“He’s nailing them from 54, just easily in practice,” Hudspeth said a few days back. “The guy right now is kicking the ball as well as I’ve seen him kick.”

More: UL's Artigue overcomes trying times with a smooth swing

UL’s holder in 2017 is expected to be Sam Geraci, a graduate-transfer punter from the University of Cincinnati who just happens to be Artigue’s preseason camp roommate.

“It looks like Sam’s gonna be the holder,” Hudspeth said. “He’s doing a really good job with Stevie. Stevie’s got a lot of confidence in him. He’s held before.”

Indeed he has.

In addition to his duties as a three-year starting punter for the American Athletic Conference’s Bearcats, Geraci held at Cincinnati.

Artigue, a Lafayette High product who is on the Lou Groza Award national list heading into his junior season, loves it.

“Sam’s just been doing an excellent job holding. He’s fantastic,” said Artigue, who was picked as the first team kicker on this year’s preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team. “He has two years’ experience holding in games, so he’s a blessing to have on this team.”

Assigning Artigue and Geraci the same summer dorm room may or may not have been coincidence.

Either way, Artigue said with a hearty laugh, “I’m forced to like him.”

Related: Hudspeth expects Cajun kicker Artigue to 'bounce back'

It has to help that two have something in common, and that they’re as happy to talk tilt of the ball as most new acquaintances would be debating the merits of Cincinnati-style chili — meat sauce paired with, get this, spaghetti — vs. Louisiana-flavored gumbo.

“At night we talk about different kicking stuff,” Artigue said, “and it’s pretty good.”

Geraci, meanwhile, is engaged in a battle with reserve returnee Aaron Bird for UL’s starting punting job.

The ex-Bearcat joined the Cajuns as a graduate transfer in time for the start of camp, prompting another grad-transfer punter — Georgetown product Harry McCollum — to transfer out.

UL needs a new punter because two-year Cajun Steven Coutts graduated early and transferred to Cal.

Related: With Coutts at Cal, Cajuns adding grad-transfer punter from Cincinnati

“Aaron’s been with us for a long time and he knows what we want,” Hudspeth said of Bird, a fourth-year junior who joined the Cajuns as a walk-on from Westgate High in New Iberia. “Sam’s got an incredibly  strong leg. It’s a great competition.”

Hudspeth praised Geraci’s hangtime, and Bird’s consistency, and said no starter will be named until at least sometime after the Cajuns scrimmage Saturday.

Another battle unresolved for now is the one between Jackson Ladner and Paul Broussard to succeed Stephen Morella as UL’s snapper.

Ladner is a junior from De La Salle High in New Orleans who took part in spring drills after joining the Cajuns as a walk-on. Broussard is a true-freshman walk-on from Brother Martin High in New Orleans.

“I think Jackson’s doing pretty well in it right now,” Artigue said earlier this week.

“They both can snap well,” Hudspeth added. “It probably will come down to who can cover the best, because their snapping is about the same.”

To Artigue, nuances of how the snap arrives is not nearly as important as how the hold is presented.

“I really don’t talk to the snapper,” he said.

“I just tell them to keep working hard and keep doing a good job, because they’re working their butts off just trying to make my job a little easier. I appreciate it a lot.”

Related: Artigue, Dillon earn All-SBC honors

What matters most to Artigue, make no mistake, is how that hold looks and feels.

Last season, UL did wind up a making a change in holders — but only after Sterling Miller was suspended late in the year, and Coutts stepped in for the season’s final four games.

With Coutts holding, Artigue went 3-for-3 on field goals and 3-for-3 on PATs in a rain-soaked regular season-ending win at UL Monroe that sent UL to the New Orleans Bowl for the fifth time in six years.

(UL wound up losing to Southern Mississippi, ending its streak of four straight postseason wins).    

Now it’s familiar-with-the-job Geraci with his hands on the ball, and so far the two seem to be clicking in a way that could pay dividends down the road. 

“I think that’s a confidence factor — Stevie knowing that he (Geraci) has got a lot of experience,” Hudspeth said.

“As soon as he did it (in camp) you could tell he’s done it before. You didn’t have to teach him anything. He was really good at it, really confident at it.”

And confidence, don't forget, carries far, especially when it comes to kicking.

More: Always in playbook, new Cajuns QB waiting his turn

 



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