How sore subject of Coastal Carolina, Sun Belt game still stings Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

After time spent stewing over what happened between UL and Coastal Carolina in December, the Ragin’ Cajuns are trying to move on.

But they haven’t forgotten.

The Cajuns and Chanticleers were to have met in the Sun Belt Conference championship game, but it was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Coastal program.

Coastal Carolina was 11-0 at the time. UL was 9-1 with only a regular-season loss to the Chanticleers.

“After the game got canceled we were devastated for a couple of days,” defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill said Thursday at Sun Belt Media Day in New Orleans.

“But … we realized you can’t go back and change the past. It’s on to the next game, the next opportunity, the next workout.”

UL offensive lineman Max Mitchell suggested the cancellation still stings.

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So too does the fact UL and Coastal won’t meet in the 2021 regular season. The Cajuns’ hope now is that both reach the title game again.

“We went into the summer workouts with a chip on our shoulder,” Hill said, “and that’s how it’s been ever since.”

“When that schedule came out we definitely were a little disappointed we wouldn’t get to see them until December, if that happens,” Mitchell added. “You’ve got to move on. But it hurts. You want to have another shot at it as soon as you can have it. I guess that motivates us to work harder during the season to get there. At least me.”

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'It just hurt' when title game canceled 

UL coach Billy Napier informed players the game wouldn’t be played after they already had flown to South Carolina, where Coastal was scheduled to host.

“When I first got that call to come to the team meeting I knew something was up,” receiver Kyren Lacy said.

The reaction?

“ ‘Wow, we done did all this hard work and we can’t even compete for the championship,’ ” Lacy said during spring practice. “It just hurt. It hit everyone very hard.”

And when the Sun Belt’s 2021 schedule was released, it was like a band-aid had been ripped off.

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“It sucks,” offensive lineman Ken Marks said.

“But we had the opportunity to beat them earlier in the (2020) season, and we had mistakes in the game that led to us ultimately losing.

“So, we have to take that one to the chin … and hope we can meet them again in the championship.”

Coastal used a late field goal to beat UL 30-27 on Oct. 14 at Cajun Field. The Cajuns were nationally ranked at the time. 

“All you do is think about it’s really our fault that the season went like that,” safety Percy Butler said.

“All we think about is losing that game by 3. So every time we don’t feel like going, or people are slacking or something, that’s what we say: ‘Remember that Coastal game. We don’t want to feel like that no more.’ ”

Sore subject

The Chanticleers want another shot at the Sun Belt championship game, too.

The difference is they don’t care about the opponent.

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“We want to get back and play ‘whoever,’ ” coach Jamey Chadwell said Thursday. “I don’t know if we need any extra incentive for that.”

Chadwell did, however, indicate he understands UL’s disappointment.

He also didn’t dismiss the suggestion it could spark a rivalry between two programs separated by 921 miles.

“We obviously had the win in the regular season,” he said, “and they wanted to chance to avenge that, and it didn’t happen – I think that all built up into that. Not playing the regular season this year? That adds more to it, right?”

The subject, though, isn’t nearly as sore for the Chanticleers as the Cajuns.

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That created potential for awkwardness when representatives gathered for media opportunities and social interaction including New Orleans-style culinary instruction in which the players cooked gumbo, crawfish etouffee, barbeque shrimp and bread pudding.

According to Hill, the subject of the canceled championship game did arise. But no one stirred the pot too much.

“We’re cool,” Hill said. “We talked about it. It was in a joking manner.”