LAFAYETTE — Three games into his first season at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, coach Mark Hudspeth is beginning to capture perspective.
The Cajuns are 2-1 for the first time in 21 years but have much work to do, Hudspeth said after beating Nicholls State 38-21 on Saturday night.
Some early patterns have emerged as ULL begins an eight-game Sun Belt Conference schedule Saturday night in Miami against Florida International (3-0).
An inconsistent offense, still without an established leader at quarterback, has not generated the continuity Hudspeth wants.
Before Saturday, the Cajuns ranked eighth out of nine SBC teams in total offense and seventh in pass and run offense.
“Offensively, we have to get better,” Hudspeth said. “That is something we are going to work on, and the sooner it happens the better.
“We’re not finding any consistency, and we are getting into too many long yardage situations.”
Hudspeth said the offense had its moments in the victory Saturday but not enough in a game decided by the defense, which created turnovers that led to a pair of touchdowns and a blocked field goal that turned into a score.
“Once again, our offense did not come through enough for us to put this thing away,” Hudspeth said.
In contrast, the defense has scored four touchdowns off five interceptions, and three fumble recoveries in the past two games have led to a pair of touchdowns and a field goal.
Senior Chris Masson has started the past two games after junior Blaine Gautier opened the season as the starter at Oklahoma State.
Masson threw for 60 yards against Nicholls State after passing for 18 in the rain against Kent State. Gautier played several series Saturday and threw a 60-yard TD pass to Javone Lawson.
“Once again, I thought Blaine came in and gave us a little spark and moved the football team,” Hudspeth said. “That’s what it comes down to is moving the team and making some plays.”
Defensively, Hudspeth can find little to complain about.
“Three straight games where (the ULL) defense has scored,” Hudspeth said. “We might be the only team in the nation that has done that, so hats off to our guys for making plays.”
Defending champion FIU has lived up to its preseason billing as the team to beat again in the SBC. The Panthers have beaten North Texas, won at Louisville and on Saturday defeated Central Florida.(17-10).
The UCF victory may have been costly, though, as FIU wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who entered the game with an NCAA-best 333 receiving yards, suffered a hamstring injury and returned for only two plays before leaving permanently.
Hudspeth said sustaining momentum for the rest of the season is about seeking weekly improvement.
“We just have to come back to work and keep getting better each week,” he said.
Home games coming
After FIU, ULL returns to Cajun Field for three straight conference games: Florida Atlantic, Troy and North Texas.
Blocked kicks continue
The Cajuns blocked 44 kicks in nine seasons under Rickey Bustle and added another — the first under Hudspeth — when defensive tackle Cordian Hagans, a transfer from LSU blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt by Andrew Dolan in the second quarter.
Hagans’ field-goal block was the first since 2009, when the Cajuns had two in a 6-6 season.
Entering Saturday, only Fresno State (59), Texas (52) and Rutgers (48) had blocked more kicks than ULL since 2002.