LAFAYETTE — Rested, relaxed and now refocused.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette received the benefit of all three last week with an open date after 11 straight weeks of football games, including seven of those on the road.
Not playing last weekend also gave the Cajuns (8-3) a chance to forget about their 30-21 Sun Belt Conference defeat Nov. 12 at Arkansas State and allowed them to concentrate on playing at Arizona on Saturday afternoon, ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said Monday.
Hudspeth denied that he has been contacted by other schools who may have head coaching vacancies.
“Every head coach who has a good record at this time of year is always mentioned as a candidate for possible job openings,” Hudspeth said. “I have not been contacted by anyone. I am happy right here. … I don’t expect to be anywhere else.”
Hudspeth said he noticed a livelier spirit among the players Sunday night when the team held its first practice after having a weekend off for the first time since late August.
“The guys at practice seemed to have an extra step,” Hudspeth said. “They were flying around, and the attitudes were outstanding
“I think this allowed us to better refocus our attention on the University of Arizona. We tried to get the Arkansas State game behind us as quickly as possible, but in the first practice back after that game, you could see there was sort of a hangover. Then as the week went on, I think the kids were really able to put that behind them.”
Although the Cajuns were denied a chance at a possible share of the SBC championship by losing at ASU, Hudspeth said the team’s philosophy of quickly focusing on the next game helped ease that memory.
“We talked to our guys about the fact that there is still so much to play for,” Hudspeth said. “All year we have been talking about just being ready to play the next play or playing the next game.”
Hudspeth said the coaches last week quickly constructed some of the competitive drills that have been a fixture in practices all season.
“It’s like sharpening one another’s blades, but everything we do has the idea of having our players compete,” said Hudspeth.
Hudspeth said the week of rest also enabled the offensive line to heal along with starting quarterback Blaine Gautier, who had to leave the ASU game several times because of injuries.
“On the offensive line, we have really rotated mainly five guys, and they have been beaten up pretty good,” Hudspeth said. “Blaine has taken some real shots in the past two games, so he needed some time to get better.”
Hudspeth said it’s been difficult to play so many games consecutively without an open date.
“Actually, when you really look at it, it’s been 16 straight weeks, coming out of two-a-days, which is a time when you have a lot of intensive work,” Hudspeth said. “Our schedule also had seven road games, and yet our guys played their way through it.”
Arizona defensive coordinator Tim Kish took over as the Wildcats’ interim head coach after Mike Stoops was dismissed at midseason after going 1-5.
Hudspeth said Arizona will be rejuvenated for the Cajuns after scoring 14 points in the final 10 minutes to win 31-27 at Arizona State on Saturday and snap a four-game losing streak.
“They’re a team that has had adversity this year, but they rebounded this past week,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said the team will practice Thursday morning in preparation for Arizona and will have a Thanksgiving meal together at a local hotel afterward. Hudspeth said some players will speak about things for which they are thankful.