Cajuns respond well after day off _lowres

Advocate file photo by LEE CELANO -- UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth surveys the scene during a spring practice session in March. Hudspeth said his team got 'sort of back on track' at practice Wednesday.

LAFAYETTE — UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth was upset with the way his team closed the last 45 minutes of practice Tuesday, so he extended practice until the team finished on a strong note.

Wednesday’s practice finished right on time, though.

“Good day today, a really good day,” Hudspeth said. “We practiced for four quarters today. I like the way the kids responded to the challenge from yesterday.”

Tuesday’s practice ran about 20 minutes past its expected completion time as the coach got his team to practice the way he wanted them to, and afterward Hudspeth was heard giving his team a fiery talk from the midfield logo at Cajun Field.

Keeping a group of 18-to-23-year-olds focused on the task is not always the easiest thing to do in this day and age, Hudspeth said.

“There’s just so much going on with their lives and school and social media and girlfriends, family coming to town needing tickets — they’re everywhere,” Hudspeth said. “That is the critical part each week: What team can be focused when the ball is kicked off?

“We’ve had a good day of practice, we’ve sort of made up for yesterday, so I think we’re sort of back on track.”

The Cajuns are at the midway point of their season, though when preseason camp is included in the equation, they have been at work for nearly three months.

Hudspeth said teams with disappointing records can sometimes lead to a “dropoff” in focus and work ethic at this juncture, but he’s confident his team still has a sense that it can still make something positive out of its 2-4 start.

“We’ve still got a lot to play for, and our players realize that,” Hudspeth said. “It’s not like we’re out of anything. We’re still competing for a conference championship; we’re still competing for a bowl; we’re trying to improve. I still think that sense of urgency is here for our players.”

McCollum could play

The timeline for defensive back Troy McCollum’s return from a sprained ankle suffered against Louisiana Tech has been an interesting one.

Hudspeth was hopeful McCollum would be 100 percent against Arkansas State after missing the Texas State game, but the ankle didn’t heal in time for him to play. Going into Saturday’s game against UL-Monroe, Hudspeth again expressed doubt that McCollum would be ready to go.

But after donning an orange non-contact jersey for Tuesday’s practice, McCollum was dressed in his normal red practice jersey and taking reps with the first team defense Wednesday.

“We think he’s going to be OK to go,” Hudspeth said. “He’s made some fast progress in the last few days.”

Airing it out

The last time the Cajuns met the Warhawks, they gave up nearly 500 yards through the air in a closer than expected 34-27 win in Monroe. It was a season-high in yards allowed by the Cajuns and yards gained by UL-Monroe through the air.

Of course, that was predicated by the fact that the Cajuns held the Warhawks to negative rushing yards on the ground.

Hudspeth is expecting UL-Monroe to come at the Cajuns in the same manner this season.

“That’s what they do,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve been decent against the run for the most part, so I envision them coming in and trying to spread us out and get some guys into space. We’re going to have to tackle in space.”