ULL’s focus on finishing season strong
LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette’s fan base may be celebrating bowl eligibility for the fourth time in five years, but the Ragin’ Cajuns football team isn’t.
“We’re not worried about that right now,” Cajuns senior offensive tackle Jaron Odom. “We’re just worried about South Alabama.”
ULL reached bowl eligibility, and may have assured itself a postseason trip, in Saturday’s pulsating 31-27 comeback win over Western Kentucky. But the Cajuns (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt Conference) still have two league games to go, and coach Mark Hudspeth said the talk around his locker room isn’t about bowl projections.
“We’re not even thinking about that, because to me, we still have to win this next game,” Hudspeth said at his Monday news gathering leading up to Saturday’s 4 p.m. home finale against South Alabama. “We want to go to a bowl game because we earned it, and not just because a bowl needed to fill a slot.
“Plus, it’s important for us to finish. That’s what we’ve worked on these last few weeks, and we’re just now hitting our stride. We’ll let someone else tell us where we’re going, we’re just concentrating on finishing.”
The Cajuns finished in stirring style Saturday against the Hilltoppers, rallying from a 10-point deficit in the final 2:43 and driving 93 yards in just over a minute to a winning Terrance Broadway touchdown run with 38 seconds left.
ULL rolled up 582 offensive yards — a season-high 324 rushing and 258 passing — on only 67 offensive plays and in only 10 offensive possessions against a ball-control WKU squad that led the Sun Belt in total defense entering the game.
In the Cajuns’ past two conference games, they’ve totaled 1,189 offensive yards — 558 rushing and 631 passing.
“Coming into the game, we knew we had to run the ball,” said the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Odom, one of 17 seniors who will play their final home game Saturday. “We’ve been doing that pretty good. As an offensive line, we want that responsibility … we want to carry the team to something like that.”
WKU, which ranked among the nation’s leaders in sacks, had none, and the Cajuns survived four turnovers and a minus-three turnover margin to snap a two-game loss streak to the Hilltoppers. It was the first time ULL had won from the wrong end of the turnover margin.
“If you lose it (turnover margin) 4-1 and win, that’s a rarity,” Hudspeth said. “Sometimes if you lose 1-0 or 2-1 you can overcome it, but four turnovers against a team like that, that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Broadway passed for 258 yards and rushed for a team-high 145, hitting Jamal Robinson for a 4-yard touchdown with 2:43 left to pull ULL within 27-24. Then, after the Cajuns defense forced a three-and-out, the sophomore from Capitol High School engineered the quick 93-yard drive and scored himself on a 14-yard draw play for the game-winner.
Wide receiver Harry Peoples had four catches for 49 yards on the winning drive.
“We emphasize the two-minute drill, and it’s been very productive in the last two years … probably responsible for three or four or five wins,” Hudspeth said. “Harry took the team and put it on his back, and the offensive line gave Terrance time to throw the ball. I don’t know if anyone in the country did the two-minute as well as those kids did Saturday.”
The win also kept alive an outside shot at a share of the Sun Belt title. They’ll have to beat USA (2-9, 1-6 Sun Belt) and win the Dec. 1 season finale at Florida Atlantic, and also have Troy beat Middle Tennessee on Saturday and Middle top Arkansas State on Dec. 1.
“We protected the house, and we remained somewhat alive (in the conference) depending on the next two weekends,” Hudspeth said of Saturday’s win. “But we’re not thinking about that … we’re thinking about nothing but South Alabama.
“I’ve been watching them all morning, and they’ve got one of the most talented defenses in the conference.”
Watching them against Mississippi State and some others, you wonder if we’ll move the ball at all. They’ve been in every conference game they’ve played just about, within a touchdown, and their record could be 9-2 or 8-3 just as easy as 2-9.”