Have you wondered whether the Gamecocks' opening opponent, the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns (ULL), will be ready for the August 30 game at Williams Brice? Well, you needn't worry. Besides the fact it is the first game of the year, ULL has at least three significant, motivating factors that should ensure Gamecock fans will see a highly spirited and tremendously excited opponent. If you are interested in what might motivate the ULL team, read on . . .

We recommend that you also read, Louisiana Lafayette: An Early Season Preview

It's a Respect Thing: A Historic Opportunity to Defeat an SEC Team

ULL's players and fans have been kicked around a lot by SEC teams. Their overall record against SEC teams is a pathetic 0-45. That fact alone will motivate a guy.

In addition, most of the ULL roster lists football players from Louisiana. Around Louisiana, the LSU Tigers have all the tradition. Their fans are brash, and by and large, the best high school players in Louisiana play for the Bengal Tigers. Thus, every player on the ULL roster has been informed, through the recruiting process, that he is simply not good enough, or smart enough, to play for LSU, or really any any SEC school. If I were a ULL player, these things would tend to upset me.

This begs the question. Is it true that ULL's players cannot compete against the superior talent of the SEC? To answer that, all one needs to do to is look at ULL's performance during the 2002 season. The fact is, ULL can compete against the best in the SEC.

Take ULL's narrow, 24-17 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks as a case in point.

These are the same Razorbacks that soundly beat the Gamecocks. First, that 23-0 Arkansas loss last year was not the result of Gamecock unreadiness. Back in the 1980s, the Arkansas Athletic Director, Frank Broyles, fired Lou Holtz. The Gamecock players knew this, and they knew that beating Arkansas meant more to Lou than winning any other game (with the exception, perhaps, of Clemson.) Second, the game was played before a sold out crowd at Williams Brice. There is no doubt that the strains of 2001, the crowd, and a hostile Akansas program, meant that the Gamecock players were fired up for the game. Arkansas just out-played and out-coached the Gamecocks. Frankly, Arkansas had better players.

On the other hand, the Razorbacks were just plain lucky to beat ULL, a team against which Arkansas was evenly matched. During that game, with three minutes remaining, ULL forced a fumble and recovered at the Arkansas 34 yard line. Fortunately for Arkansas, ULL's QB was injured on the following play, and his replacement, suffering from a gimpy ankle, threw an interception ending the drive at the five yard line. So, the Arkansas crowd shuffled out, murmuring thanks that their Razorbacks escaped with a W.

ulllogoNotwithstanding the Arkansas game, does ULL really have talent competitive with the Gamecocks? If you consider the NFL draft as the best measure of college football talent, then yes sir, they do. Earlier this year, two ULL players were selected in the second and fourth round of the NFL draft. By contrast, only three Gamecocks were picked by the pros, and those selections were not made until the sixth and seventh rounds.

All of this means that if you are a ULL player you are thinking, "we can beat the Gamecocks." In fact, watching the 2002 USC-Arkansas film should only enhance ULL players' hope of achieving a historic, first SEC victory.

The Ricky Bustle Factor

ULL has an excellent Head Coach named Ricky Bustle. Bustle's long list of successes include a recent 9 year tenure as the Offensive Coordinator for Virginia Tech. In 1999, with Bustle as the Offensive Coordinator, the Hokies made it to College Football's BCS Nathional Championship Game, a remarkable achievement at Tech.

Gamecock fans know Bustle. He was the Offensive Coordinator in 1994, the only successful season former Head Coach Brad Scott ever assembled. (Bustle bolted for Virginia Tech after that season, and the inept Scott was never again able to register a winning season.) Bustle's teams are known for their hard-nosed, hard-hitting, no nonsense play.

Yeah, but the Gamecocks have their own sideline coaching talent in Lou. Isn't that right Yazoo, huh, huh.

It pains me to say this, but Lou has not produced against the best coaches in college football. Since he has been at South Carolina, Lou never beat UF's Steve Spurrier or UT's Phillip Fulmer. Lou has managed to beat Nutt, but his record against him is only 1-3. Clearly, Mark Richt now has Lou's number. Even Tommy Bowden has a 3-1 record against Lou.

One can legitimately argue Ricky Bustle is a better coach than than Richt, Fulmer or Nutt, and he is definitely better than Bowden. Therefore, ULL may well have a decided coaching advantage.

On top of everything else, Bustle has extra reason to do his best. You see, there is Clemson. Bustle graduated and played football for our arch-rival. Moreover, Bustle's wife, Lynn, is from Charleston. Therefore, Bustle will bring a small contingent of Clemson friends and family to support the ULL effort against the Gamecocks. Bustle has probably promised a celebration at Williams Brice to his team, and to his Clemson friends, and family. Gamecock fans should expect for Bustle to go to extreme lengths to prepare ULL to win this football game. That is a scary fact considering Bustle may be a football genius.

"I'm Tired of being Kicked in the Teeth"

Finally, the players at Louisiana Lafayette must be totally fed up with hearing about what a pitiful of a bunch of football players they are.

On November 26, 2002, former Head Coach Jerry Lee Baldwin (1999-2001), an African American who was fired following the 2001 season, filed a race discrimination case against the school. (Baldwin won a total of six games in three years as ULL's Head Coach.) Baldwin's theory is that because of his race the ULL Athletic Director did not provide support for the football program, and this lack of support undermined Baldwin's recruiting, and "devastated" team morale.

In a March 14, 2003, public court filing, Baldwin alleged the ULL football team "suffered from serious disciplinary and academic problems" and that "more than fifteen student athletes were involved in illegal drug use . . . ." Baldwin's pleading also claimed the current ULL Athletic Director told him that there was "not one Division I-A caliber player on the ULL football team." Baldwin asserted that the football program was so poorly funded that players "resorted to painting their old gloves to make them appear new on game day."

I remember after Brad Scott was fired, he claimed the Gamecocks would never be able to compete in the SEC. These kind of comments by a former Head Coach hurt. These kind of comments have potential to make former players very angry. These kind of comments propelled the 2000 and 2001 Gamecocks to New Years Day bowl wins against current National Champion Ohio State.

In addition, Bustle's staff is adept at poor mouthing his team, and he has been free with criticism as ULL prepares for the USC game. During the off season, Bustle complained that ULL had only 45 scholarship players. (Bustle remedied this depth problem by signing 12 JUCO players.) Similarly, on August 6, Offensive Coordinator Rob Christophel stated, "We were not a good running team last year. We got pushed around a little bit last year."

Christophel's remarks are factual; ULL was last in the Sun Belt Conference in rushing, averaging around 61 yards rushing per game, less than two yards per carry. That kind of straightforward comment by the current Offensive Coordinator, along with the bitter criticism by former Head Coach Baldwin, should have ULL's offensive linemen seething.

The criticism has had an effect already. On August 9, Bustle stated, "we're practicing like we want to win." He also remarked, "we've added talent and we can win."

There you have it. A host of reasons why the players and coaches at ULL will be highly motivated to play the Gamecocks. They intend to come into our house and say, "Hey Gamecocks, knock this chip off my shoulder."

In response, Gamecocks fans need to be loud and to be ready. Your humble commentator, E.T. Yazoo, respectfully predicts that the Gamecocks are going to need all the fan support that can be mustered to thwart these angry guys from ULL.

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