For the first time in a long time, the Ragin’ Cajuns were able to enjoy a day off.
The Cajuns ended a three-game losing streak with a 34-31 win in their Sun Belt Conference opener against Georgia State last week. The team took its usual day away from practice Monday and will get a couple of extra days to prepare for a Tuesday night clash against Texas State next week.
The win was critical for the Cajuns’ psyche, coach Mark Hudspeth said on the SBC coach’s teleconference Monday.
“It was incredibly important just to get a little confidence back, get a little momentum,” Hudspeth said. “Now, winning the close game like that at the end will really help us moving forward when faced with that situation again.”
The Cajuns certainly looked like they were in bad shape heading into their conference opener. They’d lost three straight games for the first time under Hudspeth, and none of the three were close.
“Going into this game, our back was against the wall,” sophomore running back Elijah McGuire said after the game.
Now that his team has a win under its belt, Hudspeth is making an effort to build his team’s confidence back up.
He pointed out the success enjoyed by some of the teams they lost to this season, especially No. 3 Ole Miss, who is coming off a huge home win against Alabama.
“I think we’re starting to realize we have a little better team than what we gave ourselves credit for,” Hudspeth said.
It may look like the Cajuns have a couple of added days to prepare for the Bobcats, but Hudspeth would rather have his team stick to its usual routine rather than deviate from it.
The team will use the extra calendar days afforded to it to rest players and get others healthy, but outside of a “bonus” practice for players Tuesday — or a practice that coaches wouldn’t usually be afforded with a normal schedule — the Cajuns will approach the Tuesday game with the same seven-day mentality, starting Wednesday.
“Wednesday, we’ll start game week, which would (normally) be Sunday,” Hudspeth said. “Little different schedule as far as days, but the way we count the days down will be just like a game week of preparation. Hopefully we can have another good week of preparation.”
The Cajuns won both of their Tuesday games last year, both of which came on the road. The Bobcats, who are in their second year in the SBC, have not played on a Tuesday night yet.
Do or die
Perhaps lost in the shuffle of game-winning drives and fourth-down stops was one key play in Saturday’s win.
The Cajuns had their way with the Panthers, moving down the field on their first drive of the second half, covering 72 yards in 11 plays. But Hudspeth had a decision to make after senior running back Alonzo Harris was stuffed on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Hudspeth had to choose between kicking a chip-shot field goal or going for the lead. He chose the latter, giving Harris the ball again.
Harris took the ball and leapt over the pile to give the Cajuns their first lead since early in the first quarter. Had Harris been denied, who knows how the game turns out. But Harris wasn’t thinking about that after the game.
“It was now or never,” Harris said. “I’ve got to put the team on my back at this moment. … I just used my athletic ability and did what I could to get the ball into the end zone.”