LAFAYETTE — There’s been talk of a bowl game this week at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
That conversation, though, does not concern ULL’s pending R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl appearance on Dec. 22.
Instead, coach Mark Hudspeth said the Cajuns have another bowl appointment at 2 p.m. Saturday against Florida Atlantic as the Cajuns finish the regular season at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.
“This is our bowl game. This team wants to go 8-4 to finish the regular season and then equal last year’s record of 9-4 by winning the New Orleans Bowl game,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said ULL has a chance to win nine games for the second consecutive season, something the school hasn’t done since it began playing football in 1901.
The chance of making program history, Hudspeth said, should keep his team focused.
“That is always something that concerns you, following the emotion of getting the bowl bid as we did after the last game,” he said. “However, our players realize we have a chance to equal last year’s record and what is at stake.”
While the Cajuns (7-4, 5-2), have been celebrating their scheduled bowl game, FAU (3-8, 2-5) announced Wednesday the school plans to leave the Sun Belt following the 2013 season to join Conference USA along with Middle Tennessee.
The Owls, in their first season under coach Carl Pelini, had an extra week to create a game plan for ULL after losing to Florida International (34-24) on Nov. 16.
Hudspeth said the Cajuns are aware that FAU has one of the league’s best defenses. The Owls are ranked second in the SBC in pass defense (207.3 yards per game) and third overall in total defense (402.5 yards).
“Their pass defense is outstanding, and we certainly respect that,” Hudspeth said.
Offensively, the Owls are led by 6-foot-6 senior quarterback Graham Wilbert, who has thrown for 2,440 yards.
Gilbert has just one interception in his past 250 pass attempts.
FAU’s rushing leader is Jonathan Wallace (157 attempts, 589 yards). Gilbert’s favorite receivers are Daniel McKinny (42-425) and William Dukes (54-775).
The Cajuns feature one of the SBC’s top scoring offenses (34.8 points), which is stronger since the return of wide receivers Harry Peoples and Javone Lawson, who had midseason injuries.
Peoples (60-772), Darryl Surgent (32-548) and Lawson (32-489) are the top targets for Terrance Broadway (172-254-2,363), who has started at quarterback for the past seven games.
“At this point, I believe we are playing the best offense we have this whole season,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said ULL will start Alonzo Harris (128-634) at running back.
Harris was available, but did not play last Saturday against USA.
Hudspeth said starting linebacker Jake Molbert (31 solo tackles), won’t play again this year after injuring a knee against South Alabama. Hudspeth did not say this week who will start his place. ...Trevence Patt, who was switched to strong safety from cornerback midway during the season, will be won’t play the first half against FAU after league officials ruled Patt used helmet-to-helmet contact against Wes Saxton last Saturday.
Patt was ejected from the rest of the game, following the hit on Saxton.