The countdown started earlier in Lafayette, La. After all the UL-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns get 2 extra days to prep for next week’s game at Arkansas State.
In his weekly press conference, ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said the team would work Tuesday then watch the Red Wolves play South Alabama on ESPN2. As we know, Arkansas State won that one 49-31 after trailing 31-20 in the fourth quarter.
“This is going to be fun game for the fact our guys love to play Arkansas State and I know they feel the same way,’’ said Hudspeth, now in his fifth season at ULL. “It has turned into a great game. It’s been very competitive the last four years and I know it will be a great atmosphere when we go up to Jonesboro.
“It will be a very intense game like it was here last year. I know our players will have no problem getting ready.”
The game is Tuesday night at 7 on ESPN2. It is the fourth straight year that ESPN has carried the game, all of them on midweek.
Last year’s game began a tailspin for the Red Wolves, whose weakness on the defensive line was exposed by the Cajuns. ULL ran for 419 yards and running back Elijah McGuirre had 265 on 19 carries and four touchdowns. He had 174 yards rushing on just his touchdown carries.
ULL has won the last two, including 23-7 in Jonesboro in 2013. Arkansas State won the previous two seasons, 50-27 at ULL in the famous “run it again” game in 2012, and 30-20 in Jonesboro in 2011.
“It’s one of 8 and this happens to be the next one,’’ said A-State coach Blake Anderson. “But we know who we are playing as does everybody else.
It was a competitive game last year. It was typical. We don’t have a natural rival, an instate rival, because of where we are at. This has become a competitive rivalry because both programs have been good and we respect each other’s ability and to be in the conference race. Both teams play hard, both expect to win, both look to win the conference. Both have won conference title in that sense it has become a heated rivalry.”
Last year’s game was the zenith. The Sun Belt Conference suspended five players, one assistant coach and one member of the football team support personnel were reprimanded for unsportsmanlike conduct and the officiating crew was suspended for a game. In all 16 penalties, including eight unsportsmanlike conduct call, were flagged.
“We know it got heated and chippy with these guys last year,’’ said Anderson. “We don’t need that kinda game again. We should be able to get plenty of football in within 60 minutes and we don’t need that extra stuff. I know that is not who we want to be and I know Mark (Hudspeth) said that is not who they want to be. We just want to play hard football and do it the right way.”
A-State’s Andrew Tryon and Xavier Woodson-Luster were tossed from the game and Tres Houston and Frankie Jackson were reprimanded by the conference. Jackson and Tryon were seniors and graduated.
ULL’s Corey Trim, assistant coach Mitch Rodrigue and strength coach Rusty Whitt were also reprimanded for unsportsmanlike conduct and inappropriate bench decorum. Trim was a senior and Rodrigue and Whitt are still on the ULL staff.