It’s one of UL coach Billy Napier’s favorite things to say.
“The past is the best indicator of the future.”
There’s a lot of truth in that statement. Typically, few adhere to considering the historical aspects of a matchup more than me.
The past says the UL-ULM rivalry is arguably the best one in the history of Cajuns’ football.
UL leads the all-time series 29-25 with 29 games decided by a touchdown or less and 15 by a field goal or less.
More recently, the last two games in the series were decided by missed Warhawks’ field goals at the buzzer.
In Napier’s first season, ULM missed a potential game-tying, 36-yard field goal on the game's final play for a 31-28 UL win, while last year a missed 34-yarder by the Warhawks would have won it in a 31-30 Cajuns’ win.
Moreover, the Cajuns won 10 of their 11 games last season by double figures. The one exception was that nailbiter over ULM.
If that trend continues in 2020, even I will have sold history short for a change.
“This is a rivalry game and we completely understand the things that go with it,” Napier said.
Understood, but it just can’t happen again, can it?
It’s possible the winless Warhawks have the worst case of COVID fatigue of any team in America.
The defensive coordinator resigned less than two weeks away from the season opener.
The number of players who opted out, entered the transfer portal or just haven’t been available this season is staggering.
And get this statistic. Opponents have rushed for 111 first downs this season … to ULM’s 31.
While considering those figures, take a mental picture of UL’s offensive line and the running back trio of Elijah Mitchell, Trey Ragas and Chris Smith.
“To finish, we’re worried about this week obviously, go out and do as good as you can, play as hard as you can, let’s don’t beat ourselves, the normal things,” ULM coach Matt Viator said. “It’s a different situation, it’s not what these kids expected, nothing like I’ve ever been through for sure.
“But I keep telling them, I heard (Arkansas State) coach (Blake) Anderson say a while ago, control what you can control, control your effort, control your attitude, help out your teammates, and let’s go try to improve and see what we can do this Saturday. That’s basically the message.”
It is true turnovers are the great equalizer.
And as I’ve been known to say, “This ain’t John Curtis vs. Mamou.”
But it’s just hard to imagine this one going down to the wire again.
One thing is for sure, the Warhawks should be rested, not having played since a 52-34 road loss to Georgia State on Nov. 7.
In that game, quarterback Jeremy Hunt got his first start of the season and delivered in a big way with 26-of-39 passing for 339 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
On the other hand, the Cajuns are rested too after last week’s game against Central Arkansas was canceled due to COVID-19 issues and the Cajuns’ secondary has become elite with 11 interceptions and 33 pass breakups on the season.
After their first six wins went down to the wire, the Cajuns finally earned a fourth-quarter breather in the dominating 38-10 win over South Alabama on Nov. 14.
It sure seems like the Cajuns are more than ready to hit their stride and surge to the finish line.
One Cajun that won’t be overlooking the Warhawks is junior right tackle Max Mitchell from Neville High in Monroe.
“Personally being from Monroe, I take it personally this game,” Mitchell said. “I want to make sure we put these guys to rest before I can move on to whatever’s next.
It’s big for me. I have a couple of friends that go to school there. I remember two years ago we beat them at home. They were sitting right behind me, talking trash the whole game. I think it’s big for them. I think we should take it seriously.”
Redshirt sophomore safety Kam Pedescleaux certainly isn’t buying what history is selling.
“Last two years the deciding factors have been field goals,” he said. “We’re not trying to make it that close this year. Those games are good for the fans, but they’re very hard for the players.
“Playing, you want to win by a comfortable lead and the last two years, that hasn’t been the case. So this year, we need to take advantage of our momentum and finish strong in that game.”
Napier said he’s got great respect for the football man ULM head coach Matt Viator is.
“They’ll be motivated,” Napier said. “Coach V is an exceptional coach. He does a great job with the players.
“We better be ready to go. If not, we’ll get exposed.”
It’s not about questioning the ability of ULM’s staff. It’s about the reality of the weight of the brutal season the Warhawks are enduring.
And what the Cajuns still have left to achieve.
If history butts in this time around, it’ll be time for everyone to bow to it.