LAFAYETTE - Summer reading material for Harry Peoples and his University of Louisiana at Lafayette teammates didn’t always include literary classics or popular fiction.
More often, Peoples was one of several Cajuns who viewed motivational reminders often posted on the locker room bulletin board.
ULL, off to the best start of any Sun Belt Conference team since Middle Tennessee began 2001 5-0, was picked in preseason to finish with maybe one or two victories, something the Cajuns’ coaching staff didn’t let players forget.
“If they would see something about (ULL), they would make sure to draw our attention to it,” said Peoples, a wide receiver who tied a Cajun Field record last Saturday with 12 receptions against Florida Atlantic.
First place ULL (4-1, 2-0 SBC), gets to prove itself against Troy (2-2, 1-0), a preseason No. 2 pick in the SBC at 6 p.m. today at Cajun Field.
Both teams come in ride winning streaks.
The Cajuns have won four straight, while the Trojans are on a two-game streak after starting the season with losses at Clemson and Arkansas.
Peoples said the austere preseason predictions about Louisiana-Lafayette made the Cajuns more determined to surpass expectations.
“I know if I’m told that I can’t do something, it makes me want to work extra hard. The (ULL) coaches are the same way. They want to push us harder,” said Peoples, whose will make his second career start against Troy.
Both Peoples and ULL coach Mark Hudspeth downplay the significance of the Troy contest in terms of what coaches might call a signature game.
The Trojans, however, have defeated ULL five straight times and seven of the past eight meetings.
Peoples said discussing today’s Troy game is all about perspective.
“Troy means a lot because it’s the next game. The next game is the only one that counts,” he said.
Hudspeth inherited a program that hasn’t been to a bowl game since 1970.
“If you talk about a signature win, I think beating Florida International (36-31) on the road (three weeks ago) could be classified a signature win,” he said. “For us, every win is a signature win.”
The Cajuns offense struggled during the first three games, but since then ULL has scored 73 points and leads in the SBC in scoring offense.
Peoples, who played at Mississippi’s Holmes Community College, said the Cajuns were learning a new offensive system.
Now, he said, that’s beginning to change.
“We know how good we are. We haven’t played our best game,” Peoples said.
Troy can certainly do its share of scoring. The Trojans are the SBC leader in total offense and passing offense. Troy sophomore and league passing leader Corey Robinson has already thrown for 1,328 yards for a 332-yard-per-game average.
Eric Thomas, a sophomore wide receiver from Shreveport’s Evangel Christian, is tied for the lead in Troy team receptions with Corey Johnson (18).
Hudspeth said Peoples, whom he recruited at Holmes while a Mississippi State assistant, has brought an explosive presence to Louisiana-Lafayette’s wide receivers.
“He is a dynamic player who has great ball skills. Harry possesses those great instincts.
“Some receivers might be great track guys, but they don’t have those football instincts,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth and Troy coach Larry Blakeney have spent much of their college coaching careers in Alabama. Blakeney is 163-84-1 in 21 years at Troy.
Hudspeth was 66-21 as the coach at Division II North Alabama from 2002-08.
Sun Belt kingpin
While ULL’s best SBC season came in 2005 when the Cajuns shared a league title, Troy has earned at least a share of five straight league championships, including one in 2010.