LAFAYETTE - Mark Hudspeth’s plan to make the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team a winner again appears to be ahead of schedule, but don’t ask him about it.
At least, not now.
“You can ask me that in about the next eight weeks, yeah, after eight weeks,” Hudspeth said Monday at his weekly news conference when asked if his rebuilding plan was ahead of schedule. “Right now, it’s still early to tell. We’re so young, so immature.”
Try telling that to Florida International, the preseason Sun Belt Conference favorite, whom the Cajuns shocked Saturday in their league opener 36-31.
The Cajuns (3-1) are off to the best start since the 1988 team began 4-0.
Although Hudspeth won’t speculate on the timetable of his turnaround, he will say changing the Cajuns’ mindset has occurred quicker than he had thought. That, he said, played a huge role Saturday.
“I feel like our kids are believing (in themselves ) and (us) having to change that mindset, I think, we’ve done that faster than I thought we would,” he said.
Case in point: halftime Saturday.
“Coming into a locker room when you are down or you’re only ahead by one (point) to the defending champions, it’s easy to come in and say ?well, we hung with them for a little while and did our best, but they’ll probably come back and get us.’ Well, we didn’t have that attitude,” Hudspeth said. “We went in that locker room, and those guys were absolutely madder than you can possibly imagine, because we felt like we had dominated that first half and gave them that quick score right before halftime.
“They were as mad as I’ve ever seen and came out absolutely determined to win that football game.”
Led by quarterback Blaine Gautier, who threw for 221 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 86 yards on 15 carries, ULL had a season-high 419 yards and outscored the Panthers 21-17 after halftime.
Hudspeth praised Gautier, who started for the first time since the season opener at Oklahoma State.
“You could tell that he was very confident, made some great decisions,” he said. “He didn’t execute the first two plays of the game very well, but after that, I thought he managed the game extremely well. He was 15 out of 30 (passing) but he had eight drops.”
Hudspeth is hoping for a repeat performance Saturday as Florida Atlantic (0-3) visits to start a three-game SBC homestand. After FAU, ULL hosts SBC power Troy, and then North Texas, a 24-21 winner over Big Ten member Indiana last weekend.
The Cajuns are 0-3 at home against FAU.
“You definitely don’t sustain momentum by playing your next game and not showing up and playing hard and as good as you have,” Hudspeth said.
That, said Hudspeth, is going to be the challenge this week.
“First of all, you’ve got young kids that don’t know how to do it and then you have veterans that have never done it,” Hudspeth said. “And so it’s going to be a huge challenge to maintain this momentum.”