Cajuns' blowout may lead to more playing time for emerging players

Nick Fontenot
Special to the Advertiser

The 77-6 final score Saturday would certainly suggest it was a good day for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

But the good day UL coach Billy Napier referred to Monday had little to do with the final score against Texas Southern and more to do with players executing a game plan that he and his coaching staff implemented without too many blunders.

“It’s easy to look over an opponent who is an FCS team and Vegas has you as a 47-point favorite and all that,” Napier said. “For our staff to have our team in the right frame of mind and for us to start fast and play sound in all three phases and get the game under control, it was a good day.”

More:Was it fair to shorten Cajuns win over Texas Southern?

Napier said he experienced the most gratification as a coach he has in a long time by being afforded the ability to play countless young players and develop even more depth in key positions on the field. There are several guys who played Saturday that Napier said caught the coaches’ eyes and may see more significant playing time than originally planned.

Louisiana Ragin Cajuns take on Texas Southern. Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019.

“Andrew Jones was voted player of the week,” Napier said. “I think you see Kendall Wilkerson emerging. AJ Washington and a few young cornerbacks played well. Some of those young receivers are taking steps forward.

“To see those guys that are on the look squad get an opportunity to play in front of their family and friends was good to see, and our players were happy for them. We played a lot of players, and all that experience is going to help the team and them individually as we go on this season.”

More:Cajuns get chance to develop in crushing defeat of Texas Southern

As far as injuries, the wide receiver position is the one spot Napier said has had the biggest mixup as far as where they thought they would be versus where they are. Napier said guys like Peter LeBlanc, who had a 53-yard touchdown catch Saturday, have stepped up and filled in admirably.

“Our situation at wide receiver has created opportunities for guys like Peter LeBlanc to step up and he's doing a great job,” Napier said.

“As we get healthier, there will be more stability there. We have several playmakers in Bam (Jackson), Ja’Marcus (Bradley) and Jalen Williams that have a lot of versatility. We have good players in that room and certainly feel good about those guys as we continue to get healthy over the next few weeks.”

More:Former Cajuns pitching coach, player, UL Hall of Famer Gene Bacque dies

The Cajuns now turn their attention to Ohio and quarterback Nathan Rourke, who is completing 62% of his passes this season and presents the toughest test the Cajuns have seen yet.

Napier said the defense continues to evolve and as it does, the Cajuns offense evolves. Napier said the fundamental improvements they have made should have them in position to play well against the Bobcats.

“We’re mixing it up schematically, we’re covering better and defending runs better,” Napier said. “As we get more and more stops and get off the field on third down, we can play more tempo on offense. We can take advantage of ramping up the play count a bit. Depth helps you do that and getting off the field on third down helps you do that. We are playing better as a team right now.”