UL senior right guard Ken Marks knows he doesn’t have much time left to play football for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
He's also been around coach Billy Napier enough to know he must avoid looking too far ahead with in-state rival UL-Monroe coming to town for a 3 p.m. regular-season finale Saturday at Cajun Field. The Cajuns are gunning for their 11th consecutive victory.
“We all know it’s a rivalry,” Marks said. “It’s a rivalry game for us, too. We have a lot to play for. I feel like this is their last game … this is their bowl game. So this is their Super Bowl.
“We have a lot of to play for in that we want to finish 13-1, winning this game, winning the championship and then going to the bowl game and winning there.”
For the past two seasons, it’s almost become a weekly part of the postgame news conference for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
Marks is one of 19 Cajuns who will be honored during a senior day ceremony prior to the game. That group includes nine listed as seniors on the roster but also juniors likely headed to the NFL, or those who have graduated and wish to move on.
“I think it’s a huge positive,” Napier said of the arrangement. “We started talking about it earlier in the week. To me, it comes down to loyalty. I do think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been sharp and had really good energy this week.
“Not only do we have a lot invested into this in-state rivalry game and understand the history of this matchup, but also making sure that we do all that we can do to be prepared … so we can be our best on game day and play for these players.”
Highlighting the group are Levi Lewis, Tayland Humphrey, Ferrod Gardner, Jalen Williams, Chauncey Manac, Cameron Solomon and Marks.
“This is a very special group,” Napier said. “We’ve got a number of players that have been here since the very beginning before we got here. Some of these players were part of our first class here, and they have done so much to impact our team in the past, in the present and certainly make a difference in the future of the program.
“Each individual story of all these guys — you can go down the list. It’s a very emotional day. I know for me, it is. It makes me think about each one of these guys and how much progress they’ve made and what a journey, man. This is a special group and one that I’m going to remember and miss.”
For Marks, Saturday will be the final home regular-season game after spending seven years on UL’s campus.
“I wouldn’t have believed it,” Marks said of his long stint at UL. “It’s a blessing in disguise — blessed with the COVID year, I tore my knee and was blessed to get that year back. I take it as a blessing.
“It’s been real fun coming back. It’s almost like I’m the uncle or the grandpa of the team.”
It’s also possible his last season was his best, effectively moving from left guard to left tackle.
“Moving from guard to tackle, being that Carlos (Rubio) got injured, I’ve enjoyed seeing other guys get opportunities, like A.J. Gillie,” Marks said. “He came in and he’s a stud. We call him the ‘Fire Hydrant’ — you can’t move him. He’s rock solid. I feel like I’ve played pretty well. I’ve enjoyed my last year at UL.”
The work is not done yet after Saturday, though. There’s the Sun Belt Conference championship game Dec. 4 at Cajun Field, then a bowl game.
But first, the No. 23-ranked Cajuns (10-1) must take care of the Warhawks (4-7, 2-5).
For the offense, that starts with figuring out ULM’s varied defensive approach that has forced 17 turnovers this season.
For the third straight season, the UL football program has had to handle rumors about coach Billy Napier heading elsewhere to fill coaching va…
“They’re very multiple,” Napier said. “The number of front presentations — they’ve got every front in football. And within each front comes a number of pressures, and there are a lot of coverage variables, too.
“So we’re talking about a very game plan-oriented defensive approach. It’s one that will require adjustments in the game, and I think they’re playing hard with really good effort.”
Right guard O’Cyrus Torrence will miss his second straight game due to concussion protocol after an automobile wreck. David Hudson is expected to start in his place again.
Defensively, the preparation is about dealing with two quarterbacks with different skill sets. Freshman Chandler Rogers leads ULM with 351 yards rushing in addition to 1,295 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
Rhett Rodriguez missed much of the season with an injury, but he has thrown for 654 yards in five games.
“He (Rogers) can run,” Napier said. “Extremely effective as a runner ... all the read concepts, the designed QB runs. The edge conflicts that they put you in, he can make you pay if you’re wrong. So it’s important that we have good alignment, important that we play assignment sound, that we communicate well and play with good eye discipline on the edge.”