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Football: Cajuns take redshirt off QB Lewis in win at South Al

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Nov. 5, 2017

Levi Lewis (Photo: SUBMITTED)

MOBILE, Ala. —  Agile. Nimble. Shifty.

Those were some of the first impressions of UL true freshman quarterback Levi Lewis, who had his redshirt removed in the eighth game of the season, started and led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 19-14 win at South Alabama on Saturday night here.

The dual-threat Lewis ran 18 times for 129 yards and finished 8-of-15 passing for 110 yards and two touchdowns as UL improved to 4-4.

"That was a great performance, for his first time," UL coach Mark Hudspeth said. "I think he’ll only get better. We need to be a little more effective in the second half. But definitely I thought it was a great performance by him in his first game."

The Cajuns played Saturday without quarterback Andre Nunez, who started their last outing — an Oct. 19 visit to Arkansas State — and sustained a concussion in the 47-3 loss to the Red Wolves.

Nunez did not make the trip to Mobile.

UL coach Mark Hudspeth said last Monday that fourth-year junior Jordan Davis, who started the season’s first five games and seemingly had solidified his hold on the job early in the year, “should” start against South Alabama.

Related: Davis ‘should’ start Saturday; Cajuns prep for emergency

That changed, however, after Lewis requested that he play this season and Cajun coaches decided later in the week that he’d give them their best chance to win.

If Lewis can somehow get the Cajuns bowl-eligible for the sixth time in seven seasons, which would require two wins in the final four regular-season games, including Saturday’s visit to Ole Miss, the move will pay dividends.


But taking the redshirt off Lewis now means that — barring future injury — he will have just three seasons of eligibility remaining after this year as opposed to four.

Lewis, however, has indicated he plans to graduate in four years and has no intentions to be around for a fifth season.

Earlier: Cajuns will not take redshirt off of QB Lewis

The highly regarded Lewis was a Louisiana Class 5A All-State selection as an “athlete” at Scotlandville Magnet High, where he won the prestigious 2016 Warrick Dunn Award as the top high school player in the Baton Rouge area after a senior season in which he passed for 2,450 yards and 17 touchdowns while also running for 1,577 yards and 23 TDs on a state runner-up team.

Lewis ran for 4 yards on his play as a Cajun, completed his first attempt with a throw to Michael Jacquet and was nearly intercepted before UL had to punt out of its opening possession Saturday.

But he threw a 54-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter and a 13-yard TD pass to true freshman Chase Rogers three minutes later, and the Cajun defense held despite two touchdown passes from Cole Garvin to Malik Stanley including one that helped to make it a five-point game with 59 seconds to go.

"It was really all about the preparation before the game," Lewis said of how he was able to settle in so early. "My coaches, they got me ready. My team, they believed in me.

"Throughout the whole week, I’ve just been preparing, preparing, and just kept a laser-like focus." 

Hudspeth had said less than two weeks ago that a call had been made to not take the redshirt off of Lewis.

He has said several times this year, in fact, that he did want to play Lewis in 2017.

But with Nunez out for an undetermined length of time, Davis evidently struggling and Lewis wanting to play, that decision subsequently was reversed.

The Cajuns made the call during the week, evidently early on, but they didn’t officially announce their plans until shortly before the start of Saturday’s game against the now 3-6 Jaguars.

UL QB Davis on knee: ‘I’ve just got to be more confident’

After a fully healthy Davis threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 60 yards and another two TDs in a 66-42 loss at Tulsa early in the season, Hudspeth declared he thought the Cajuns had “found” their quarterback.

But Davis, who lost the No. 1 job to LSU graduate-transfer Anthony Jennings for one season in 2016, injured his left knee in a Sept. 16 loss at Texas A&M.

He played at less than 100 percent in UL’s ensuing two games, and was replaced early in both outings by juco-transfer junior backup Nunez, who later started in a win over Texas State and in the loss at Arkansas State.

Davis re-injured the knee after replacing an ineffective Nunez in Jonesboro, but the Texan returned against the Red Wolves after Nunez sustained his concussion.

Nunez, a California high school product, also sustained a concussion when he played for Iowa Western Community College.

"I just felt like with the way we scoring points, and the way we were being productive, ‘You know what? It’s just the right time,’" Hudspeth said of making the move to Lewis so late in the season. "We needed a spark; we needed somebody that could create plays. We just hadn’t had a lot of creativity by the quarterback position. We’ve had some good execution at times.

"But we hadn’t had a lot of big plays like you saw (Saturday) night form broken plays. The creativity part. Pulling the ball down and running."

Hudspeth on Cajuns QB Nunez: ‘A pretty cool cucumber’