University of Louisiana at Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth, offensive guard Daniel Quave and linebacker Boris Anyama will have something in common Saturday when the Ragin’ Cajuns host first-time Sun Belt Conference foe Appalachian State.
All will be a little misty-eyed during pre-game activities, when the 21 seniors take a bow before their final Cajun Field appearance.
For Hudspeth, Saturday has more meaning than other Senior Days, since many in this group were in his initial recruiting class four seasons ago.
“I always get choked up for this last night,” Hudspeth said of Saturday’s 4 p.m. home-season finale. “This is our first signing class, so it’s going to be emotional for me, too.”
Quave will start a school-record 50th game Saturday, while Anyama is coming off a game-ending forced fumble in Saturday’s 34-27 road win over state rival UL-Monroe. Both redshirted in 2010 and saw their first action as freshmen in Hudspeth’s inaugural 2001 season.
“Fifty starts for Quave, I don’t know if anybody will ever break that,” Hudspeth said. “Anyama right now is the heart and soul of that defense with that passion he has. He’s playing at a different speed.”
Both are part of a senior class that has won 34 games, but Hudspeth said it will take more than emotion against a Mountaineers squad that has rallied from a slow start. Among four straight wins for Appalachian State (5-5, 4-2) is a 37-32 win at Arkansas State on Saturday, giving the defending co-league champ Red Wolves their second loss.
The Mountaineers scored 31 straight points in that game after trailing 20-6, and in that stretch outgained the Red Wolves by a 400-43 yardage margin.
“If you can stop the run and you can run, you have a chance to win, and that’s what they do,” Hudspeth said of Appalachian State. “(Marcus) Cox is the best running back we’ve played in the conference, no doubt. We’re going to have to get a lot of hats on the ball.”
Cox rushed for 229 yards on 40 carries with two scores against Arkansas State and has two 200-yard efforts in three games. He has 1,142 rush yards and 15 touchdowns, both second in the Sun Belt.
Anyama is part of a Cajuns unit that leads the Sun Belt in rushing defense by a wide margin (140.6 yards per game).
“To be honest, we’ve played a lot of good running backs that have had a lot of yards, but they haven’t played us,” he said. “What they’ve done against other teams doesn’t matter. Our team’s good at stopping the run.”
Hudspeth, though, pointed at the Mountaineers’ impressive set of team numbers. Appalachian State leads the Sun Belt in total defense and is second in total offense, rushing offense, scoring offense and rushing defense.
“Their stats will scare you to death,” he said. “I told everybody when they entered the conference that they were going to be a great football program here, they’re just changing conferences. They’re hot, and we’re playing at a pretty high level, too.”
Cajuns quarterback Terrance Broadway was at a high level in Saturday’s win, rushing for 94 yards (113 gained) with a score and hitting 10-of-13 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Alonzo Harris, back after missing most of the previous two games with a thigh bruise, rushed for a season-high 133 yards on 13 carries.
“He’s managing the game as good as any quarterback I’ve seen,” Hudspeth said of Broadway. “Early in the year when he was coming back, he was timid to take big hits. And I don’t know who wouldn’t be, but now you can see his confidence has grown. We’re way more efficient, and he’s making great decisions.”
Tackle Christian Ringo had eight tackles against ULM, including a career-high 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He has 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for minus yards this season.
“That’s not a surprise at all,” Anyama said. “We know when he’s there it’s gonna happen. If everyone else does their job, he’s gonna eat, and when he eats, everyone else eats.”
Hudspeth was asked Monday about Sun Belt scheduling, and the fact that his team doesn’t play league co-leader Georgia Southern this season or next season.
“That’s the way this thing fell,” Hudspeth said. “You’d always like to have an outright winner, and I’m sure they’d like that opportunity also. But that’s not pertinent to us right now.”
Georgia Southern is 7-0 in its first year in the Sun Belt with one league game remaining, a home battle against ULM on Nov. 29. If the Cajuns win their last two and Georgia Southern beats ULM, or if UL-Lafayette loses one game and ULM beats Georgia Southern, the teams would be co-champions.
The Eagles are not bowl-eligible despite their 8-3 record because of their final year of transition from the FCS ranks.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Reggie Myles of Alexandria-Peabody suffered a broken arm during Saturday’s win at ULM and will miss the final two regular-season games and the postseason bowl game. Myles was a starter on two Cajuns special teams. “It was a physical game,” Hudspeth said. “But hopefully everybody else should be available.” ... UL-Lafayette is 6-0 in Sun Belt play for the first time since the league began football play in 2001. Only three schools have posted perfect conference records in Sun Belt history: North Texas in 2002, 2003 and 2004, Troy in 2009 and Arkansas State in 2011 ... Broadway moved past former Cajuns and NFL standout and Plaquemine product Brian Mitchell into second place on UL-Lafayette’s career total offense list with his 267 total yards against ULM. He is 73 yards shy of Jake Delhomme’s career mark of 8,876 yards set from 1993-96 ... Harris became the third Cajun with 3,000 career rush yards with his 133-yard effort Saturday. He trails only Tyrell Fenroy (4,646) and Mitchell (3,335).