LAFAYETTE — Tough guy Mark Hudspeth stood in the middle of a team huddle and barked orders at his players before they began practice this week, the veins popping in his muscular neck as he worked his players into a frenzy.
Apply your makeup, ladies!
“I was reminding them that this is New Mexico State’s homecoming, and we’re the homecoming queen,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve got to make sure we get our makeup on and get all pretty …”
Now wait just a second. I was sitting there listening to Hudspeth say this and at this moment my jaw went slack.
What, exactly, does Hudspeth mean get pretty?
“… and that, to me, means preparing.”
Ok, now I’m intrigued. Pray tell, what do corsages and gowns have to do with getting a bunch of young men ready to go beat some heads in?
“Making sure we’re ready to play and starting fast, because last year we didn’t start fast,” Hudspeth said. “We were not ready to play.”
Oh. Well now it makes a little more sense.
The Cajuns probably felt like the belle of the ball last season when they invited New Mexico State to Cajun Field. They were in the midst of a five-game win streak and were coming off their most impressive defensive performance of the year in a 23-7 win against Arkansas State.
That certainly sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The mirror on the wall told them they were the fairest of them all, so they didn’t need to give ol’ Quasimodo a second glance as he shuffled into the building with his ugly 1-7 record.
It turns out the Cajuns were more Sleeping Beauty than Cinderella. They weren’t prepared for New Mexico State last year, and it almost cost them.
“We entered that game and we were sleep walking early,” Hudspeth said. “Before we knew it we looked up and I think we were down 21 points.”
Twenty-one minutes into the game was all the Aggies needed to build a 21-point lead. The stunned Cajuns weren’t looking so pretty any more.
They hadn’t taken the time to properly apply their makeup throughout the week, and their ugly blemishes were being exposed for all to see. They ended up storming back to win the game, but Hudspeth the beautician is trying to make sure they don’t fall into a big hole against the Aggies again.
The conditions are awfully similar this year. The Aggies, once again, are having a rough season. They’ve lost seven straight to come into the game with a 2-7 record. The Cajuns, like last season, have rebounded from a slow start to win four straight.
“Last year, they jumped out on us right away, so I promise you, they have our team’s respect,” Hudspeth said. “It was a dogfight last year. To climb back into that game, we were very fortunate.
“We’re going to practice this week with an attitude that we’re going to have to be much better, because last year’s effort won’t be good enough against these guys.”
The Cajuns have already experienced a situation like last year’s New Mexico State game this season. After it was over, players admitted they didn’t respect Louisiana Tech’s abilities. The Bulldogs responded by sending the Cajuns into a tailspin that it took them awhile to get out of.
Lately, the Cajuns have done a better job of avoiding the preconceived notion that they’re better than the other team, regardless of record. It’s resulted in a four-game winning streak.
“I think we’ve done a much better job of starting faster these last four games we’ve won,” Hudspeth said. “We’re being a little more aggressive, and I think our coaches are doing a good job making sure our players are ready to play right off the bat. Because we were not ready the first half last year, and they made us pay for that.”
So heat your curling irons and schedule your manicures, Cajuns. You’ve got to look good this weekend. Anything less could result in disaster.