Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football at South Alabama Jaguars: Scouting report, prediction
South Alabama, coming off an open week, has wins over Southern Miss, Bowling Green and Alcorn State.
UL has been slow to get going, amplified by a scoreless first quarter against Georgia Southern. The Cajuns are averaging just 5.0 points per opening period.
Levi Lewis aired it out on touchdown passes 48 yards to Michael Jefferson in the second quarter and 46 to Dontae Fleming in the third, and hit tight end Johnny Lumpkin over the middle after halftime.
But UL coach Billy Napier said Lewis “started slow” and “there’s probably six or eight simple plays that if he makes those, man, he really lights it up.”
Levi Lewis through the air
Lewis needs three touchdown throws to tie the school career record of 64, set by Jake Delhomme from 1993-96.
The fifth-year senior has at least 200 passing yards in all four games. He’s now 12-3 all-time when throwing for 200-plus.
Chris Smith on the ground
The Cajuns need to get starting running back Chris Smith going too.
Smith is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, down from 10.4 under a much lighter workload in 2019 and 5.6 last season. He did break off a 27-yard run in a season-opening loss at Texas, but hasn’t sprung one for more than 14 yards since.
Smith is averaging 10.8 carries per game and freshman Montrell Johnson Jr. at 10.3.
Napier believes better blocking on the interior and on the edge from receivers could help Smith more than fewer carries. So too could better footwork, eye discipline and decisiveness out of the backfield, not to mention better run-pass option decision-making from Lewis.
Converting on third down continues to prove problematic for UL, which is now 18-of-53 (34%) – 103rd-worst among 130 FBS teams nationally.
Against Georgia Southern the Cajuns were just 3-of-14 (21.4%) on third down and 0 for 1 on fourth.
Some of the throws Lewis missed played a part. But Napier knows his own play-calling can improve, particularly in two-down situations.
South Alabama’s offense
First-year Jaguars coach Kane Wommack is a former Indiana and South Alabama defensive coordinator. His offensive coordinator is former Houston coach Major Applewhite, who airs it out behind a transfer quarterback and one of the conference’s top receivers.
Jake Bentley, a pocket passer, is a former starter at Utah, where he spent last season, and South Carolina, where he threw for 3,171 yards in 2018 and 2,794 in 2017.
Bentley beat out former starter Desmond Trotter, who is now the backup. Bentley’s top target is first team All-Sun Belt pick Jalen Tolbert, a big-play threat averaging 22.6 yards on 14 catches. Caullin Lacy also has 14 receptions.
Mississippi State transfer Kareem Walker shares carries with returnee Terrion Avery, but neither is averaging more than 4 yards per rush.
UL 28, South Alabama 25: Until the Cajuns can prove they’re back on track compared to a season ago, their ability to blow out Sun Belt opponents is a question mark, even with their 12-1 record in regular-season conference road games in the past three seasons. Carrying the confidence of its own three-game win streak, South Alabama could give UL a tough time.