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Football: Cajuns’ Chery gains SBC weekly honor for kick coverage

Receiver never touched ball, but covered well

Without so much as touching the football or seeing the field for a defensive snap, Jason Chery won one of the Sun Belt Conference’s weekly honors for the season’s first weekend.

Chery was named the league’s Special Teams Player of the Week for his kick coverage during UL’s 28-14 loss at South Carolina Saturday.

The Cajuns’ starting wide receiver made four kick-return tackles – every one that UL made in the game – against the Gamecocks.

"He likes doing that," said Cajun coach Rickey Bustle. "He likes getting downfield and making tackles. He’s a tough kid and he takes a lot of pride in that."

The award, voted upon by media covering the conference, is believed to be the first-ever Sun Belt honor that did not go to a kicker/punter or a return specialist since the league began football in 2001.

Chery only had one reception in the game for a lone yard (a 28-yard catch was called back on a penalty), but he made a bigger impact in the kicking game.

UL kicked off three times – twice after scores and the game-opening kickoff – and the Delray Beach, Fla., product made tackles on all three in helping hold USC to a 19.3 average on returns.

The Gamecocks only returned one of first-time freshman punter Spencer Ortego’s efforts, that one for only one yard before Chery made the stop. He was the closest man on another punt that was fair-caught.

"Spencer did a good job of directional kicking and got some good rolls for us," Bustle said. "We didn’t kick off well but we covered well. Jason’s got the speed to get behind the wall and make that bend on kickoff coverages, and he likes doing that.

"When he started doing that his freshman year, guys on the sideline started yelling when he’d make a tackle, and he kind of grew into it."

Saturday wasn’t a one-time thing for Chery. In 24 career games he’s made 35 special-teams tackles.

EARLY RETURNS: Phillip Nevels is the Sun Belt’s leader in punt returns after one week and the Cajuns stand high in most of the conference’s rushing categories in the league’s first statistical rankings.

Nevels, whose 27-yard punt return in the fourth quarter set UL up at the Carolina 20 – the only time in the game the Cajuns started a possession in Gamecock territory -, averaged 17.5 yards per return in the opener.

The Cajuns lead the conference in rushing with their 252-yard total against USC, and quarterback Michael Desormeaux (116 yards) and tailback Tyrell Fenroy (88 yards) rank second and fourth in the league in individual rushing.

UL Monroe’s Calvin Dawson had a 150-yard rush effort in its opening loss to Tulsa.

UL also ranks second in net punting with a 36.7 mark, after Ortego averaged 36.8 on five kicks and allowed a total of one yard on returns.