UL linebacker on Arkansas State: 'They are a team that definitely likes to talk trash'

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Here's what to watch when UL plays host to Arkansas State on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPNU) …

All the yapping

See how much yapping there is between two teams whose lengthy series has a history of tension and chippy play the past decade, including a 2014 game that resulted in two ejections and two reprimands for Arkansas State players and reprimands for one UL player and two staff members.

Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier this week called said Arkansas State is “a rival for our institution and team and university, and we certainly understand that.”

“It’s been a tough rivalry for the entire time I’ve been here,” said sixth-year senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner, who transferred to UL in 2017. “We don’t like them; they don’t like us, and it’s put the ball down and go get it, see who wants it more.”

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Gardner was asked if it’s hard to adhere to Napier’s standing no-yap edict.

“Sometimes it is tough,” he said, “because they are a team that definitely likes to talk trash.

“So we’ve just got to work on keeping our composure, working with each other, not really worrying about what they’re talking about – because they’re just trying to get in your head, at the end of the day, and throw you off. We’ve just got to hold each other accountable, play for each other, play with each other, and we’ll be fine.”

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Bonner and Hatcher two good ones

Arkansas State has two legit quarterbacks in Logan Bonner, who suffered a season-ending injury after starting last season’s first four games, and Layne Hatcher, an ex-Alabama redshirt who won Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year honors after taking over when Bonner went down.

Hatcher has thrown for 1,240 yards on 134 attempts this season; Bonner, 1,160 on 173. Each has 11 touchdown throws.

“They’re very similar players. I think that’s why they both play,” Napier said. “I think they’ve both got arm talent, they both are experienced, they both are accurate, they have both have a good understanding of their system and they do a good job of taking what the defense gives them and spreading the ball around.

“They both give their playmakers an opportunity to make plays with their decision-making. There’s no doubt both of these guys move their offense.”

Rather than focus on who’s in the game, Gardner said the Cajuns will “just lock in on their system.”

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UL linebacker Ferrod Gardner (7) hauls down Appalachian State quarterback Ferrod Gardner during the 2019 Sun Belt championship game.

Three talented receivers

The Red Wolves have three talented receivers in Jonathan Adams Jr. (52 catches, 737 yards, 8 touchdowns), Dahu Green (32, 542, 5) and Brandon Bowling (29, 336, 4).

“I think it really comes down to defending the vertical part of the field against these elite receivers they have – and a couple really good quarterbacks,” Napier said.

“They’re gonna take their shots – and I think it makes sense for them to do that. … There’s no question that that’s gonna be a big part of the chess match in terms of mixing it up.”

Peter LeBlanc finding his rhythm

The Cajuns hope to get one of their top receivers, Peter LeBlanc, going after several weeks spent playing while hampered by injury.

His 16 catches are a team high.

“I think he’s getting in a little bit of a rhythm,” Napier said.

“Pete has a lot of experience. He’s a savvy competitor. No moment is too big for him. … So, we’re excited that Pete’s getting healthy. … I’m looking forward to him continuing to impact the game and be more productive as we go forward.”

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Levi Lewis movin’ on up

Quarterback Levi Lewis continues working his way up UL’s career leaders list.

Throwing for a season-high 332 yards at Texas State last week, Lewis passed Jon Van Cleave (5,267) for fifth place and now needs 152 to pass fourth-place NFL veteran Brian Mitchell (5,447).

With two touchdown throws against Texas State, he needs five more to tie Terrance Broadway (49) for second behind longtime NFL QB Jake Delhomme (64).