LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette football coach Mark Hudspeth isn’t a fan of a 5-7 team going to a bowl game. But he’s not going to turn one down if his team by some miracle is offered one of those spots.
“Someone asked me today would I feel bad going to a bowl at 5-7,” Hudspeth said at his weekly Monday news luncheon. “I asked them if they’d feel bad if they won the lottery. I don’t think many would say that they don’t deserve that money.”
For the first time, there will be at least two 5-7 teams participating in the 40 bowl games — and as many as five depending on the results of three regular-season finales this week. There are 75 teams that have met the bowl-eligibility requirement of six wins, and only three others can reach that plateau Saturday, leaving the bowls short of the 80 required teams.
Sun Belt teams South Alabama and Georgia State and Big 12 member Kansas State can reach 6-6 with Saturday wins, but all three are underdogs. The Ragin’ Cajuns can get to 5-7 with a home win Saturday against Troy (3-8) in their 4 p.m. regular-season finale.
The NCAA Division I council announced Monday that the five-win teams selected for bowl berths will be based on Academic Progress Rates. The Cajuns (953 APR) rank behind six teams — Nebraska (985), Illinois (973), Rice (973), Minnesota (973), San Jose State (973) and UTEP (954) — that have finished their season at 5-7. Kansas State (976), with a win Saturday, also would get the nod over the Cajuns, but teams can decline to accept a bowl bid — as Missouri (976) said it would Monday.
“I don’t think anybody deserves it at 5-7,” Hudspeth said. “I don’t think 6-6 deserves it, personally. But if that were to happen, we would use that as great preparation time to develop kids for next season. That’s the most important thing about bowl preparation: You get that extra time with your younger players. We’d be excited about having more practice opportunities and getting better as a team. I wouldn’t feel bad at all.”
The Sun Belt has just three teams (Arkansas State, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern) eligible for its four bowl obligations: the New Orleans Bowl; the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama; the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama; and the inaugural Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
Hudspeth confirmed Monday that redshirt freshman Aaron Bird would handle field-goal and extra-point duties again Saturday.
True freshman Stevie Artigue, who handled placements all season before suffering tightness in last week’s 37-34 loss to New Mexico State, once again tried a first-half field goal in Saturday’s 28-7 loss at Appalachian State. He missed a 36-yarder that kept the Cajuns trailing 14-0.
“He tried after the warmups, but he’s just not ready,” Hudspeth said of Artigue, who is 26-of-28 on PATs and 8-of-15 on field goals this year.
Bird, a product of Westgate High, made field goals of 23 and 31 yards and all three of his extra points against NMSU. He also had the conversion in the final minute Saturday at Appalachian State.
You’ve got to score
The Cajuns managed only a final-minute touchdown from reserve quarterback Jordan Davis against the Mountaineers, the first time this season that UL-Lafayette has been held to single digits. The seven points was also the lowest output since Hudspeth took over as coach in 2011.
The last time the Cajuns were held that low was in a 55-7 loss at Georgia in the 2010 season opener.
“It all comes down to scoring points,” Hudspeth said. “We’re not scoring points. You hold Appalachian State to 14 points at the half and you’re in the game; you score anything in the first half, and you’re right there with them.”
UL-Lafayette fell to seventh in the Sun Belt in scoring offense (27.3 points) and eighth in total offense (386.8 yards). The Cajuns averaged more than 30 points in each of Hudspeth’s first four seasons and set a school record with a 35.4-point average in 2012.
“We’re averaging way under what we’ve done the last four years,” he said. “If we were close to that, we wouldn’t be talking about all this. Our team’s not broken completely; we’re just not doing the things you need to do to win games. We’re just not scoring.”
Gumbo for everyone
UL-Lafayette Dining Services and the Lafayette Fire Department will team to provide fans at Saturday’s finale with a traditional South Louisiana meal and raise funds for families in need.
The groups will begin cooking a giant gumbo beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday outside Cajun Field near Gate E. The cooking will be done in a 6-foot-wide, 3-foot-high pot that holds about 750 gallons, into which cooks plan to put 200 pounds of boneless chicken.
The gumbo will be given away up until the 4:05 p.m. kickoff, and fans are asked to give any donation they wish with the firemen on hand for a boot drive. All funds raised will stay in the local community, according to UL Dining Services general manager Ed Daugherty.
“We wanted to do something during the holidays to give back to the community,” Daugherty said. “We’ll take any contributions, and it’ll all go to help some needy families.”