LAFAYETTE — With the ability to manipulate its own destiny all but abandoned at ASU Stadium Saturday, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team is now left to spend a hopeful next few weeks.
ULL lost a chance to grab a share of a Sun Belt Conference football championship with a turnover-plagued 30-21 loss at Arkansas State.
Speculative talk about a bowl appearance for the Cajuns (8-3, 6-2) may remain just that for a while as officials with postseason games that “tie in” with the SBC — the R+L Carriers Bowl in New Orleans and Mobile’s Go.Daddy.com Bowl — could wait for the end of the Dec.3 regular season before making any announcements.
Bowl games have had a way of eluding the Cajuns, who haven’t been to one since 1970.
Five times during the last seven seasons, ULL has been bowl eligible, including 2005, when the Cajuns had a three-way share of the league championship.
Before that, ULL won eight games in 1993 and was co-champions of the Big West Conference, but the Cajuns ended the postseason without any bowl invitations.
The Cajuns have an open date this week before ending the regular season Nov. 26 at Arizona.
ULL coach Mark Hudspeth didn’t sound that concerned about any future developments after losing to ASU.
“There’s a lot of football left to be played,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ASU victory guarantees the Red Wolves (8-2, 6-0) a piece of the league title, even with two conference games remaining.
Western Kentucky (5-5, 5-1) might also have a chance at a conference title share, since the Hilltoppers handed the Cajuns their other SBC defeat (42-23) Oct. 22.
Like Arkansas State, WKU has two conference games left and holds tiebreaker leverage over the Cajuns, providing the Hilltoppers win the last two contests.
The Cajuns sabotaged their own opportunities against ASU after the Red Wolves intercepted quarterbacks Blaine Gautier and Chris Masson four times.
Gautier was intercepted three times, while Masson was picked off by ASU’s Demario Davis as the Cajuns were driving past the Red Wolves’ 30-yard line during the third quarter.
Masson had to enter the game several times after Gautier left because of various injuries.
It was Masson who led the Cajuns for their final score with 8:56 left in the third period. He also served up his only interception on the Cajuns’ next series. ASU turned that turnover into a 53-yard touchdown drive that gave the Wolves a permanent lead, at 27-21, with 1:31 left in the quarter.
The interception of Masson was significant and untimely, Hudspeth said.
“We were taking the ball downfield and driving, and then we throw the interception and stop our momentum,” Hudspeth said.
All the interceptions came after the Red Wolves used a recovered ULL fumble at the Cajuns’ 13 for the game’s first touchdown less than four minutes into the game.
Despite the lost possessions, Hudspeth saw some positives.
“We gave (ASU) five turnovers, and we will have a chance to win. I couldn’t be prouder of that,” he said.
Hudspeth said ULL’s comeback through three quarters included erasing a 14-0 ASU lead during a first quarter in which the Cajuns were outgained 113-13 in total yards.
“Turnovers are always going to be the story of the game, and we were on the wrong end, 5-1. All those turnovers hurt, but still we came back and had a chance to win,” Hudspeth said.