How Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football plans to turn the page after loss to Texas

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

AUSTIN, Texas – UL football is putting squandered opportunity in the rearview mirror.

That was the attitude of the Ragin’ Cajuns after they fell 38-18 Saturday at Texas, a loss sending them home to Louisiana with lots to clean up and one likely to cost them their No. 23 ranking in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll.

“You could see everybody was upset with how the game ended,” said kicker Kenneth Almendares, who made first-half field goals from 37 and 48 yards but missed one with just less than six minutes left in the third quarter that would have pulled UL to within eight points.

“But what everybody kept saying in the locker room was, ‘Next game coming up. Next game. Home opener. Next game.’ ”

Before UL plays host to Nicholls next Saturday  at Cajun Field, however, there is plenty to polish after it breaks down all that went wrong in the last game.

What didn't work for UL

The Cajuns were just 4-of-13 on third-down conversion attempts, for starters – a far-too-low 30.8% compared to 53.3 for Texas.

No UL running back had more than the 55 rushing yards Chris Smith produced on 11 carries.

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Quarterback Levi Lewis threw for 282 yards and a touchdown, finding Jalen Williams and Errol Rogers Jr. five times each, but the third-year starter seemed to have trouble getting into a rhythm.

“We did some good things,” UL coach Billy Napier said, “but I also thought there were some opportunities we missed, just to be blunt.

“We had our chances. We definitely had our chances.”

UL QB Levi Lewis looks to throw during Saturday's 38-18 loss to Texas in Austin.

It ultimately boils down to execution, especially when it comes to the receivers helping out the offense.

“We have to do a better job getting open … to help the line out so they don’t to hold guys while we get open,” Williams said.

Defensively the Cajuns had all sorts of issues preventing Texas quarterback Hudson Card, who threw for 224 yards and two TDs, from using his feet to keep plays alive.

They had issues covering the middle of the field on passing downs, and issues covering running backs – especially Bijan Robinson, who had four receptions to go with his 103 rushing yards – on pass patterns out of the backfield.

But Napier did feel like the Cajuns were in the right calls defensively for much of the day.

“It comes down to communication, execution, then at times I think we could have tackled better, played better in space,” Napier said. “I thought we had them bottled up quite a bit throughout the day, and just that little extra there by their skills players (was costly).”

This late Chris Smith touchdown runs was one of the few bright spots for UL in Saturday's loss at Texas.

Turning the page

It’s on that note the Cajuns move on to back-to-back non-conference games – first Nicholls of the Southland Conference, then Ohio of the MAC five nights later at Cajun Field – before opening Sun Belt Conference play at Georgia Southern.

“No need to hit the panic button here,” Napier said.

“We’ve got good some players out there with well-designed concepts, and they made plays when given opportunities. But our players at times can do things better, and certainly we can coach better at the same time.”

The next several days for the Cajuns, then, really will be more about preparing for the Colonels than it will be stewing over what could have been against the Longhorns.

Because as much as UL wanted to make it back-to-back upset victories over nationally ranked opponents to start a season – they won at Iowa State last year – that chance is gone.

“It’s over now,” Williams said. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”