Cajuns show 'undeniable level of commitment,' but can't slow down now, Napier says
It’s difficult to find any glaring mistakes in UL’s 53-3 win over Troy on Saturday night.
The Cajuns offense exploded for 598 yards of total offense while the defense held a Trojans team that was averaging 39 points per game to their lowest scoring output of the season.
Even Stevie Artigue, who has had his share of struggles this season, was a perfect 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts, with two coming from beyond 40 yards.
“That’s as complete as it gets,” said UL coach Billy Napier. “We talked before the game and challenged the team to have an undeniable level of commitment. Every player, every position group, every unit going about their business the right way. We had a good plan and they executed it.”
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The Cajuns clinched the Sun Belt Western Division on Saturday with ease — a lot easier than Napier said he anticipated. Napier said the fact that Troy beat the Cajuns last season, along with Troy’s impressive resume over the last couple of seasons, forces UL to respect the Trojans.
“Troy is a team with a win over Nebraska last year and LSU two years ago,” Napier said. “They’re an accomplished team. Our team respects Troy because we got beat by Troy last year.”
The Cajuns punched their ticket to the Sun Belt Conference Championship game for the second year in a row and will face Appalachian State again. The game’s site is not determined, however.
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Next week’s games will determine that, with App State on the road against Troy on Friday and UL hosting UL Monroe at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Napier’s challenge now will be to move forward after a seemingly perfect performance against Troy. Napier said they’ll enjoy the accomplishment of winning the West, but they won’t be enjoying it too long.
“Today’s result was a product of all the work we've done from the very beginning,” Napier said. “It doesn't just happen overnight. You have to do it every single day. I think we are doing that right now and I think that’s why we are having some success.
“It was hard to find a hole (in the Cajuns' gameplay) tonight, but that ain’t gonna be the case next week. Next week is going to be about what we do starting tomorrow when we start working on ULM. We need to go about our work the right way between now and next Saturday.”
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Napier said he plans to remind his team of exactly what transpired recently after a seemingly perfect performance against Coastal Carolina: After the Cajuns won 48-7, they came out a bit flat the following week against South Alabama and escaped Mobile with a 37-27 win. Napier said this week’s preparation for ULM allows the Cajuns a chance to be different.
“We learned some lessons last week at South,” Napier said. “We weren't quite ready to go last week. We didn’t have as much intensity and sense of urgency last week. It was a great opportunity to remember what got us here.”
It’s a different set of challenges than the Cajuns faced all of last season when they were the underdog, the unknown emerging power. Now, they’re getting praise and pats on the back. .
“It’s been awhile since I won 53-3,” Napier said. “It’s a new set of problems. At this point last year, we were the underdogs and it was different things motivating us. Now we have controlled the West for the last five weeks and we’ve had some success. ... Now you have an opportunity to play to a standard and not necessarily to emotions. ... We just need to stay humble and remember what got us here.”