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Cajuns To Make Coaching Change

After nine seasons, Rickey Bustle’s tenure as head coach of Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns has come to an end.

The Butle era officially came to an end with Saturday’s 23-22 win over Louisiana-Monroe at Malone Stadium.  With the win, the Cajuns end the season at 3-9.  The loss quashed ULM’s hopes of a bowl game as the Warhawks finish at 5-7.

The Cajuns’ Athletic Department will make the official announcement at a press conference scheduled for Monday at 12 noon at the
Cox Communications Athletics Center.

Bustle was hired after the 2001 season after predecessor Jerry Baldwin went 6-27 in three seasons.  Bustle inherited perhaps the worst football program in Division 1-A, with only 45 scholarship players.  The Cajuns went 3-9, 4-8 and 4-7 in his first three seasons.

In 2005, the Cajuns started the season 1-5, but won their last five games to finish at 6-5, the only winning season under Bustle’s tutelage.  The Cajuns shared the Sun Belt Conference championship that season, but lost a tiebreaker with Arkansas State that would have put them in the New Orleans Bowl in Lafayette.  That started a string of the Cajuns being bowl eliglble in four out of five seasons.

But the bowl invitation never came.  The closest was in 2008, when a 6-6 Cajuns team was courted by the Texas Bowl in Houston, but opted to select 9-3 Western Michigan at the last minute.  The Independence Bowl also snubbed the Cajuns, opting to place a 6-6 Northern Illinois squad to face Louisiana Tech.

Optimism ran high this season despite a schedule that saw the Cajuns facing six bowl teams from a year ago.  But after starting 2-2, the Cajuns suffered a rash of injuries and never lived up to the hopes for the season.  During the year, the Cajuns lost eleven players to season ending surgeries and two more are scheduled to undergo surgery now that the season has ended.

Bustle’s first win came on Sept 21, 2002, a 31-0 win over UAB.  In 2003, the Cajuns started 0-7 but rallied to win four of their last five, including a thrilling, four-overtime win over Middle Tennessee, 57-51.  Louisiana started the 2004 season 3-2, but dropped five of their last six.

The Cajuns were 1-5 at the midway point of the 2005 season, 0-2 in league play after losses to Florida Atlantic (10-28) and Arkansas State (36-39), but two last minute drives against Middle Tennessee (13-10) and North Texas (31-28), sandwiched around an overtime win over Troy (31-28) got the Cajuns back on track.  An easy win over FIU set the stage for a showdown with Louisiana-Monroe.  The Cajuns responded by hammering the Warhawks 54-21, creating a three way tie for the championship.  The Sun Belt Conference office, however, ruled that ULM could not be part of the tiebreaker scenario since they had a 5-6 record.  That left the Cajuns tied with ASU, and the then-Indians were awarded the bowl bid because of their win over the Cajuns earlier in the season.

The following season, the Cajuns started 0-2 but then won four straight, including a come from behind upset over Kevin Kolb and Houston 31-28.  But a six turnover performance on Homecoming against Middle Tennessee sent the Cajuns into a downward spiral and they dropped four of their last six to finish at 6-6.

In 2007, the Cajuns lost their first five games including a 38-17 loss to one time archrival McNeese State.  The Cajuns were 1-8 before winning two of their last three games.

But in 2008 following a season opening blowout against Southern Miss,  the Cajuns played perhaps their best football in the Bustle era over the next seven games with their only losses to Illinois of the Big Ten (17-20) and Kansas State of the Big XII (37-45).  In the five wins, Louisiana averaged 44.8 points per game.  But the Cajuns then lost three straight, at home against UTEP and on the road at FAU and Troy and needed a win over Middle Tennessee to get back to 6-6. 

Last season the Cajuns were again 6-6, highlighted by a 42-19 win over Southern in front of the largest crowd in Cajun Field history, and a win over Big XII member Kansas State 17-15, only the second win over a school from an automatic qualifier conference.  The Cajuns’ suffered an upset loss on Halloween against FIU which cost them a bowl bid.

In his final game as head coach, blocked kicks, for which Bustle’s teams became noted, played the catalyst for the victory, as Cooper Gerami blocked Radi Jabour’s extra point which would have tied the score.  The Cajuns had the fourth-most blocked kicks in the nation during the Bustle era.

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