MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — University of Louisiana at Lafayette quarterback Blaine Gautier has no pull in picking his team for a bowl game.
However, he believes his team has won enough games to get in one.
ULL whipped Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday night 45-20 in front of a sparse crowd of 13,500 at Floyd Stadium for the Cajuns’ seventh win of the year.
“I definitely think we’re going,” Gautier said. “We want to continue to keep winning and make it a positive. We definitely know we’re going to go.
“We just have to continue to get better.”
ULL (7-2, 5-1 in Sun Belt) continued its whirlwind tour under first-year coach Mark Hudspeth. The Cajuns’ seven wins are two wins shy from the school record with three left in the regular season. ULL won nine games in 1921 and 1976. The seven wins are the most for the Cajuns since they entered the Sun Belt. The previous best had been six.
Seven wins are the most since ULL went 8-3 and won the Big West in 1993 with former quarterback Jake Delhomme.
Arkansas State (6-2, 4-0) remained one game ahead of ULL atop the SBC standings with a 37-14 rout of North Texas. But ULL drew nearer to a long-awaited bowl bid.
MTSU (2-5, 1-3) is off to its second 2-5 start in as many years. MTSU rebounded to win four of its final six last year to become bowl eligible and played in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
But the Blue Raiders showed no signs of coming out of this tailspin against ULL.
“We definitely think we’ve still got a long way to go,” Hudspeth said. “But we think in nine months as a program we’ve closed that distance, closed that gap.
“For me, when I think of the Sun Belt Conference in the years past, you think of Middle Tennessee, you think of Troy and most recently Florida International. We’ve had a chance to play all three of those teams and hopefully close that gap.”
ULL has beat all three — the top three teams in the Sun Belt preseason poll.
Still, Hudspeth isn’t ready to say his team is headed to a bowl.
“All I’m certain about is we have a very good Monroe team coming to town next week for our last home game,” Hudspeth said.
The 25-point loss is the second worst in Sun Belt history at Floyd Stadium for the Blue Raiders.
Gautier completed 13 of 18 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown. He also ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on five carries.
MTSU quarterback Logan Kilgore was 22 of 40 passing for 239 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
ULL ran for a season-high 338 yards on 54 carries. The Cajuns finished with 526 total yards. True freshman Alonzo Harris ran for a career-high 189 yards on 33 carries with two touchdowns. His previous best had been 81 yards against Troy.
Harris capped ULL’s scoring with a 4-yard TD run with 5:43 left. MTSU’s Kyle Griswould ended the scoring with a 13-yard TD run with 2:33 left.
Receiver Harry Peoples had seven catches for 76 yards.
Gautier gave the Cajuns a 28-0 lead with 13:25 left in the third quarter when he kept the ball and darted 80 yards untouched for the score. It marked the longest run of the season for ULL.
MTSU countered, finally punching it in the end zone on William Pratcher’s 6-yard touchdown run.
But Gautier marched ULL back down field, moving 64 yards on four plays. He hit Javone Lawson on a 39-yard touchdown catch and run to up it to 35-7 with 10:22 left in the third quarter. ULL’s Brett Baer added a 38-yard field goal with 1:44 left in the third.
MTSU cut the deficit to 38-14 on Malcolm Beyah’s 14-yard TD from Kilgore.
ULL intercepted two Kilgore first-half passes and recovered a fumble to help the Cajuns jump to a 21-0 lead. Both interceptions led to touchdowns. The second — a Devin Lewis-Buchanan 55-yard interception return for a touchdown was ULL’s nation-leading sixth interception return for touchdown.