Following Louisiana’s shocking loss at the hands of Rice this past Saturday, junior starting running back Chris Smith had a message for the victors.
“Thank you, Rice,” Smith tweeted in the hours after the 33-21 loss for the Ragin Cajuns (2-1).
It marked the first loss by UL in more than a calendar year, the 2021 season opener at Texas, snapping a 15-game winning streak, which was longest in the nation.
“For me, it was a wakeup call for us. Everybody’s been thinking about last year’s team, that streak we had. That’s not this year’s team,” Smith said Wednesday. “This year’s team is what we got to do this year to win a Sun Belt championship, what we got to do to win a bowl game.”
Since UL’s loss at Rice, Smith and other players have echoed that how the game went down hurt. Louisiana coach Michael Desormeaux took the blame for the loss, saying he needed to do a better job of getting his team prepared.
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What has been more important for the team to grasp, Desormeaux has said, was not to let “one loss become two losses.”
“It’s about getting back on track,” Smith added. “That loss, it hurts us. We want to win all of them, but apparently you can’t win all of them. The loss is going to make us realize that we got to go out there and play each week and we can’ t take any opponent lightly.
“We have to bring the energy as a team. We have to stay up, start fast and end strong.”
Smith said he felt it was important for players to let themselves feel the hurt, a feeling that the Cajuns haven’t felt in some time.
“I haven’t been that emotional since my senior year in high school losing a state championship. So for me, that was like losing a state championship game,” he said. “We wanted to win all of them. You lose that game and now you’re wondering what bowl game we’re going to get. How are we going to finish the season? It’s either going to be a negative for us or we’ re going to turn it into a positive.
“Now, we have to let that go. We lost. It’s time to move on. We got (Louisiana-Monroe). They’re going to us their best. The way we respond is going to depend on us.”
UL doesn’t have much time to sulk as a road trip to Monroe to open Sun Belt play against the Warhawks (1-2). West Division winners the last three season, the Cajuns put a premium on divisional games, Desormeaux and his players said this week.
The Cajuns have won four straight over ULM but six of the last eight games in the Battle on the Bayou series have been decided by seven points or less. Louisiana being completely focused will be critical.
“This game is hugely important,” Desormeaux said.
Cory Diaz covers the LSU Tigers and Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns for The Daily Advertiser as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his Tigers and Cajuns coverage on Twitter: @ByCoryDiaz. Got questions regarding LSU/UL athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at email@example.com.