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UL-Lafayette defensive back Corey Turner celebrates with strength and conditioning coach Lewis Caralla after making a third-down tackle during a game against ULM on Sept. 23 at Cajun Field.

Advocate file photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK

Leading up to last Saturday’s crucial Sun Belt Conference game at South Alabama, UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth preached to his team the importance of being able to flush their previous loss.

Arkansas State had crushed the Ragin' Cajuns 47-3 on Oct. 19. They had to forget it and move on.

The Cajuns heeded Hudspeth's advice, and behind true freshman quarterback Levi Lewis and a defense that gave up just a pair of touchdowns, UL-Lafayette walked out of Ladd-Peebles Stadium as a winner for the first time in program history.

While much of the attention following the Cajuns' 19-14 win was focused on Lewis, Hudspeth took was quick to credit the Cajuns defense and its two crucial takeaways. The first was an interception by safety Corey Turner; the second a red-zone takeaway by linebacker TJ Posey.

“We came out and set the tone early, and we did a nice job of not giving up big plays.” Hudspeth said Monday. “We played very well, tackled extremely well. Our coaches did a good job of preparing our players and our kids executed the plan well.”

From a sheer numbers standpoint, it was the second-best showing of the season for the Cajuns defense, which held Texas State to seven points in a 24-7 win Oct. 12.

It is also quite a contrast from the first four weeks of the season, when UL-Lafayette allowed an average of 53.8 points per game.

Hudspeth did point out the consistent play of senior defensive tackle Kevon Perry.

“Kavon’s been really good,” Hudspeth said of the 6-foot-1, 298-pound native of Buffalo, New York. “When he’s really on and having a great day, he’s really hard to block. He’s low to the ground, got a great center of gravity. He’s got a great first step.”

Through eight games, Perry’s 33 stops lead all defensive linemen. He has also recorded 7½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks.

The Cajuns will need more solid play out of Perry and the rest of his defensive mates this week when UL-Lafayette travels to Ole Miss.

It is the Cajuns' first trip to Oxford, Mississippi, since 2014, when the Rebels won 56-14.

Saturday will also be the Cajuns' second game against a Southeastern Conference opponent this season. Texas A&M defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 45-21 on Sept. 16.

Despite having an interim coach in Matt Luke and a recent change at quarterback following an injury to starter Shea Patterson, Hudspeth said he expects to see a lot of firepower.

The Rebels are averaging 462.3 yards and just over 32 points per game.

“They’re one of most explosive offenses in the country, a lot of talent and lot of skill talent on that side of the football. ... It’s going to be a huge challenge going to Vaught-Hemingway,” he said.

Hudspeth is hoping he can parlay Saturday’s win at South Alabama into an upset of Ole Miss and steer his team one game closer to a bowl berth.

“We’ve won three of our four games now, so in the second half of the season, again, we’re starting to play much better," he said. "We’re starting to see some of the results from that, so hopefully we can continue to improve.”