Strange Season: Looking Back At Cajuns’ Football 2016
The Cajuns are heading to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl for the fifth time in six years.
But their road to get there was not easy, and, at times, downright bizarre. It seems every game had a story and some of it wasn't on the field.
SEPT 3--BOISE STATE--What was a highly anticipated opener turned into a disappointing crowd as kickoff was moved to 11am to accommodate the American Sports Network. Heat index of around 100 degrees and on-field temps around 110 yielded a disappointing crowd of 22,669.
SEPT 4--Head coach Mark Hudspeth fires Defensive Coordinator Melvin Smith. Linebackers coach Mike Lucas is named interim.
SEPT 10--McNEESE STATE--In a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated, Louisiana uses a strong second half to defeat the Cowboys 30-22 in a game that was halted by a lightning delay.
SEPT 12--McNeese quarterback James Tabary, through his Twitter account, suggests the Cajuns had a bounty on him.
SEPT 17--SOUTH ALABAMA--Cajuns make it two in a row as Elijah McGuire rushes for 223 yards, the second highest total in his career.
SEPT 24--TULANE--After turning the ball over four times in the first half, Louisiana goes conservative on offense and battles Tulane to a 16-16 tie in regulation. In four overtimes, the Cajuns fall 41-39 as the offenses come alive in the extra periods. It would be the only game all season the Cajuns would lose when holding the featured back to under 85 yards rushing. Elijah McGuire is injured on the last play of the game.
OCT. 1--NEW MEXICO STATE--McGuire gets only six carries the entire game and the Cajuns lose in double overtime. It isn't the first time the Cajuns lose back to back overtime games, but it is the first time it happened on consecutive weeks. Both teams fumble at the goal line in overtime but both are recovered by the offense for a touchdown.
OCTOBER--The Cajuns do not have a Saturday game at home.
OCTOBER 12--APPALACHIAN STATE--Cajuns get shut out at home on national television, the first Cajun Field shutout by the opponents in 14 seasons. The Cajuns manage only one play over 20 yards in the game.
OCTOBER 22--TEXAS STATE--The Cajuns defense continues to get better and shut down Texas State's run game. Louisiana allows just 100 yards total offense in the final three quarters in a 27-3 win.
NOVEMBER 5--IDAHO--Once again the Cajuns have only one play that goes over 20 yards as Anthony Jennings hits Michael Jacquet for 58 yards on the first offensive play. But the Cajuns offense barely gets 200 yards the rest of the game in falling at Homecoming.
NOVEMBER 8--A group of Cajun football players are videoed singing with a rap song entitled "FDT." on Election Day. The video is leaked within two hours of the incident.
NOVEMBER 10--GEORGIA SOUTHERN--The video makes its way onto social media. Louisiana totally shuts down Georgia Southern's running game and open up their offensive attack. Quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Dion Ray combine for 167 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Slot receiver Al Riles throws a touchdown pass as the Cajuns leave Statesboro with a badly-needed win.
NOVEMBER 11--Cajun coach Mark Hudspeth meets with Cajuns' beat writer Tim Buckley after the plane lands in Lafayette to discuss the video. Hudspeth is roundly criticized for his remarks concerning the incident. He issues a statement apologizing for the comments
NOVEMBER 14--At his weekly news conference, Hudspeth apologizes again for his postgame comments and the coach is on the verge of tears as he talks about his love for his players. He takes exception, voice cracking, to the suggestion some of his players are "thugs."
NOVEMBER 19--GEORGIA--Cajuns are competitive in a 35-21 loss to Georgia, dropping their record to 4-6 and putting their backs to the wall in their attempt to become bowl eligible.
NOVEMBER 21--Slot receiver Gary Haynes announces he is leaving the Cajuns' football program. Haynes commits to Texas Southern.
NOVEMBER 23-- The Sun Belt Conference announces they will get behind the Cajuns' wish to be called "Louisiana." "LA" will be the preferred abbreviation for statistics and television crawls.
NOVEMBER 26--ARKANSAS STATE--In an 11 am kickoff, the Cajuns and arch-rivals Arkansas State collide in a game that ends on a reversed call by the replay official.. When the play is called a touchdown on the field, Arkansas State players celebrate in a way the Cajuns take exception with....and when the call is reversed because the quarterback's knee was down, give it right back to the Red Wolves.
NOVEMBER 28--Gabe Fuselier becomes the second slot receiver in as many weeks to announce he is leaving the program. Mark Hudspeth tells the media he called Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson to apologize for his team's actions at the end of the game. Anderson quotes Hudspeth at length at his press conference, making no mention of his own players' actions when the Red Wolves thought they had won.
DECEMBER 3--With bowl eligibility on the line, the Cajuns force five turnovers in miserable conditions to take a 30-3 win over ULM. The game, played in 45 degree weather in a driving rainstorm, results in a Cajuns' win despite having zero yards passing. Beat writer Tim Buckley announces the crowd at 142 at kickoff. The crowd is announced at just over 4,000.
DECEMBER 4--The Cajuns accept an invitation to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Southern Mississippi is announced as the opponent.
In the future, there may be better seasons. There may be worse. But there probably won't be another one like this one.