WATCH: Mark Hudspeth Previews Arkansas State, Senior Day
With only two games left in the Ragin' Cajuns season, Mark Hudspeth is dealing with a lot of pressure: pressure to perform, pressure to send his seniors off right and pressure to deliver another bowl performance.
Hudspeth described the season so far as "up and down," and he admitted the team isn't where they wanted to be at this point in the year. The Cajuns hit some bumps in the road in the middle of the schedule, but Hudspeth feels like the team is picking up steam and playing better football over the last three games.
"I think they can really see over the last few weeks some tangible improvement," Hudspeth said. He added, "I think they're feeling a little momentum."
Even in a loss to Georgia, the Cajuns took another step forward offensively. They collected 465 total yards and set a season-high with 276 rushing yards against an SEC defense.
Typically, the skill position players get the credit for a solid offensive performance, but Hudspeth made sure to give love to the big boys up front for handling their business against Georgia.
"I thought our offensive line, when you go back and look at the tape, played one of their best games of the year," Hudspeth reflected.
Unfortunately, the Cajuns lost, largely due to four turnovers and some poor tackling on defense. Hudspeth emphasized that tackling will be a top priority at practice, as they get ready for one of the biggest games of the season.
The game wasn't the only thing the Cajuns lost this weekend either. Sophomore Receiver Gary Haynes asked for his release, and the team granted his wish.
Haynes wants to transfer and find a larger role on offense, and Hudspeth understood the decision on several levels.
"I think he wanted to get a little closer to home, to get a little more involved in the gameplan," Hudspeth explained.
Hudspeth wished Haynes luck in his future endeavors, and he reiterated that there were no hard feelings between the young receiver and the team. Coach Hud also said Gabe Fuselier is now in line to get more touches in Haynes' absence, as a reward for his patience and hard work.
It's been a wild ride this season, not just for the Cajuns, but for their opponent this week as well. Arkansas State started off the season on the rocks with four straight losses, but now they're on fire.
Six straight wins in conference play have the Red Wolves in position to win an outright conference title, but the Cajuns want to do more than play spoiler. With a bowl berth on the line for the Cajuns and Arkansas State trying to claim the Sun Belt, there is a lot at stake this Saturday for both teams.
Hudspeth tried to explain the method behind the madness of Arkansas State's season as best he could.
"Offensively, a lot of new faces, but they're really starting to gel," Hudspeth said. "They like going for the big plays, so we're going to have to do a good job of keeping them in front of us."
As if football weren't enough to have Hudspeth's emotions running high, it will also be senior day this Saturday.
There are a lot of special players preparing for their last game at Cajun Field. Elijah McGuire, Al Riles, Karmichael Dunbar, Eddie Gordon and others made a serious impact in their time wearing vermilion and white, and fifth year seniors like Jalen Nixon were here with Hudspeth since day one.
"I'm going to be an emotional wreck as they're running out there for the last time," Hudspeth said with a smile.
Hudspeth wants nothing more than to give his seniors a win on their special day, along with a chance to play in another New Orleans Bowl before they say their goodbyes.
Two wins will give the Ragin' Cajuns a chance to play a third game and salvage the season. They're on the razor's edge, so they better be sharp.