Cajuns Learn a Lesson – From the Bird’s Nest
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns won their sixth straight game Saturday, but not without a few nervous moments.
The four touchdown-plus favorites found themselves down by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter. New Mexico State scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and led 28-7. Louisiana got a touchdown to cut the lead to 28-14. But they failed to score on their final possession of the first half and then fumbled on their first snap after intermission. A touchdown by the Aggies there and the Cajuns might have been in trouble.
But that same defense that allowed the four touchdowns started allowing absolutely nothing, and the Cajuns roared back and outscored the Aggies 42-7 after that early deficit to get a 49-35 win before an announced crowd of just over 30,000 at Cajun Field.
In my blog "Five Keys to Beating New Mexico State," I listed what the Cajuns had to do. Not many took me seriously, with some fans, and perhaps a few players, thinking the Cajuns just had to show up. But in the blog I mentioned "respect everyone" and "focus."
In the first half, the Cajuns did neither.
"I think we underestimated them," linebacker Justin Anderson admitted at Coach Mark Hudspeth's weekly press luncheon. "Respect everyone?" Not. And, part of that is just human nature. Despite the players and coaches saying,"it's the most important game because it's the next game, players aren't dumb. They know how to access the internet. And, they knew the Aggies were not a good football team.
You could see the "focus" or in this case, lack thereof, coming a mile away. It was a non-conference game in the middle of the conference season (remember Florida a year ago?). The next game, against a conference foe, was only five days away. And, it was homecoming...and while the city may not see a lot of things that would be termed distractions, on the UL campus, just like every other campus, Homecoming is a big deal.
And, there's your lack of focus. And, all told, that's the definition of a classic "trap game."
Fortunately, the respect and focus was evident in the second half. And, fortunately, is was enough against an outmanned opponent.
There should be no such issues this Thursday. Troy will certainly have the Cajuns' respect. And, even with a short week, this team should be plenty focused.
I remember when Marty Fletcher was the head coach at then-USL. One night his squad eked by a team they probably should have beaten double digits or better. And Fletcher made a statement that has stayed with me. "We learned an expensive lesson, inexpensively."
And so did this football team on Saturday.