How the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns offense got their act together in a win over Ohio

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns got everything it wanted from its offense Thursday, and then some.

UL put up 565 yards of total offense, including 310 yards rushing, in a 49-14 win over winless Ohio of the Mid-American Conference.

UL’s three top running backs – Chris Smith, Emani Bailey and freshman Montrell Johnson Jr. – had at least 11 rushes each and averaged 6.2 yards per carry.

Bailey had a team-high 89 yards rushing for UL (2-1) and averaged 8.1 yards on 11 carries.  Johnson, who finished with 83 yards on 13 carries, had four touchdowns: a 6-yard run and three 1-yard runs.

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“Montrell, like I told you guys in training camp, was a bright spot. We’ve been seeing that for a long time now,” UL coach Billy Napier said. “So it was good to see that. I thought all three backs were very effective and went about it the right way.

“Chris (Smith) was really good early, close to breaking a few. And I thought Emani (Bailey) was exceptional throughout the night. ... We’re a three-back team and we’ve got a lot of confidence in all three of those players.”

Ragin' Cajuns running back Montrell Johnson stretches for a touchdown on the final play of the first half of UL's win over Ohio on Thursday night at Cajun Field.

UL offense clicks

Thirteen Cajuns caught at least one pass. John Stephens Jr. had two touchdown receptions, including one in the final minute from backup quarterback Chandler Fields, and starting QB Levi Lewis finished 21 of 29 for 214 yards.

Stephens, Kaleb Carter, Dontae Fleming and Jalen Williams had three catches each, showcasing the depth of the Cajuns' receiving corps.

UL’s 33 first downs were its most against an FBS opponent since the 2018 blowout win over New Mexico State.

“When we play as one, and we’re all doing our jobs, our assignments, we’re dangerous,” Bailey said. “The other team will keep going crazy.”

'Scared money don't make money'

But what perhaps was most uplifting for UL players was the aggressive play-calling from Napier, who told an ESPN reporter, “Scared money don’t make money, ”after going for a touchdown rather than a field goal on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line just halftime

Johnson took a pitch from Lewis on the TD try, got spun around and stretched the ball toward the end zone for a score that stood up under video review.

The Cajuns were 3-for-3 on fourth downs.

“I love it. I love it,” linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill said. “Let’s go for it? What have we got to lose? Let’s go, you know?”

UL’s defense, which only allowed Ohio to convert 3 of 11 third-down attempts, feeds off the approach.

“We’ve got (Napier’s) back. We’ve got the offense’s back,” McCaskill said. “So, we love it. We love it. Let’s go score. Let’s go do something. There’s no reason to play timid.”

Cajuns played with pride

UL, which opens Sun Belt Conference play Sept. 25 at Georgia Southern, is now 7 of 8 on fourth down this season.

“Certainly we coached much better in the game,” said Napier, whose Cajuns opened their season with a loss at Texas and narrow win over FCS member Nicholls. “More importantly, I thought our players played with a certain level of pride.

“You know, we had been embarrassed to be quite honest about it. I knew last week when we were on to something when we stood in the locker room after a win and nobody was really pleased with the way we won, and I think that’s a good thing.

“That was more like what we expect,” Napier added. “The term that I heard was, ‘Hey, that (wasn't) Ragin’ Cajuns football.’ ”