LAFAYETTE — Last season, Louisiana-Lafayette’s football team didn’t have an open date until the 12th weekend of the season. By that time, the Ragin’ Cajuns had put together a six-game win streak and had cemented their first-ever Division I bowl appearance.
Coach Mark Hudspeth isn’t sure that he likes an early season break, even after his ULL squad was humbled 65-24 at Oklahoma State last Saturday.
“We never really had an open date last year and we got on a roll,” Hudspeth said Monday at his weekly news briefing. “In some ways, it helped us stay focused ... we had to just get right back after it every week.”
The 2-1 Cajuns are off Saturday and return to Sun Belt Conference play the following weekend, hosting Florida International Sept. 29 in the first of two straight home games. ULL, 1-0 in league play after a road win at Troy one week ago, hosts Tulane on Oct. 6.
“If you look at it, it’s actually close to the middle of the season, with the four or five weeks of preseason camp,” Hudspeth said. “This (the open date) does help us recover some mentally and physically. We have two weeks to get things going in the right direction.”
Hudspeth didn’t say much about his team getting over Saturday’s loss, its worst since he took over before the 2011 season. According to senior kicker Brett Baer, he got his message across at halftime Saturday.
“It was definitely a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting, but it was good for us,” Baer said. “Nobody saw that coming and we were pretty down, but everybody was a little happier about the way we came out and played the second half.”
“I voiced a little of my displeasure,” Hudspeth said. “I said we can’t do anything about that half, and all we can do is come out and win the next half. We did that ... but there are no moral victories. We could have just milked the clock and kept it closer, but we don’t play to keep it close.”
ULL was down 44-0 at halftime and the host Cowboys ended up with 39 first downs on their 96 offensive plays — one week after Troy ran 102 plays in the Cajuns’ 37-24 league-opening victory.
“Not a team in the country has played two dynamic offenses like we’ve played,” Hudspeth said. “Teams have put up a lot of yards on us, but Oklahoma State also had the big plays that we didn’t give to Troy.
“As coaches, we put our guys in a tough situation, with too many looks and coverages against a fast-paced team. We’ve got to go back and look at what we’re doing. We’re doing way too much on defense for the amount of newcomers we have.”
Baer, who enters the open week tied for the national lead in field goals (eight) and leading the Sun Belt in both field goal accuracy (8-9, .889) and net punting (41.0), said the extra workout week will help there.
“It’s going to be a fundamental week,” he said. “We’ll do a lot in full pads, and we’re gonna get back to basics this week. We’ll get into the game plan next week.”
The open week will also give senior quarterback Blaine Gautier a chance to fully recover from bruised ribs suffered during the Troy win. Gautier started at OSU, was pulled in the second quarter and then returned midway through the third period and played the rest of the game, ending up 16-of-36 for 236 yards and a score and running for another score. Backup Terrance Broadway threw for 30 yards and had a 19-yard run.
“Our offense has started slow two games in a row,” Hudspeth said.
“Our quarterback play is getting better. Both of them haven’t had enough quality time and neither has gotten into a rhythm. I don’t like playing two quarterbacks ... Blaine is our starter and he will be in two weeks. I know his ribs have affected him but he never complained once ... he just needs more reps and more playing time.”