LAFAYETTE — UL-Lafayette’s football team was still on the turf and still celebrating a homecoming win Saturday evening when they saw a stunning result on the Cajun Field message center.
What they saw wasn’t a misprint. Previously winless Georgia Southern, the Ragin’ Cajuns’ opponent for this week’s home finale and a team that entered last weekend 0-9, had just finished off a 52-0 victory over South Alabama for the biggest victory margin by any Sun Belt Conference team this season.
“They seem to have found themselves,” Cajun coach Mark Hudspeth said Monday at his weekly news gathering. “When we watched that one (Sunday), that was an impressive victory. They dominated that game from start to finish.”
The Eagles (1-9, 1-5) limited USA to 10 first downs and had a 583-195 advantage in total offense. Georgia Southern’s gun option had five touchdown drives of 80 or more yards and put up more points than the Eagles had scored in their past three games combined.
The challenge for the Cajuns (5-5, 4-2) in Saturday’s 4 p.m. Cajun Field finale is to slow that option attack, one that leads the Sun Belt in rushing (208.2), but one that also threw for a season-high 227 yards against the Jaguars.
“Everybody talks about they’re a triple-option team like Georgia Tech,” Hudspeth said. “They’re nothing like Georgia Tech. They’re a gun option team like a lot of people are, but they add the extra dimension when they bring the receiver in motion for the pitch.
“They’re very good at it, they know exactly what they want to do, and they have a really good scheme that allows their quarterback to make a lot of plays. They can churn out the clock, and before you know it the half is gone and you haven’t had very many possessions.”
UL-Lafayette showed its own offensive firepower in Saturday’s 47-34 win over New Mexico State, rolling up 505 yards and scoring points on six of its first seven possessions through the first 2½ quarters. The only misfire in that streak was a missed field goal early in the second quarter.
Jordan Davis, pressed back into service at quarterback when two-game starter Levi Lewis remained hobbled with an ankle injury suffered at Ole Miss, threw for two scores and 203 yards and ran for a third touchdown.
“He played awfully well,” Hudspeth said of Davis, who didn’t find out he was starting until Lewis scratched himself from the lineup 20 minutes before game time. “I can see us playing them both (Saturday). I don’t know who’s going to get the start, but Jordan showed a lot of poise, and he deserves to get some playing time, if not start.”
One to go
UL-Lafayette can reach bowl eligibility for the sixth time in seven seasons with a Saturday win, and if that happens the Cajuns will almost definitely claim one of the Sun Belt’s five bowl slots.
The four teams tied atop the league standings with one loss — Troy, Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Georgia State — have already reached the required six wins. The Cajuns can reach that mark by either beating Georgia Southern Saturday or winning at Appalachian State on Dec. 2.
New Mexico State and UL-Monroe, each at 4-6, can also get to six wins. The Aggies have home games with Idaho and South Alabama left, while the Warhawks host Arkansas State and then travel to face Florida State.
“These guys know what’s at stake,” Hudspeth said. “All we talk about is the next game, and it’s a big one because it’s a home game and it’s a conference game. But they know the importance of this game.”
The Cajuns’ offense finished Saturday’s win over New Mexico State with six starters or prominent reserves sidelined with injuries, while also playing without second-leading tackler Corey Turner the entire game and top tackler T.J. Posey for much of the contest.
“We overcame some adversity to say the least the other night,” Hudspeth said. “That’s a pretty good group of guys that you’re playing without, and some other guys were able to step up and step in and perform at a high enough level for us to win.”
In addition to Lewis, whose status at quarterback wasn’t known until 20 minutes before kickoff, UL-Lafayette played without leading receiver Keenan Barnes (bruised knee), starting left tackle Grant Horst (shoulder) and starting tight end Chase Rogers (broken foot) the entire game. Second-leading receiver Michael Jacquet left in the first half with an ankle injury and running back Jordan Wright suffered a broken arm just before halftime, while Posey went out early in the second half with a shoulder injury.
Hudspeth said that all but Rogers and Wright should return to action Saturday.
Cajuns to play at Mizzou
Officials for UL-Lafayette and Missouri announced Monday that the teams will play a nonconference game on Nov. 21, 2020, at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri.
It's the first meeting between the two teams.