Cajuns get chance to develop in crushing defeat of Texas Southern

NIck Fontenot
Special to the Advertiser

There was 1:42 off the clock in the first quarter when UL scored its first touchdown Saturday night against Texas Southern.

Scoring quickly — and easily — then became the theme of the game. In fact, the Ragin’ Cajuns scored so much, and so frequently, that the second half was reduced to 10-minute quarters after a mutual agreement between Cajuns coach Billy Napier and Texas Southern coach Clarence McKinney.

Napier was resting his starters before halftime in the 77-6 shellacking of Texas Southern — a new school record for margin of victory. The 77 points scored was also a new Cajuns record for points scored in a single game (not counting a 1918 game against Patterson — whoever that is).

The decision to move the second half to 10-minute quarters is unusual and also not something Napier had much to say about.

More:How do college football games switch to 10-minute quarters?

“That was an agreement between (McKinney) and I, and we’ll leave it at that,” Napier said. “I think it was what we needed to do for their team and our team, truth be told. But I don't really want to talk about that.”

Fair. Especially considering, there’s a lot to talk about in a record-setting performance for the Cajuns.

The stats are impressive: 748 total yards, 440 of those on the ground. Every running back on the roster scored a touchdown except for T.J. Wisham, who was the only running back on the roster to rush for more than 100 yards. 

The Cajuns scored 11 touchdowns on 13 possessions; the only two possessions not to end in touchdowns were the end of the half and the end of the game. Quarterback Levi Lewis had to go back to his junior year in high school to remember a game where every drive for his team resulted in a touchdown.

Buckley's Breakdown:UL blows away Texas Southern with record-breaking scoring

Napier said he challenged the team to start fast and leave no doubt on what the outcome would be. It’s safe to say the Cajuns accepted his challenge.

“We thought we hadn't played to our potential the first two weeks,” Napier said. “We wanted to play a much cleaner game. That was the message the entire week and I think we did that tonight.”

UL running back Raymond Calais (4) scores a touchdown as the Ragin' Cajuns take on Texas Southern Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019.

Four Cajuns scored their first career touchdowns Saturday night. Peter LeBlanc scored on his only reception of the night, a 53-yard catch and run that he housed. The other three — Ashton Johnson, Michael Orphey and Chris Smith — are all part of a running back room that Elijah Mitchell, Raymond Calais and Trey Ragas have been talking about anytime someone asks them.

“It was awesome to see those guys play tonight,” Mitchell said. “We are really proud of them. They work very hard in practice and we see them every day and we’re like, ‘man, they are really nice.’ It makes me smile to know if one of us goes down, we have guys behind us that will step up.”

More:Ragin' Cajuns' backfield loaded with talent

Napier said that was his biggest takeaway from the game as well as the Cajuns continue to build depth and build confidence in guys who may not get to see the field as much Napier and the coaching staff would like. 

“It was exciting to see some of the guys play that don't get a chance to play week in and week out,” Napier said. “We have so many people on our team with a unique role and they bust their tail every week to get the team ready.

“Those guys got significant playing time in the second half. The intention was to play a lot of guys that we need to develop. We want them to have tape we can teach off of and we want them to develop confidence and settle down when they get in there. There’s no question those guys have talent; we just need to get them a little more comfortable out there.”

The guys do play every week did their part early. Lewis was pulled in the second quarter, but before that, he was 10-of-13 for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Saturday marked the first time that the three-headed monster of Calais, Mitchell and Ragas each had multiple touchdowns in the same game.

The stats and records can go on for days, but Napier — as expected — wasn't much interested in talking about records. Sure, he was excited, but he said seeing the Cajuns' depth continue to develop is the biggest takeaway from a game that wasn’t all that competitive.

“It’s all great, you know,” he said. “That’s all good, but I’m more interested in the relationships we are building in that locker room. I thought we did the basic things well and we played fundamentally. We executed the plan and we let a lot of young men run out there tonight and perform in front of the home crowd. I hope we get more opportunities to do that.”