Louisiana football goes to First Responder Bowl vs. UTSA feeling upset, offended
They are angry. They are offended.
But they’re going to a third straight bowl game, which is something all that’s happened in the last week-and-half cannot erase.
That’s reality for the Ragin’ Cajuns (9-1) as they prepare to play UTSA (7-4) on Saturday (2:30 p.m., ABC) in the First Responder Bowl at SMU’s Gerald R. Ford Stadium in Dallas.
The offense occurred when All-Sun Belt Conference honor teams were released earlier this week, leaving the Cajuns feeling snubbed.
The anger stems from the cancellation of last Saturday’s Sun Belt Conference championship game at Coastal Carolina due to COVID-19 issues in the Chanticleers’ program, denying UL a chance to avenge its only regular-season loss.
Those are two storylines among several of note when the Cajuns and Roadrunners of Conference USA.
It's all about Coastal Carolina
Sun Belt game canceled:Cajuns AD says people can draw their own conclusions
Denied a rematch with Coastal Carolina they desperately wanted, the Cajuns figure they can use their third bowl game under coach Billy Napier – they beat Miami (Ohio) in last season’s LendingTree Bowl and lost to Tulane in the 2018 Cure Bowl – to vent some frustration.
“It’s a huge opportunity to go out there and showcase our talent and let everybody else see who’s playing better ball when we put the ball down against UTSA and when Coastal puts the ball down against Liberty (in the Cure Bowl, which also is Saturday),” Cajuns center Shane Vallot said. “Then we’ll let the world see who is playing better ball and what would have happened.”
UL has won six straight since losing to Coastal on Oct. 14.
“I feel like after Coastal it made us realize how dangerous we could be if we put it all together,” Vallot said.
“Nobody knows what would have happened because the game wasn’t played, but we really think we would have had a dominancy over them.”
The Ragin' Cajuns are hurt
Coastal Carolina nearly swept the league’s major awards when the Sun Belt announced its postseason honors last Monday, winning the Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year (quarterback Grayson McCall), Defensive Player of the Year (defensive lineman Tarron Jackson), Newcomer of the Year (cornerback D’Jordan Strong) and Coach of the Year (Jamey Chadwell) categories.
Arkansas State receiver Jonathan Adams was named Offensive Player of the Year.
“It’s nothing new,” Vallot said. “Ever since I’ve been here, even before, we seem to not get too many all-conference selections in the first two rounds. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s a thing against us or what.”
UL quarterback Levi Lewis, running back Trey Ragas, offensive linemen O’Cyrus Torrence and Max Mitchell, defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill, safety Bralen Trahan and punter Rhys Byrns were named to the second team.
Linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill and safety Eric Garror made the third team and four Cajuns – linebacker Ferrod Gardner, nose guard Tayland Humphrey, cornerback Mekhi Garner and safety Percy Butler – received honorable mention.
“We’ve got guys who should have been on first team on honorable mention,” Vallot said.
“I’ll take ours over yours any day,” Cajuns defensive coordinator Patrick Toney wrote over a tweet about those getting honorable mention.
Asked if the snubs motivate the Cajuns, UL linebacker Joe Dillon was diplomatic.
“(They) do,” he said, “but you’ve got to love it at the end of the day.”
Patrick Toney has UTSA ties
Toney was among 56 nominees for the Broyles Award, which goes to college football’s top assistant coach.
UL’s safeties coach for three seasons, he was elevated to defensive coordinator when Ron Roberts took the same post at Baylor in January.
In 2016 and ’17, Toney coached safeties at UTSA.
Now he’s constructed a defense that’s produced 15 interceptions this season, it’s most since getting 16 in 2009 – which could force the Roadrunners to run even more than usual.
Roadrunner Sincere McCormick is C-USA rushing leader
The Roadrunners are led by running back Sincere McCormick, a sophomore who’s rushed 226 times for 1,368 yards — 134.5 yards per game — and 11 touchdowns.
The per-game average ranks fifth nationally and 23-plus more than anyone else in C-USA.
Dual-threat quarterback Frank Harris has rushed for 437 yards and eight touchdowns while throwing for 1,422 with 10 TDs and five interceptions.
There’s another UL, UTSA connection
UTSA is coached by Jeff Traylor, who after 15 seasons coaching at his old Texas high school – Gilmer – worked as an assistant coach at Texas (2015-16), SMU (2017) and Arkansas (2018-19).
“Coach Traylor and I go way back,” Napier said.
“I recruited his school when he was a high school coach and have tremendous respect for him as a person and a football coach.”