Mitchell leaves no doubt in UL OT win at Georgia State
If there was any temptation to wonder what’s wrong with UL running back Elijah Mitchell, as there might have been at halftime of the No. 21/19 Ragin’ Cajuns’ 34-31 overtime win at Georgia State on Saturday, it’s time to stop.
Mitchell, held to 46 yards on eight carries in UL’s upset win at then-No. 25 Iowa State in the season opener, had just 18 yards on six runs after two quarters Saturday.
But he finished with 164 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, including the game-winner on a 12-yard run on the first and series of OT.
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Mitchell also had two 50-plus-yard runs in the second half, one of them a 59-yard TD.
“We put it in a play that it was gonna come sooner or later, so the time came where we made adjustments and stuff,” Mitchell said, “and it started happening in the second half.”
“Offensive line, they really stepped it up in the second half, and we made it happen.”
Much of the postgame talk from UL really was as much about the offensive line as it was about Mitchell.
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“I just want to commend the o-line,” Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis said. “The o-line had a great game, and Eli, he just capped it off.
“He capitalized on people’s mistakes. You make the wrong move on him, it’s gonna be bad. Eli is real athletic – agile, and hard to get down.”
Mitchell got banged up when he was hit hard late in the win at Iowa State, but two days later UL coach Billy Napier said the senior from Erath High would be good to go in Atlanta.
Mitchell proved him right, especially after the break.
And he got great blocking on each of his key runs, including a big one from right tackle Max Mitchell on the game-winner.
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“I thought his performance has a lot to do with the players around him,” Napier said. “You know, we weren’t quite clean in the first half. We felt we put some things together in the second half. And then there were some plays out there where he got a lot of yards on his own.
“I think what we’ve got to realize,” Napier added, “is to play good on offense you’ve got to have unbelievable precision and detail, and you’ve got to have 11 players execute, and we did that at times.”
Mitchell said he had no doubt he’d be able to go this week, and after he enjoyed his second half it is little wonder why.
“I was confident. I get banged up a lot. It happens.” Mitchell said. “But, no, I wasn’t really worried about it.”
It sure did not look like it.
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Napier, in fact, gave every handoff in OT to Mitchell, and he responded with runs of 6, 4, 3 and – after one got called back by a Georgia State timeout – 12 yards.
“I think numbers told us to be really aggressive in overtime,” Napier said. “In my mind, I was in four-down mode for the entirety of the possession.
“We just blocked them better. I mean, it’s not complicated here. We didn’t block them as good the first half; we blocked them better in the second half and Coach Sale (Rob Sale, UL’s offensive line coach and offensive coordinator) and his group did a good job at halftime.
“And I think we picked from some better stuff,” added Napier, who calls plays. “Sometimes as a play-caller and a coach you’ve got to put your guys in a better position. So, it’s a combination of everything. We can coach better and, you know, I think at times we can play better.”
That, though, is a matter for down the road, including UL’s home opener Saturday against Georgia Southern.
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At Georgia State, all that mattered was what happened there, especially at the end, especially what Mitchell was able to do.
And perhaps no one was happier to see what did happen than cornerback Mekhi Garner and other members of the Cajun defense, who came up with some key turnovers, a late fourth-down stop on regulation and an OT that included on a Panthers field goal
“Oh, man, it was unbelievable,” Garner, who contributed an interception, said when asked about watching Mitchell score. “I was like, ‘We just got out here by the grace of God.’ … It was a good feeling. Everybody was jumping around. I’m shocked. I’m just looking around like, ‘Did this just happen?’”
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