From a pure football perspective, UL’s 7 p.m. home game Wednesday against Appalachian State on ESPN2 is huge for many reasons.
The first point is the revenge factor.
These two teams met twice last season in Boone, North Carolina, and the Mountaineers won both games.
He might play a completely different position, but in the mind of UL sophomore outside linebacker Kris Moncrief, there’s no minimizing the imp…
Both were competitive games from UL’s standpoint for the first time in the short, six-game series. The Cajuns lost 27-17 in the regular season and then 30-19 in the Sun Belt Championship game
“Most of the things we did last year, it was on us,” UL redshirt sophomore center Shane Vallot said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times.”
Sophomore linebacker Kris Moncrief agreed.
“We beat ourselves,” Moncrief said. “We could have won that game (title game). We’re coming back with a chip on our shoulders.”
Secondly, if you buy the old logic that it can’t be a rivalry if one team wins every game, then it’s important for the Cajuns to transform the Appalachian State series into a true rivalry by getting off the schneid. UL is 0-6 going back to 2014.
That’s important because the Mountaineers possess the elite program in the Sun Belt right now and the Cajuns are hoping to take over that spot. It's important for your program to at least be in the same conversation with Appalachian State in Sun Belt circles these days. A win Wednesday would ensure that.
It’s become one of the favorite motivating slogans for UL’s athletic department.
In fact, it was simply competing well at Appalachian State last year that turned the tide for UL coach Billy Napier’s first team last fall. Indeed, the Mountaineers are the current gold standard in this league.
As a former Furman quarterback, Napier understands that program more than anyone else in Lafayette.
Moreover, the Cajuns are 4-1 overall and currently tied for first in the Sun Belt West race at 1-0, along with Texas State and ULM. If the Cajuns can split with Arkansas State and Troy and somehow beat the rest of the teams on their schedule, a win Wednesday would get some UL fans dreaming about the first 10-win season in school history.
On the other hand, one could justifiably argue even if UL does upset Appalachian State, next week’s trip to Arkansas State would then be an even bigger game. Not buying that here, but it’s certainly a legitimate stance.
Then there’s the Sun Belt race.
Sure, it’s still too early to get too specific, but it’s OK if we speculate. Only coaches and players aren't allowed to do that.
In the master plan for UL football coach Billy Napier and all those involved with the Cajuns’ athletic department, Wednesday’s 7 p.m. home gam…
The Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) will have to play at upstart Georgia State and at Troy to finish out the season after traveling to Lafayette on Wednesday. That’s a pretty rugged slate.
Arkansas State (3-3, 1-1), which lost at Georgia State (3-2, 1-1) on Saturday, doesn’t have to play Appalachian State and already won at Troy (2-3, 0-1).
In other words, UL’s path — good or bad — should be fairly clear after next week’s trip to Jonesboro, Arkansas.
“I don’t think that anybody in our building believes that this is just another game,” Napier said. “We certainly get the implications. It’s what it should be. Two really good football teams, and the winner or loser, this affects where they are in position in their division. Ultimately that’s going to affect who wins the East and West, it’s going to affect who plays in the championship game, just like last week did.
“That was a huge game relative to the implications of the conference and the divisional runs. We’ve tried to focus on the things that are going to help us play better. There’s no question we know our players are motivated, but that is in the past, and it’s key that we use those things to help us play better.”