U-La-La: Ragin' Cajuns back at South Carolina

Updated: August 29, 2003, 6:46 AM ET

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Lou Holtz isn't taking Louisiana-Lafayette lightly. And that's a good thing considering the school's last high-profile encounter with the Gamecocks.

It won't take much prodding to remind most of the 80,000 plus people expected at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night the last time they heard "U-La-La" cheers ringing out -- the NCAA Super Regional baseball tournament in 2000.

The Ragin' Cajuns were matched against South Carolina at Sarge Frye Field with a trip to the College World Series up for grabs. And after Gamecocks star Kip Bouknight staked his team to one-game lead in the best-of-3 series, Louisiana-Lafayette pulled off the unbelievable -- at least for South Carolina fans -- and eliminated the NCAA's top-seeded team.

Ragin' Cajuns baseball coach Tony Robicheaux hasn't been asked to fire up his school's football team. But he thinks coach Ricky Bustle "might draw back somewhere on us going up there and knocking off the No. 1 seed," Robicheaux said. "That sometimes you do have an opportunity to go on the road and do something great."

And it certainly would be something special. Louisiana-Lafayette was 3-9 last year in Bustle's first season. The Ragin' Cajuns are 0-45 all-time in games against Southeastern Conference schools.

Still, "there are more upsets that occur on the first week of the season than maybe the rest of the year combined," says Holtz, in full worry mode.

Holtz and the Gamecocks are eager to put the five-game season-ending losing streak behind. The slide left them 5-7 and ended what looked a sure third straight bowl season -- something that's never happened in school history.

"We put those memories behind us last year," South Carolina safety Rod Wilson says. "We're ready to improve."

To do that, the Gamecocks will have to overcome inexperience at quarterback and running back, a new defensive scheme and injuries to two expected starters at linebacker.

They'll also be without kicker Daniel Weaver and receivers Chavez Donnings and Matthew Thomas -- all potential starters. Weaver is being held out because of a pending eligibility issue. Donnings will sit for two games because of NCAA self-report from a year ago. Thomas skipped some summer school classes.

"I want to tell you right now, we haven't beaten anybody and I don't know if we can," Holtz said.

Dondrial Pinkins started the final two losses from last season and returns as the South Carolina's quarterback. He says that experience along with an offseason knowing he was No. 1 helped him prepare for this week.

Sophomores Kenny Irons and Daccus Turman, along with freshmen Demetris Summers and Cory Boyd will have to lead a backfield that lost three key starters over the past two seasons.

On defense, the Gamecocks installed a four-man front to replace the 3-3-5 scheme of the past four seasons. The transition has been rocky at times this fall. Injuries haven't helped.

Linebacker Lance Laury, the top returning tackler, is bothered with a bum knee that required two surgeries since last fall. Linebacker Ricardo Hurley, a sophomore and the Gamecocks top recruiting prize in 2002, suffered a high ankle sprain in a scrimmage earlier this month and isn't expected to play.

Bustle was South Carolina's offensive coordinator under coach Brad Scott in 1994 before taking a similar job for at Virginia Tech for seven seasons. He's accustomed to road success, even if his team isn't.

"It's a game your players look forward to all year," Bustle said. "They're ready to play."

Just like the baseball Cajuns were three years ago.

Robicheaux knows it'll be difficult. One hanging curve thrown at a bad time can change a whole ball game, he says. "That six-eight guys who's beating on you in the first quarter, you want him to shrink, but he's still going to be beating you in the fourth quarter," Robicheaux says. "Every once in a while, though, it can happen."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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