East Carolina-Louisiana-Lafayette Preview

A year after a thrilling win in New Orleans in its first bowl
game, Louisiana-Lafayette is heading back to the Big Easy.

The Ragin’ Cajuns face East Carolina in the New Orleans Bowl on
Saturday, a matchup of teams that are both looking for a fourth
straight victory to post a nine-win season.

Louisiana-Lafayette tied a school record with nine wins last
season, and a 32-30 victory over San Diego State at the Superdome
in this bowl game last Dec. 17 was one of its most exciting. After
giving up a touchdown with 35 seconds left, the Cajuns drove 49
yards on four plays to set up Brett Baer’s 50-yard field goal as
time expired.

Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) again has a chance at a ninth win
after earning three consecutive victories to end the regular
season. The Cajuns’ only loss in their final five contests was a
27-20 defeat at then-No. 7 Florida on Nov. 10, a game they led with
less than two minutes left only to lose on a touchdown off a
blocked punt with two seconds to play.

“It’s all about these young men and the hard work they’ve put
in,” second-year coach Mark Hudspeth said. “I couldn’t be more
proud of these guys. Our goal is to finish with a 9-4 record for
two straight seasons.”

They’ll have a different starting quarterback for this attempt.
Terrance Broadway, a sophomore who transferred from Houston, took
over after last year’s New Orleans Bowl most valuable player,
Blaine Gautier, broke his left hand in a win over Florida
International on Sept. 29.

Gautier returned for the final two games but only made brief
appearances off the bench. Broadway has 2,526 passing yards and 661
on the ground, leaving him 258 shy of surpassing Gautier’s school
record for total yards. Gautier’s single-season marks for total
touchdowns (26), completion percentage (62.8) and passing
efficiency (153.6) are also well within Broadway’s reach.

“Terrance is leading this team and he’s playing at a very high
level,” Hudspeth said.

Broadway and the Cajuns will next face an East Carolina team
that also ended the regular season with a three-game win
streak.

That run assured the Pirates (8-4) of returning to the
postseason after they finished 5-7 in 2011, ending a streak of five
straight years reaching a bowl game.

“All bowl games are exciting to me. Not going to one last year
really makes you even more excited,” third-year coach Ruffin
McNeill said. “We’re looking forward to going to New Orleans.”

Quarterback Shane Carden topped 300 yards in four of the final
six games and threw for a school-record 439 in a 65-59 overtime
victory over Marshall in the season finale Nov. 23.

“Last year, we had to go home and we were home for too long,”
said Carden, who made his first collegiate start Sept. 15. “We’re
really excited to go play against Louisiana-Lafayette.”

Carden’s top target is fellow sophomore Justin Hardy, who has 83
catches for 1,046 yards and 10 touchdowns. The first-team
all-Conference USA selection, who had a program-record 16
receptions against Marshall, needs 78 yards to surpass Dwayne
Harris’ single-season school mark from 2010.

Hardy and junior Vintavious Cooper gave the Pirates a 1,000-yard
receiver and rusher in the same season for the first time. Cooper,
the C-USA newcomer of the year, had 1,030 yards on 191 carries as
he switched to running back after playing quarterback for two years
at Southwest Mississippi Community College.

East Carolina, scheduled to join the Big East beginning in 2014,
is seeking to snap a three-game bowl losing streak. The Pirates are
5-7 all-time in bowl games with the most recent win coming on a
last-second field goal in the 2007 Hawaii Bowl against Boise
State.

Louisiana-Lafayette has won six of 10 all-time meetings with
East Carolina but lost 20-10 in the most recent matchup Sept. 22,
1990, when the school was known as Southwestern Louisiana.