LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team isn’t sure where it’s headed for a fourth straight bowl appearance, even though the athletic department is taking ticket orders for the New Orleans Bowl.
The Cajuns have less idea of who they’ll face in postseason play, although it’s likely a team from the Mountain West Conference if the Cajuns head to New Orleans.
Coach Mark Hudspeth is just glad his team didn’t finish its season Saturday in its 42-23 win over Troy, and that he and the squad have bowl practices to look forward to.
“We’re excited to find out our bowl status this week,” Hudspeth said Monday at his weekly press luncheon. “To go to a fourth straight bowl game, it’s exciting. Only six teams in the nation have won three straight bowl games, so for us to have an opportunity to win four straight would be pretty exciting.”
Florida State, Michigan State, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas A&M are the only other teams riding three-game bowl winning streaks. No team in NCAA history has won the same bowl game four straight years, a distinction the Cajuns would be gunning for if they get the expected invitation to the Crescent City this week.
The bowl will provide more practice opportunities and, even if UL-Lafayette winds up back in New Orleans for what is this year the opening game of bowl season, they’ll get more bowl practice than last year. The 2013 New Orleans Bowl was only two weeks after the regular-season finale, but this year, the Cajuns will have an extra week.
“That’s much better for us,” Hudspeth said. “Our coaches can get out on the road recruiting this week. All the staff’s out; me and the coordinators and the graduate assistants will run practice this week.”
The Cajuns will hold their only practice of the week Wednesday and will mix in weight sessions before beginning official bowl practice Sunday.
“We’ll try to keep the veterans sharp, and we’ll also try to utilize it as an extra spring practice for the young kids,” Hudspeth said. “When they do get to spring practice, they’ll obviously be way ahead of where they would be if we’d already turned the pads in, like a lot of programs have already done.”
Deadline for ordering priority-level tickets for the Dec. 20 New Orleans Bowl is Friday through the Cajundome box office or RaginCajuns.com. A limited number of $65 premium seats are available, with all other tickets $45.
Ticket orders are open to all but will be filled on a priority basis to Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation annual fund donors, season-ticket holders, current students and current alumni association members before public orders are filled. For more information, contact (337) 265-2170.
The Cajuns trailed Troy 23-21 at halftime Saturday before shutting the Trojans out in the second half, limiting the Troy offense to 42 yards after halftime for a 42-23 win.
“We just talked about what happened in the first half,” Hudspeth said. “What I try to do is be very realistic with our team at halftime. We don’t sugar-coat anything; if it’s good, it’s good. And if it’s bad, it’s bad. Most of our problems were self-inflicted.”
The 7-1 Sun Belt season gave UL-Lafayette its most conference victories ever in any league, and five of the seven wins were by double-digit margins.
“We didn’t do much to slow them down in the first half. ... In pass coverage, we were sort of nonexistent,” Hudspeth said. “We didn’t get a lot of pressure. We were able to get a little more pressure and played a lot better especially in man coverage. One of the biggest reasons was offensively we had the ball for 22 minutes after halftime.”
Hudspeth said he’d like the chance to improve on his team’s 1-3 mark in nonconference play.
“We should have competed better against Louisiana Tech and Boise State,” he said. “We’re a much better team right now than we were at that time. Then, we weren’t giving our defensive guys up front a chance, we weren’t running the ball, and we were turning the ball over.”
The Cajuns averaged 258 rushing yards in league play after averaging 146 in the losses to Tech, BSU and Ole Miss. More importantly, UL-Lafayette had 10 turnovers in its first four games and only three in its past eight.
“I would love to go back and play them again, but you don’t get do-overs,” Hudspeth said.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN WAIVER
Georgia Southern, which officially won the Sun Belt title at 8-0 without playing either of the defending co-champions (UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State), is still appealing to receive bowl eligibility. The Eagles are in their final year of transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision and are by NCAA rule ineligible for bowl participation.
“Everybody knew the rule preseason,” Hudspeth said. “That being said, it would be great for our conference to have another team in a bowl game. I wouldn’t have any problem personally. If they got the waiver, I would not be against it. It would be another feather in our conference hat.”
The Eagles escaped with a 22-16 home win over UL-Monroe (4-8) on Saturday to finish 9-3 overall in their first year in the Sun Belt.
“They’ve proven themselves on the field,” Hudspeth said. “I’m not shocked with what they’ve done whatsoever.”