Napier proud of Cajuns for finding way to win emotional rivalry game
ULM’s Jared Porter had a chance to end the Ragin’ Cajuns party.
After Stevie Artigue nailed a 27-yard field goal with 1:21 to play in the game, UL found itself up 31-30 and one defensive stop away from a 10-win season.
But the Warhawks didn’t go down easily. ULM quarterback Caleb Evans threw for 330 yards on the night with two touchdownsm and he drove the Warhawks down the field. He used the sideline to perfection, converted a fourth down along the way and, with 6 seconds remaining, put them in position for a game-winning field goal.
Porter, who missed a PAT earlier in the game, lined up for a potential game-winning 35-yard field goal. Cajuns coach Billy Napier iced Porter with back-to-back timeouts and when Porter finally got the chance, he missed the kick wide right, giving the Cajuns their first 10-win season in school history.
“I was more nervous for (Porter) than I was for me,” said Artigue, who admitted he normally roots for the opposing kicker.
“I usually hate to see them in that position, but we really needed him to miss that kick.”
It was the second year in a row the Cajuns beat the Warhawks on a missed field goal. Last year, ULM’s Craig Ford missed a 39-yard field goal and the Cajuns won as time expired.
“There were so many things that were unusual, but it came down to the last play two years in a row,” Napier said.
“I think there is something to be said about finding a way to win a rivalry game. We had a backed up possession where we went 99 yards and scored a touchdown. We had to go for it on fourth down and we got it. In football, they aren't all going to be 53-3. There’s going to be nights like tonight.”
Napier said the day was emotional for the team — especially the 18 seniors, who Napier said have all been a big part of what the Cajuns are building.
“I am happy for everyone involved with our team that we won that game tonight,” Napier said. “It was these seniors' last opportunity to play here and the last chance to make a statement. They’re a talented group, but more than that, they’re a good group of men. They’re made of the right stuff, they’re great leaders and they have been at the heart of what we are trying to do here.”
Napier said he sought out Evans, who Napier called a great competitor. Evans rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on the night and Napier said his running ability is under-publicized.
“He has arm talent and he extends plays,” Napier said. “He was on tonight and he made a ton of plays. He can pull the ball down and take off and before you know it, he has 25 yards on the ground. He is a tremendous athlete.”
With Appalachian State’s win over Troy on Friday night, the Cajuns now plan to travel to Boone, North Carolina, and face the Mountaineers in the Sun Belt Conference Championship game Saturday. Much has been made about the Cajuns never beating App State, including a loss earlier this year and a loss in last year’s Sun Belt Championship game.
Napier said the team will enjoy the 10-win achievement and enjoy the win over ULM, but the work to take care of App State will begin Sunday.
“This is a significant accomplishment for this team,” Napier said. “They’ll be able to say they were part of a 10-win season for the rest of their lives. We’ll enjoy this win, but we are going to roll up the sleeves and get back to work.”