LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette’s football squad wouldn’t mind a repeat performance of Saturday’s Sun Belt Conference opener when it plays its first road league game Tuesday night. The Ragin’ Cajuns would like an encore of last year’s battle with Texas State even more.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (2-3, 1-0) travel to San Marcos, Texas, to face the Bobcats (3-2, 1-0) at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN2. The Cajuns players have fond memories of last year’s meeting, the schools’ first with Texas State as part of the SBC.
That was last year’s Sun Belt opener, the very first league game for Texas State, and it got ugly in a hurry. The Cajuns led 28-3 at halftime and were up 45-3 with four minutes left in the third quarter. The Bobcats got the game to its 48-24 final score by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns in the final 19 minutes.
“That was our statement game,” said senior Christian Ringo, who leads UL-Lafayette defensive linemen with 13 tackles and five stops for loss. “That was a turning point for us.”
“They caught us on a hot night, and we were playing well at the time,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said Thursday. “That was one of our best games from start to finish in all three phases. We built some momentum with that game, and we kept building.”
Last year’s win over the Bobcats was the third in what became an eight-game winning streak after season-opening losses to Arkansas and Kansas State. The Cajuns defense held TSU to 196 yards and 11 first downs; the UL-Lafayette offense converted on nine of its first 11 third downs and had only one punt. Quarterback Terrance Broadway converted 18 of 23 passes for 335 yards and four scores, becoming the first Cajuns quarterback to post six 300-yard throwing games.
“That game gave us a sense of hope,” senior guard Daniel Quave said. “Our hope was to run the table through the conference. We didn’t let off the gas not one time, and we’re hoping to do the same thing this year.”
This year’s game will be at Bobcat Stadium, though, and Hudspeth knows the Bobcats will be looking for a little payback. TSU won close games at Tulsa and over Idaho the past two weekends, and it led Big Ten school Illinois in the fourth quarter a week earlier before falling 42-35.
“They’re a better football team this year,” Hudspeth said. “Coach (Dennis) Franchione does a great job in preparation. They’re tough to defend with a lot of formations, and (defensive coordinator) John Thompson does a great job and will have his kids ready to play against us.”
The biggest difference in the Bobcats is quarterback Tyler Jones, who made only his second college appearance in last year’s meeting — and it showed. Now Jones ranks third in the Sun Belt in total offense and is atop the conference in pass efficiency at a stellar 151.0. His 12 touchdown passes and 68.5 pass completion mark also lead the Sun Belt.
Jones only threw for 76 yards in Saturday’s 35-30 home win over Idaho, but he didn’t have to throw much. The Bobcats lit up the porous Vandals defense on the ground, with Terrance Franks getting 284 yards and three touchdowns by himself. Franks scored on runs of 70, 70 and a school-record 95 yards.
TSU committed four turnovers to let Idaho stay close, and the Cajuns can’t count on that. UL-Lafayette remains last in the country, forcing only one turnover through five games — even after last week’s 34-31 home victory over Georgia State to open Sun Belt play.
“We have to keep trying to strip the ball out,” Ringo said. “It’s something we work on, and that’s going to change around for us. We’re going to get those going our way.”