LAFAYETTE — Anger, apparently, is the new black.
At least that’s true when it comes to my writing. I noticed this trend in my work lately.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote in my big spiral notebook that I carry everywhere, “Al Riles runs like he’s angry with the ball in his hands. Mean.” I intended to file it away for a future story.
Last week, in my column on resurgent quarterback Terrance Broadway, I wrote, “(Broadway) wasn’t just running hard; he was running angry.
That rage that shimmered beneath the surface a month ago in Mississippi was now manifested as a sprinting Broadway looking to punish defensive players that got in his way.”
This week, in my feature on senior linebacker Boris Anyama, “(Anyama) looks mad when he delivers one of those slobber-knockers, which prompts the question: Does he play angry?”
There are three ways you can interpret this angry anthology.
1. The Cajuns have obvious anger issues.
2. My writing style is tired and repetitive.
3. I misdiagnosed these observations as isolated incidents rather than important pieces of the whole.
I’ve found the guys on the roster to be a friendly bunch, so let’s just go ahead and get No. 1 out of the way. I have yet to receive any correspondence from y’all telling me I’m a hack, so I’m going to assume my writing has been serviceable. That leaves us with one option.
The Cajuns — not just one or two players, but the team — have been playing with attitude that was not there earlier in the season. They’re intimidating. They are exactly what they were the last three years …
… before anybody told them how great they were.
Coach Mark Hudspeth has not been shy about why he thinks his team struggled so badly earlier this season. They were victims of their own expectations, he said. They abandoned the mentality that garnered those expectations in the first place.
The Cajuns squads of the last three years didn’t go out to the field thinking they were going to walk all over the opponent like this year’s team did against Louisiana Tech. They didn’t play cautious to avoid injuries that happened anyway. They didn’t take the field unless their edge was razor sharp.
They approached the game knowing they would have to pulverize the other team, to be so physical with the opponent that it lost the will to compete.
When things looked so bleak during that three-game losing streak earlier this season, both Hudspeth and his players said they needed to play with more fire, more passion.
I was a skeptic.
I’m a numbers person, but I also believe in the power of hard-to-quantify things like passion and team chemistry. But simply wanting it more wasn’t going to cover up a defense that was handing out touchdowns like they were candy on Halloween. Wanting it more wasn’t going to reverse the worst turnover margin in the NCAA.
Maybe I was wrong.
It’s helped that the Cajuns aren’t playing the Ole Miss and Boise States of the world, but since the Cajuns stoked that team fire that was absent earlier this year they’ve been impressive to watch.
They’re back to being the team that worked players up into a frenzy by doing an Oklahoma drill before a game — not just any game, but the program’s first bowl game in 41 years.
That sort of approach flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but they didn’t care. They were going to do it their way, and that meant drawing every drop of intensity out of themselves. They won that game, by the way.
They understand that they play best when they play angry, and right now, they’re playing best.
Behold! The Cajuns are Ragin’ and they are winning again.