LAFAYETTE — With just a third of his second season at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette remaining, coach Mark Hudspeth sees his team refocused after losing two straight conference contests.
ULL tests that resurgence of confidence on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium when the Cajuns kick off against the University of Florida at 11:21 a.m.
The Cajuns (5-3, 3-2) defeated the University of Louisiana at Monroe 40-24 last Saturday, something Hudspeth said will help ULL against No. 7 Florida (8-1, 7-1), which has completed its Southeastern Conference schedule.
“We went through a pretty difficult two-game stretch (with losses to North Texas and Arkansas State), but our guys kept working, stayed the course and we believe in the direction we are going.
“We believe in what we are doing and it was all about pushing through it and continuing to get better,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said he is particularly encouraged after incorporating some of the Cajuns’ inexperienced players into the past several games after other players were injured.
Quarterback Terrance Broadway, a sophomore, obtained 460 total yards in the ULM win, while sophomore wide receivers Jamal Robinson and James Butler combined for six receptions and 200 yards.
Redshirt freshman Torrey Pierce ran 13 times for 72 yards and sophomore defensive backs Trevence Patt and Sean Thomas played key roles in the secondary against ULM.
“We having a lot of guys step up and make plays as they mature which has really helped our football team,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said the Cajuns have a difficult task in facing the Gators, who are ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense (12.1 points per game) and first in defensive pass efficiency.
Florida established a school-record this season by allowing only 24 points in four SEC home games.
“We have a tough task ahead of us at Florida, going on the road in a tough place to play. They have an incredible defense, one of the best defenses in the country, so it will be a huge challenge, but our players are excited about the opportunity,” Hudspeth said.
The Gators have claimed at least a tie for the SEC’s East Division title. Florida lost to Georgia on Oct. 27 in a division contest that hurt the Gators’ chances of reaching the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
Florida coach Will Muschamp, also in his second season, said he’s familiar with Hudspeth, who coached wide receivers at Mississippi State, before accepting the ULL job.
Muschamp said he’s also good friends with ULL defensive coordinator Greg Stewart, who was at Jacksonville State before coming to ULL with Hudspeth.
“Coach Hudspeth has recruited a lot of good skill players who run his spread offense,” Muschamp said. “Looking at (ULL), they have good speed at the skill positions and players who ran run and play defense.
“The way (ULL) runs the offense, they are going to put a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Muschamp said he’s proud of his team’s record, despite an offense that scored a combined 22 points against SEC opponents LSU, Georgia and Missouri.
“We are continuing to find ways to win. That’s what we want to do first of all is win. I would like to score 62 every game,” Muschamp said.
The Gators may have more success against a ULL pass defense that allows 294.6 yards (No. 114 nationally) and 28.3 points per game.
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said this week that the Gators have improved their offensive efficiency by using more no-huddle snaps.
“In the no-huddle, the defense can’t get the checks they usually get and they have to play really basic,” Driskel said.
Driskel said the Gators are also looking to improve their third-down efficiency, something that was evident in last Saturday’s win over Missouri. In that game Florida was successful on only two of 13 third down attempts.