LAFAYETTE — For the first time in nearly two months, Louisiana-Lafayette will host a Saturday college football game when the Ragin' Cajuns welcome New Mexico State to town for homecoming.
The 56 days in between Saturday’s game at Cajun Field has felt like an eternity to coach Mark Hudspeth and his team but the timing is perfect now as the Cajuns return home for two straight contests with an ability to secure a sixth bowl berth under Hudspeth in front of the Cajun Field faithful.
“Here we are going into Week 10 (and) we’ve only had two Saturday games at Cajun Field this year," said Hudspeth, whose team's last Saturday home game was a 56-50 loss to ULM on Sept. 23. "That’s amazing, so hopefully in the future, we’ve got that fixed. The bright spot of this is that we have our next two out of three at home as we really try to close the season strong.”
If the Cajuns (4-5, 3-2) are to secure a bowl berth in the next two weeks, they'll have to get past the Aggies (4-5, 3-2) who are in an identical situation, needing two wins in their last three games. If the Cajuns were to win Saturday, they could punch their postseason ticket on Nov. 25 when winless Georgia Southern comes to town.
First, Hudspeth and the Cajuns must find a way to top the Aggies and coach Doug Martin who have won the past two meetings. The Cajuns lost in double overtime 37-31 last year in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and came up short 37-34 at Cajun Field in 2015.
“Doug Martin has done a great job there, especially what he has done in the last couple of years offensively," Hudsepth said. "He’s done a great job of recruiting, and developing his quarterback, Tyler Rogers.
“They have firepower wherever you look and that’s why they’re averaging 35 points a game and putting up a lot of points every week.”
Rogers leads the Sun Belt in passing yards — having thrown for 3,935 yards — yards per game (357.7 yards per game) and touchdowns (29). The Cajuns defense has been subject to giving up the big passing play. Last week at Ole Miss the Cajuns allowed the Rebels to pass for 418 yards and three scores.
In an effort to slow down the Aggies attack, Hudspeth said the Cajuns must control the ball and get its running game going. Hudsepth also knows the Cajuns will have to put points on the board to keep up with the high-scoring Aggies.
"We want to be able to run the football," Hudspeth said. “We definitely want to get the ball on the perimeter to those guys, too. I know, coming, in we’ll have to score points to win this game. They’re scoring on everybody and doing really good job. It’s going to be a challenge."
Leading rusher Trey Ragas figures to be ready to go after not playing last week at Ole Miss as the result of a coach’s decision.
“He had about 90 yards against South Alabama and ran very physical and very tough," Hudsepth said of the former Shaw standout. "We’ll need that because we have to convert some short-yardage plays and continue some drives this week, especially when we get into the red zone.”