Mid-major Report: Louisiana-Lafayette making a run at Sun Belt supremacy
With 24 wins over two-plus seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette, Mark Hudspeth, 44, is one of the Sun Belt Conference’s brightest young head coaches. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns to their first bowl victory in 41 years with a 32-30 win over San Diego State in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl. He followed that up with a 43-34 New Orleans Bowl win over East Carolina in ’12. Yet the one measure of success that has so far eluded Hudspeth is a Sun Belt title.
After Louisiana-Lafayette’s 23-7 victory over Arkansas State on Oct. 22, the Ragin’ Cajuns (5-2, 3-0 Sun Belt) are in sole possession of first place in the conference and show no signs of slowing down. Louisiana-Lafayette lost to Arkansas and Kansas State to begin the year, but has since won five straight. During the streak the offense has averaged 42.6 points per game.
Quarterback Terrance Broadway, an All-Sun Belt honorable mention a year ago, is leading the charge. He has 1,448 passing yards, 222 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns (11 passing, five rushing). He hasn’t had to run the ball as much as he did last season because the Ragin’ Cajuns top the Sun Belt with 1,605 rushing yards, led by the tandem of running backs Alonzo Harris and Elijah McGuire, who have combined to rush for 11 touchdowns.
Louisiana-Lafayette still has to face Troy (5-3) and Louisiana-Monroe (4-4) in November, but the Ragin’ Cajuns also have remaining games against New Mexico State (1-7), Georgia State (0-8) and South Alabama (3-4). Another nine-win season is within reach for Hudspeth, and his first conference title is there for the taking too.
• Middle Tennessee State: It has been an up-and-down season for the Blue Raiders, but Middle Tennessee finds itself 2-2 in Conference USA and just a game back of East Carolina in its division after a surprisingly fun 51-49 win over Marshall last Thursday. The Blue Raiders ran 100 plays and established offensive balance, as quarterback Logan Kilgore passed for four touchdowns and both Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley rushed for more than 100 yards. The Blue Raiders’ schedule is extremely favorable down the stretch, with remaining games against UAB, FIU, Southern Miss and UTEP. Those four teams have a combined record of 4-24.
• Ohio wide receiver Donte Foster: The Bobcats’ senior became Ohio’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions (20) after hauling in three scores in a 41-16 victory over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. Foster has 50 catches for 718 yards and six touchdowns on the season, and he has three straight games with 100-plus receiving yards. With the win, Ohio moved to 3-1 in league play, a game behind Buffalo in the MAC East. The Bobcats have a bye before facing the Bulls and Bowling Green (5-3, 3-1) on the road in consecutive weeks.
• Rice: The Owls moved to 6-2 and 4-0 in C-USA play after crushing UTEP 45-7 over the weekend. Rice is riding a five-game winning streak and is averaging more than 230 rushing yards per game. The feel-good story of the week came when Owls coach David Bailiff inserted 4-foot-9 running back Jayson Carter into the game and gave him his first career carry. Scout-team players play hard in practice every day. It’s pretty cool that Bailiff had the opportunity to make that decision.
• Wyoming: The Cowboys started this season 3-1, with a near-upset of Nebraska in Week 1 serving as their only loss. Since then, however, the 2013 campaign has turned into a nightmare. Wyoming has dropped three of its last four, including Saturday’s 51-44 loss to San Jose State. Apparently, the team decided some changes were in order.
Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen has dismissed defensive coordinator Chris Tormey.
— Pete Roussel (@coachingsearch) October 29, 2013
The Cowboys have a bye week before hosting 7-0 Fresno State on Nov. 9. One gets the feeling this move might be too little, too late.
• Bowling Green: The Falcons are entering serious what-could-have-been territory. Just two weeks after losing 21-20 at Mississippi State, they dropped another tough one to Toledo. Despite trailing for much of the game, Bowling Green took a 25-21 fourth-quarter lead behind a Travis Greene touchdown with 6:45 remaining. But Rockets quarterback Terrance Owens connected with Alonzo Russell for an 11-yard score with 1:28 to play to seal the 28-25 result. There is still time for Dave Clawson’s team to turn things back around, but these are two of the more difficult ways to drop back-to-back games.
• Florida International: It still seems amazing that the Golden Panthers have a win this season, even if that victory came against 0-7 Southern Miss. FIU was held to just seven points and 197 total yards against Louisiana Tech last Saturday. It was the fifth time in seven games that Florida International scored 14 points or fewer.