The hype and life of last year’s advanced season officially ended Saturday in Austin, Texas, for the UL Ragin ’Cajuns.
From start to finish last season, UL coach Billy Napier never felt comfortable running his team, despite finishing 10-1 and ranking No. 15 in the World Cup. final survey of the AP.
Saturday’s early 38-18 loss to Texas No. 19 didn’t end that.
“We also have a lot of work to do to improve in certain areas,” Napier said. “Some of that is us and some of us in Texas, like most weeks. It takes a long time to be solid and running. “
There wasn’t much of that on the corner of the Cajuns in this 2021 opener.
The number one concern after this first performance is that the passing game showed no progress.
A year ago, the story was a young, exhausted reception body, which was the reason, it made perfect sense.
This season, talent and depth improved dramatically. It’s time to start seeing progress in this area.
Napier now has two weeks to bolster that area before the Sun Belt Conference game begins.
Quarterback Levi Lewis’s figures didn’t look bad (28 of 40 that went through 282 yards and a score), but much of it was late and there was no pace in the passing game during the actual boxing match.
Senior receiver Jalen Williams said in the post-game zoom session the receivers weren’t just running. Whatever the reason, Lewis spent a lot of time in his pocket, unaware of the open receivers or seeing none.
“We did some good things, but I also think there were some opportunities we missed to be blunt,” Napier said.
This time, there was no magic.
The big question of the preseason was the running game. On paper, this area was certainly not overwhelming with 29 108-yard runs and a touchdown.
But the real freshman, Montrell Johnson, showed what made him all the fuss. He looked at the piece with six doors for 27 yards.
The inside of the offensive line got a boost in most races at the start.
“These guys were competitive (Saturday),” Napier said. “It simply came to our notice then. We had our chances.
“When young players have this opportunity, they may not understand what it takes to prepare or what the game will be like. Once they get outside and have some confidence, I think you will see that this ability will really be in the forefront.
The problem was that the attack didn’t own the ball and the defense didn’t do its part to stay off the field as it allowed Texas to convert seven of their first 11 third downs.
Before UL’s two-minute drive to finish the first half, Texas had 37 snapshots at just 19 for the Cajuns.
This is not a winning formula against a team as equal or more talented as you.
Elsewhere, it must have been a frustrating day for defensive coordinator Patrick Toney. Preach “connection points” constantly in your defense.
Basically, there are times in a game where it’s one-on-one situations for the unit to be successful.
His defense didn’t make many of those plays on Saturday. Last year in Iowa, the Cajun side tackled and were more physical, reducing the impact of the passing game.
On Saturday, in Texas, he showed superior sportsmanship and physicality.
Breece Hall, an Iowa State runner, had 20 runs for 106 yards and a touchdown last season. Texas star Bijan Robinson had 20 covers for 103 yards and a score.
AUSTIN, Texas – The 31-14 UL disorder in Iowa State last year was largely due to aggressive defense and elite special teams.
The problem was not hasty defense. The problem was that UL defenders just didn’t make individual plays in space.
“I’m sure Coach Toney will agree,” Napier said. “This is an area that cost us (Saturday).”
At first glance, Napier didn’t look as upset as he should have been with the special teams ’effort. The good news is that Kenny Almendares continues to show a strange consistency, which is probably the most important trend moving forward.
“Kenny has really arrived today and has done a couple of clutch strokes,” Napie said. “There’s no doubt that Kenny has really grown as a player … at first, that’s a big thing in my opinion, on the road against a tough team in a great place in a tough environment to get there first and make that field and then do another one just before half-time. “
But the coverage teams gave up three plays (one was recovered for a penalty), an extra point missed, the only throw-back did not reach 25, any potential momentum coming out of the break was quickly crushed pushing the ball out of bounds. and the stitch attempt failed and he drew a flag.
1. Special teams fought
“You don’t have to press the panic button here,” Napier said. “They had good players out there with well-designed concepts and they made plays when given the chance.
“Sometimes our players can do things better and we can certainly train better at the same time.”
The good news is that it’s a game and not even a conference game. Over time, a little cold water after a glorious low season could serve this veteran group well.
“Every part of our organization will learn from this experience,” Napier said. “We can never waste a failure. Certainly, today we have received rhythms, so we have to live and learn.
“Tell it the way we see it, tell the truth, have integrity, review the mistakes we made, both as players and as coaches, and move forward here and try to improve.”