WATCH: Mark Hudspeth Previews Regular Season Finale At ULM
With one game left in the regular season, the Ragin' Cajuns still have their main goal in sight. One more win against ULM, and they're bowl bound.
Head Coach Mark Hudspeth's team is coming off a wild victory against Arkansas State, the hottest team in the Sun Belt before the Cajuns handed them their first loss in conference play. Louisiana channeled the motions of senior day and used that juice to propel them one step closer to postseason play.
Their defense came up with a huge score and corralled a dangerous Red Wolves offense in the victory, and Coach Hud loved the intensity.
"I thought our team had an edge to it," Hudspeth said. He also singled out one of the fiercest competitors on the roster, "Otha Peters played an outstanding game all over the field."
Peters' performance earned him LSWA Defensive Player of the Week honors, and the ball he jarred loosed for a pick six changed the entire shape of the game.
It seems like the Ragin' Cajuns saved their best football for last. That goes double for quarterback Anthony Jennings.
Jennings' late addition to the roster this offseason didn't give him much time to create chemistry with the rest of the offense. He was too busy trying to learn the playbook and get comfortable with his surroundings to really form a deep connection with the rest of his teammates. With 11 games under his belt now, he's familiar with his weapons, and his head coach notices the difference.
"That continuity and timing with the wideouts has gotten there," Hudspeth pointed out. "That's what we wish we would have seen earlier."
Jennings wasn't the only one trying to fit in either. Several young players, along with a couple junior college transfers, were trying to catch up to the pace of the game earlier in the season as well.
Ja'Marcus Bradley registered his first 100 yard receiving game against Arkansas State, Keenan Barnes developed into a redzone threat as a sophomore, Damar'ren Mitchell is becoming a weekly contributor, and a couple other seeds for future growth are starting to sprout.
Developing talent takes patience, but Hudspeth is starting to see the results he wants.
"The last four weeks we really started to take shape," Hudspeth said. "These young kids, they aren't freshmen anymore."
At points this season, the Ragin' Cajuns had six freshmen on the field on offense, so a lot of youngsters got thrown in the deep end to learn how to swim, but they survived the test and came out stronger at the end of the season.
There's only one team separating them from the postseason, their in-state rivals, the ULM Warhawks.
It won't be the same trip to Monroe this time around though. The Warhawks have wins in conference play over Texas State, Georgia State and South Alabama, and their new Head Coach Matt Viator is trying to turn the program around. Coach Hudspeth is familiar with his opponent, and he's not taking the Warhawks and their coach lightly.
"I have a lot of respect for Coach Viator," Hudspeth said. "They're different defensively. Very sound defensively. I think they're well coached."
Discipline goes a long way in college football, and you better believe Viator will have the Warhawks fired up to take out their rivals in his first taste of the matchup.
There shouldn't be any extra motivation required at practice this week. It's a rivalry game, the Ragin' Cajuns are fighting for their postseason lives and the seniors don't want this to be their last game together.
Coach Hud's message to the players is the same as it was against Arkansas State. Win, and you get to play another game with your brothers.
"It's a playoff mentality. You have to continue to win to continue to play," Hudspeth explained. He added, "These seniors, they want to go out winners. Every senior class wants to leave a legacy."
Aside from the game at hand, Hudspeth also had another announcement to make. First, Gary Haynes decided to leave the program, now Gabe Fuselier is doing the same.
"Gabe Fuselier informed us yesterday that he is going to pursue other opportunities," Hudspeth said without much more explanation.
Similarly to Haynes, Fuselier will transfer to another program to hopefully gain a larger role in the offense. With only one game left in the regular season, the decision is surprising to say the least.
The Ragin' Cajuns' show goes on though, and they're hoping for an encore performance in a bowl game. Win against ULM, and you get to play another game. Lose, and your season ends in bitter fashion. They get to write the final chapter of their story, but how will it end?