LAFAYETTE — The game-week atmospheres in Lafayette and Thibodaux couldn’t be more different this week, and Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth is aware of the contrast.
ULL enters Saturday’s 6 p.m. contest at Cajun Field with a winless record against Nicholls State, which defeated Football Bowl Subdivision member Western Michigan 27-23 last Saturday.
While the Cajuns are refining an offense that Hudspeth said has lacked consistency and are overseeing personnel changes for an inexperienced defense, Nicholls (1-1) enters with some swagger after beating an FBS school for the first time in 11 tries.
His team is 0-2, but Hudspeth said the Cajuns aren’t despondent.
“By no means is everyone sitting around and moping or thinking that we don’t have a good football team,” he said. “I think everyone knows that we have played two very tough opponents (Arkansas and Kansas State). We’ve had two of the toughest first games as anybody in the country, and we’ve played both on the road.”
The Colonels flew to Oregon for a 66-3 loss, then traveled to Western Michigan to pull the upset. Hudspeth, who began his college coaching career as a Nicholls State assistant in 1994, lauded the Colonels’ performance.
“(Nicholls) got a shot of confidence,” he said. “They really played an outstanding game against a good Western Michigan team. In all facets of the game, I thought they were very sound.”
Nicholls coach Charlie Stubbs concurred.
“(The win) means a lot,” he said. “We’ve been chipping away, and we’ve been close against quite a few teams. There were times during my four years (at Nicholls) that we might have come off the field and said, ‘We played them tough.’ That’s what’s so satisfying; we could have taken that attitude.”
Nicholls has used three quarterbacks in its first two games, primarily a result of injuries. Junior Beaux Hebert suffered a concussion against Oregon and didn’t play last Saturday.
Tulsa transfer Kalen Henderson also suffered an injury against WMU and that allowed sophomore Tuskani Figaro, who played at Crowley High, to finish the game.
Henderson rushed for 87 yards on six carries and was 8 of 11 passing for 159 yards. Figaro ran 13 times for 72 yards and had a pair of completions for 66 yards.
Hudspeth said he’s encouraged by the defensive improvement he saw against Kansas State. Instead of playing mostly man-to-man coverage with a young secondary, Hudspeth said the Cajuns simplified things to assist an area that is under transition.
“Until we get (the secondary) more game experience, let’s not put them in a position to fail greatly,” said Hudspeth, who added that unless there are injuries, much of the secondary experimentation has ceased.
ULL junior quarterback Terrance Broadway has had trouble finding a rhythm in the past two games — 364 yards and two touchdowns — but the situation isn’t entirely Broadway’s fault, senior tight end Ian Thompson said.
“We haven’t been making as many plays as an offense as we should have,” he said. “We’ve had some dropped passes and some problems with protection.”
Despite the start, Thompson said the Cajuns have remained positive and are glad to play at home.
“We want to come out and show that we’re a better team,” he said. “All our team goals are still in front of us.”