LAFAYETTE — There’s a difference between winning and knowing how.
That’s something University of Louisiana at Lafayette football coach Mark Hudspeth is currently observing as his team enjoys an uncharacteristic four-game winning streak.
ULL won on the game’s last play Saturday night at Cajun Field, but the result brought a note of cautious reality from Hudspeth, following the celebration of a 37-34 victory over Sun Belt Conference opponent Florida Atlantic.
“We’re not playing great, but we are doing what it takes to win,” Hudspeth said as ULL, at 4-1, stands with its best start in nearly 25 years.
Hudspeth said one of his main challenges in his first season is getting the program without a winning record in six years to forget about inventing ways to lose.
Although they are 2-0 in the SBC, the Cajuns have a major challenge Saturday night in hosting Troy, a team which has defeated them five straight times.
Hudspeth seems realistic about the progress of his team and surprised at its resiliency, considering past seasons.
“This team never ceases to amaze me,” Hudspeth said. “We are still making young mistakes. We’re not being consistent in our play for an entire game, but when it comes down to the end of the game and the game is on the line, I firmly believe they are going to win.
“I give them a ton of credit for that.”
Senior linebacker Lance Kelley, playing his third position in three seasons, said the win over FAU, a team that has been to a pair of bowl games over the past three seasons, perhaps made a statement.
“(The four-game winning streak ) is huge, especially this game,” Kelley said. “This one was to prove to everyone else that this wasn’t a two- or three-game stint, that we are really a good team.
“When we play like we should and we still did not play to our potential, especially at the end, it shows what we can do.”
Against FAU, ULL featured 22 sophomores or freshmen listed among their top 44 players on both sides of the ball.
One of the those, redshirt freshman middle linebacker Jake Molbert started and contributed 10 tackles.
Offensively, it was also inexperienced players who led the Cajuns downfield beginning with 1:41 left for the game-winning 26-yard field goal by Brett Baer.
Junior quarterback Blaine Gautier completed six of seven passes on the march, completing a pair to wide receiver Harry Peoples, who caught 12 passes while starting in place of an injured Rico Joseph.
Gautier’s start was only the sixth of his career.
The game featured two freshman running backs in Alonzo Harris and Qyen Griffin, who combined for just fewer than 90 yards.
Hudspeth thought ULL’s final drive was a reflection of the type of no-lose mentality he has tried to create.
“I thought (the offense) executed the two-minute offense as well as you could possibly execute it, getting the ball out of bounds, stopping the clock, executing the kill at the end of the game, running the clock down to two seconds and running our field goal team out there for the last play of the game to win it,” Hudspeth said.
For Gautier, the season has also been one of acquiring confidence from teammates.
“Even the coaches, they know that if they put the ball in my hands, I will make some decisions that will help us win games,” Gautier said.