LAFAYETTE — Mark Hudspeth isn’t about to change his coaching philosophy to emphasize the importance of achieving Saturday what could be two milestones in the 112-year history of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football program.
A ULL victory in the season opener at Arkansas would mark the 500th win in the school’s football history and give the Cajuns’ their first win ever over a Southeastern Conference football team.
ULL, which has also been known as Southwestern Louisiana Institute and the University of Southwestern Louisiana, has a 499-521-34 all-time record in football.
Against SEC football teams, the school is 0-36.
With such potential importance resting on the outcome, Hudspeth said he’s not that concerned about any perceived signature moment at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium when the Cajuns and Razorbacks kick off at 3 p.m.
“Ever since we have been here, we have emphasized that it’s not about anything else except playing the next game,” Hudspeth said. “We have been very good at doing that over the last two years, and that’s the way we are approaching this game.
“It’s a season opener, so that makes it an important. But it’s also important because it’s also the first game on our schedule and we are facing a very good football program. It’s important to us because of those reasons and not just because of going after a 500th win.”
Arkansas finished 4-8 in 2012 in the wake of the tabloid-esque saga and departure of coach Bobby Petrino in the spring, John L. Smith helming the program on an interim basis and eventually followed by the hiring of Bret Bielema following the season.
Bielema’s Wisconsin teams reached the Rose Bowl three consecutive years.
“They are going to be physical, come right you and feature play action passes,” Hudspeth said. “They have a big offensive line with some veteran players and some big running backs.”
Among the key players on the Razorbacks offensive line are seniors Travis Swanson (center), David Hurd (tackle) and Mitch Smothers (guard). Hurd played at West Monroe High.
Hudspeth said his offensive and defensive fronts will face some added pressure to perform.
“Looking at this game, to me it’s going to be won up front,” Hudspeth said. “Most big games are won up front. I think the outcome is going to be dictated on who can run the football and who can stop the run.”
Hudspeth said preparing for Arkansas has been difficult, because Bielema brought in assistants from several different programs, including Wisconsin.
“The one thing about the Arkansas staff is their stamp has been successful wherever they have been,” Hudspeth said.
Bielema said the Cajuns are anything but a typical first game opponent.
After finishing 18-8 and winning a pair of bowl games under Hudspeth, Bielema said the Cajuns will be anything but timid.
“They are going to come in here with a lot of confidence,” Bielema said. “Looking at them on tape, I have been very impressed. They do a great job offensively and are very creative.
“Their quarterback (Terrance Broadway) really makes that whole offense go. When he gets on a roll, the whole offensive responds to that. They lost some go-to receivers, but they have a lot coming back.
“Defensively, they seem to be in transition, but they are very active on that side of the ball. The middle linebacker (Justin Anderson) is the most active. I really like the way he makes plays.
“In the secondary (ULL) is replacing a couple of guys on the edge at corners.”
Hudspeth said Broadway, a junior, is the bonding agent for the offense.
“I have total confidence in (Broadway),” Hudspeth said. “There are not too many stadiums where we can’t succeed.”
Hudspeth said he isn’t worried about the way the Cajuns might react to a large crowd.
“Our kids love playing in front of a crowd, and they like playing in a big-time environment,” Hudspeth. “In practice we simulated the crowd noise and played (the Arkansas) fight song. We’re a good road team.”
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