Louisiana-Lafayette isn’t taking much time to celebrate its 24-7 victory over Texas State on Thursday, only because the calendar will not allow it.
When coach Mark Hudspeth’s team travels to face Arkansas State for a second consecutive Thursday contest, it will be the Cajuns' third game in the span of 12 days. The grueling schedule has forced the coaching staff to become creative while trying to find the correct balance of rest and preparation.
“Typically, this is (like) a Sunday for us; we come over and get a lift in, get a team meeting, then we watch the game with our players, then we go for an hour of practice in the stadium,” Hudspeth said Friday afternoon. “But since we’ve had the short week and the kids have a lot on them, we’re going to take the practice off tonight and come back and start our Tuesday practice on Sunday.”
When the Cajuns do return to practice Sunday evening, Andre Nunez is expected to maintain his starting role. Nunez made his first start as a Cajun against Texas State, completing 17 of 27 passes for 232 yards and one touchdown, but Hudspeth and staff would like to see more from the junior college transfer.
“One thing I thought on Andre, he was stepping way too far up in the pocket.” Hudspeth said. “We’ve got to work on some fundamental things and clean some of those things up, because at times we had a good pocket and he could have had a little more time if he hadn’t pushed so far up.”
When asked whether Nunez would maintain his starting role, Hudspeth indicated he and his staff were still assessing the tape and would have discussions throughout the weekend.
Following the game at Arkansas State, the Cajuns will not play again until Nov. 4. But until then, it’s all hands on deck for the Cajuns.
“We play on Thursday and then we don’t play until two Saturdays after that, so that’s 16 days in between games, which is a very long break," Hudspeth said. “They’ll get some quality time off during that break, but until then it’s Defcon 1 alert until next Thursday.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns will be without running back Elijah Mitchell for the remainder of the season, Hudspeth said. The freshman from Erath exited late in the first half last Saturday at Idaho with a left foot injury and was in a walking boot all week. The injury will require surgery, but Hudspeth is optimistic Mitchell will be fully recovered by the time the Cajuns begin offseason workouts in January.
In five games, Mitchell rushed for 273 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Darrius Hoggins will move into Mitchell’s role as the second back behind Trey Ragas.
The Cajuns are still unsure whether safeties Travis Crawford and Denarius Howard will be available against the Red Wolves. Both players have missed three games thus far with injuries.
UL-Lafayette is halfway through its season, and after a 1-3 start, two straight victories have allowed the Cajuns to reach .500. But Hudspeth isn’t settling for .500 and believes the best is yet to come for his ballclub.
“As far as expectations, we didn’t meet them,” he said. “We really felt like at this time we could be 5-1, and looking back if we played defensively the way we played the last two weeks, yeah, you could say we could be 5-1 right now. The point of the matter is that we’re not, we’re 3-3, but we’re a game better than we were at this point last year. Last year we were 2-4 (at this juncture). We’re 2-1 in the conference, and hopefully we can build on the success.”