When Louisana-Lafayette (0-1) meets No. 24 Illinois (1-1) at Memorial Stadium Saturday (11 a.m., Big Ten Network), Desormeaux plays a key role in the Ragin' Cajuns' rushing offense.
Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux surely plays the part of a Ragin' Cajun.
A senior from New Iberia, La., Desormeaux (dess-uh-moh) is a descendant of the ethnic group that gives Louisiana much of its flavor and culture.
"I am who I am,'' Desormeaux said. "Being from down here, I never thought it was anything special. I never thought anything of it. When I first got to school, all the coaches had trouble saying my name.''
Evidently, they don't have trouble calling his number. When Louisana-Lafayette (0-1) meets No. 24 Illinois (1-1) at Memorial Stadium Saturday (11 a.m., Big Ten Network), Desormeaux plays a key role in the Ragin' Cajuns' rushing offense.
One of four Division I starting quarterbacks with a 4.0 grade-point average last school year, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Desormeaux is roughly the same size as Illini quarterback Juice Williams, and he's also been a capable runner in his team's spread offense. Desormeaux ran for 146 yards in the 51-21 loss to Southern Mississippi in the season opener for the eighth 100-yard game in his career.
A first-team all-Sun Belt Conference pick as an all-purpose player last fall, Desormeaux is only the third player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He gained 1,141 yards rushing last season when the Ragin' Cajuns were 3-9 overall and 3-4 in the Sun Belt. With 1,954 career yards, he needs 26 to take over fifth place all time at the school. His teammates voted Desormeaux the offensive MVP last season.
"He's athletic and can make people miss,'' said Ragin' Cajuns coach Rickey Bustle. "He has a good feel for running our offense, when to run and not run. He has a way of picking through people, and Michael is probably faster than people give him credit.
"He's very smart and a great leader, very mature for his age. When he came here as a freshman, I thought he was already over 30.''
Louisiana-Lafayette keeps it on the ground. Senior running back Tyrell Fenroy's 3,327 career rushing yards leave him nine short of setting a school record. He needs 724 to set the career Sun Belt record and 944 to become the seventh player in NCAA history with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
"He runs a lot when there are eight in the box,'' Desormeaux said. "He's great at making the first guy miss. That's what he's always done.''
Louisiana-Lafayette ranked seventh nationally last season in rushing offense while averaging 251.6 yards per game. The Ragin' Cajuns were 11th in 2006 and seventh in 2005. During that three-year span, they rushed for 8,080 yards and 77 touchdowns. Louisiana-Lafayette had 263 yards rushing and two touchdowns against Southern Miss.
Illinois ranked No. 101 nationally by allowing 201 yards rushing per game in the first two games.
But the Ragin' Cajuns have trouble in the air, ranking No. 116 in passing offense last season. Desormeaux was 9-for-20 for 98 yards against Southern Miss.
"We're a run first team,'' Desormeaux said. "In the past, we've done real well with it. We're trying to expand our passing game. The perception that we can't throw is a little bit more of a bother to me. We're trying to fix that. We think we're getting better.''
Desormeaux will graduate in general studies in December and planned to earn a teaching certificate during the spring semester. If his playing career is finished, Desormeaux may stay close to home.
"I know I'd enjoy coaching and teaching in high school,'' Desormeaux said. "The college game is so much different with all the recruiting and being on the road. Family is real big around here and to me.''
That's just part of his Cajun heritage.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.
A look at Louisiana-Lafayette
So far: Lost to Southern Miss 51-21.
Coach: Rickey Bustle, 26-45 in seventh season at Louisiana-Lafayette and overall.
Players to watch: QB Michael Desormeaux, RB Tyrell Fenroy, LB Grant Fleming, PK Drew Edmiston.
Did you know? Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme and Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley are former Ragin' Cajuns.
Quote: "He does the right things. If he has to run, he'll run. If he has to pass, he'll pass. You have to play assignment football. If he sees an opening, he'll take it.'' -- Illini cornerback Vontae Davis, on Ragin' Cajuns quarterback Michael Desormeaux.