LAFAYETTE — When Ragin’ Cajuns linebacker Devon Lewis-Buchanan looks at the full-length beard in the mirror each morning, he’s reminded of the impending rendezvous whose expiration date is now six days away.
Only then will Lewis-Buchanan have the option of shaving the beard he promised to let grow until he and his University of Louisiana at Lafayette teammates win a Sun Belt Conference football title.
While Lewis-Buchanan’s beard has been lengthening, the days preceding ULL’s conference-title match up with Arkansas State lessen.
The countdown started after the Cajuns defeated the University of Louisiana at Monroe 36-35 Saturday at Cajun Field.
ULL (8-2, 6-1) travels to Arkansas State (7-2, 5-0) Saturday for a 2 p.m. kickoff in a game the Cajuns need to win to receive at least a share of the title.
Also in the hunt for a portion of the title is Western Kentucky (5-4, 5-1), which holds the tie-breaker over the Cajuns, after defeating ULL 42-23 on Oct. 22.
For ULL, which last shared an SBC championship in 2005, the Arkansas State game is the final conference contest this season.
After a visit to LSU on Saturday, Western Kentucky has conference games with North Texas and Troy remaining.
Arkansas State still has to face conference opponents Middle Tennessee and Troy before ending the season.
WKU has already lost to Arkansas State, 26-22 on Oct. 1.
Defeating Arkansas State on the Red Wolves’ home field won’t be easy, Lewis-Buchanan said.
“It’s going to be a great game. They’re a great team that is undefeated (in the SBC). We’re going up there to their field. We can’t start out slow like we did (against ULM).
“This game is for a championship, something that this team has worked so hard for,” Lewis-Buchanan said.
ULL quarterback Blaine Gautier said the Cajuns have been waiting to play for a title for a number of seasons.
“For the past few years, this team has talked about it, but it never happened. This year, we have a totally different mindset.
“Going up there to play, the fans really get after you. They’re right behind you. Arkansas State is really a good team, undefeated in the conference and they have made great strides with their program also,” Gautier said.
Like ULL, the Red Wolves are under a new head coach, Hugh Freeze, who served as the ASU offensive coordinator last season.
ULL place-kicker Brett Baer — whose onside kick was recovered by teammate Ladarius Green on the ULM 39, setting up the Cajuns’ final touchdown drive in the final two minutes — said ULL’s appearance in a postseason bowl and a chance to win a conference title are long overdue.
“Without eight wins, (the onside kick) is really nothing. Now we’re going to a bowl and have a chance to win a conference championship and get a ring.
“That’s what everyone wants here,” Baer said.
Coach Mark Hudspeth said the Cajuns have already achieved the first of their goals: winning all five games played at Cajun Field this season.
ULL trailed by two touchdowns against ULM late in the fourth quarter, but Hudspeth said his team’s roster contains players who want to win badly.
“This team just believes in never quitting. We trailed by two touchdowns with two minutes to go, but we worked our two-minute offense.
“Every Sunday we practice that two-minute drill, and it’s become something that we take great pride in,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said his senior players, who previously have won six games twice without a postseason appearance are anxious for the chance to win a title and play in a bowl.
“We’ve gone too far to turn back now. These seniors are excited. I mean, what an opportunity. That’s the thing we talked about before (the ULM game), having the opportunity to do great things,” he said.