Gillis, Cajuns face tough task with trip to No. 7 Florida
LAFAYETTE — Will a similar situation produce the same result?
Louisiana-Lafayette free safety Rodney Gillis certainly doesn’t hope so.
Gillis is one of several Florida natives who return to their home state on Saturday when the Ragin’ Cajuns face No.7 Florida in an 11:21 a.m. kickoff at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
It was nearly two months ago that Gillis remembers the Cajuns’ appearance at Oklahoma State, where ULL fell behind 44-0 at halftime and lost to the Cowboys 65-24.
Gillis hopes the Cajuns learned their lessons that afternoon at OSU’s Boone Pickens Stadium and will avoid the same mistakes against the Gators, who have one of the nation’s top defenses.
“When we went to Oklahoma State, it seemed like of lot of the guys on the team were just happy to be playing Oklahoma State and not playing to beat Oklahoma State,” said Gillis, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“This week, I think we are going to go down there, and this time, we are coming there to get a win. I think that thought is going to keep us more focused.”
Gillis will be matched against a Florida offense that’s been evolving. The Gators have averaged just 140 passing yards per game, but Gillis said he thinks the Cajuns will face plenty og playmakers.
“Florida has running backs and receivers who can make some plays, and we will have to concentrate on not allowing the big play,” he said.
The Gators’ running attack is led by senior Mike Gillislee, a tailback who has gained 797 yards.
ULL is 0-4 in the Cajuns’ series with Florida. The last time ULL went to Gainesville, Fla., the Cajuns lost 55-21 — a game in which quarterback Jake Delhomme threw for 213 yards.
Also returning to Florida are ULL starting offensive tackle Jaron Odom, a senior from Carver Ranches, Fla., and nose tackle Brandon McCray, a junior from Merritt Island, Fla.
Odom and McCray remember attending games as spectators at The Swamp.
Both said they have no illusions about the type of atmosphere the Cajuns are in for when they face Florida for the Gators’ homecoming.
“It’s a pretty crazy place. I know it’s definitely going to be louder probably than any place we play this season, and it’s going to be a challenge,” McCray said. “The way I look at it, playing Florida is also a chance for us to play a top-caliber team and get better because of it.”
McCray said the Cajuns are in a better frame of mind this week than they were several weeks ago, when they were reeling after losing two straight conference games.
Last week, ULL defeated Louisiana-Monroe 40-24, giving the Cajuns a dose of confidence.
“We are going to play Florida in the middle of our conference schedule,” McCray said. “But coming off a victory, I don’t think this game will disrupt our focus on the rest of our (Sun Belt) schedule. Playing Florida is just another opportunity for us to get a win.”
Odom said the Cajuns have a tough assignment in moving the football against a Florida defense that allows an average of 12.1 points.
Although the Cajuns are playing a ranked team for the second time this season, Odom said playing conference teams in Florida has always taken a higher priority for him.
“Going to Florida Saturday to play is not more special than the conference games, because conference is conference, and you always want to beat that conference opponent,” he said.
McCray said he is aware the atmosphere at Florida will be more difficult than playing in SBC parks, where capacity crowds are about 30,000 — far less than the one the Cajuns will see Saturday.
The crowd, however, isn’t going to be ULL’s opponent.
“It’s about which team is going to want the game more,” McCray said. “For me, personally, I like the challenge.”