LAFAYETTE — For a team that is 5-1 and has already defeated the two teams picked to win the Sun Belt Conference, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team is keeping things in perspective.
Maybe it’s a case of maturity. Or possibly someone has reminded the Cajuns of 1988.
That’s the last time the Cajuns started a season winning five of the first six. Following that plateau, the Cajuns wilted, losing to Southern Miss, Memphis, Alabama and Arkansas State.
The result? ULL finished 6-5, competing as an independent in Nelson Stokley’s third season as head coach.
After defeating perennial SBC champion Troy 31-17 and remaining in first place, at 3-0 in conference play, on Saturday night, the ULL players seemed determined not to display excessive excitement about a season that has become much different than the preseason predictions indicated.
“We take it a game at a time,” ULL cornerback Melvin White said. “We aren’t worried about all the talk and hype. The only thing we’re doing is playing games. Whoever is next, we are just going to play.”
White’s 89-yard interception return for a touchdown off a Corey Robinson pass helped the Cajuns to a 24-3 lead that proved too steep for even Troy’s prolific offense to overcome.
Quarterback Chris Masson, who threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns, was especially cautious about getting too euphoric about the first half of the season.
“It’s still a long season,” Masson said. “We’re only at five wins, and we still need to continue to keep winning football games and put no doubt in people’s minds that we are going to a bowl game and win this conference. We are still far away from that, and we have another opponent (Saturday) in North Texas.”
A win over North Texas would make ULL bowl-eligible. Although the program has been bowl-eligible in four of the past six seasons, the last in 2009, the Cajuns did not get a bowl berth.
Despite what lays ahead, first-year ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said the start is something positive for a program that has not played in a bowl for 41 seasons.
“It means an awful lot to us, because we work awfully hard,” Hudspeth said. “When you work hard and you pay attention to the little things, normally some good things happen to you. Our guys do everything we ask of them. We ask an awful lot of them, but they work hard and do the right things and I’m just very proud of them.”
Cajun Field advantage
ULL’s success has generated increased attendance. In three home games — all wins — the average attendance has been slightly more than 28,000 per game, about three thousand less than Cajun Field capacity.
Cajuns defensive coordinator Greg Stewart celebrated on the field with family members after the victory. Stewart said he was relieved as well as happy, because his family usually spends summer vacations with the family of Troy offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield.
Stewart and Edenfield were teammates at Troy.