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Football – What we learned: No. 24 Ragin’ Cajuns 70, ULM Warhawks 20

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Nov. 28, 2020

Click here for game photos.

MONROE – Quarterback Levi Lewis ran for two touchdowns and threw for three as No. 24 UL beat winless UL Monroe 70-20 on Saturday at Malone Stadium.

The Cajuns (8-1, 6-1) won their fifth in row on the same day they learned that, because No. 17 Coastal Carolina beat Texas State, they will play at Coastal in the Dec. 19 Sun Belt Conference championship game.

Lewis threw for two first-half TDs and added a 1-yard touchdown throw to tight end Johnny Lumpkin in the third quarter. A Kenneth Almendares PAT made it 56-14.

UL got going with an 11-yard Trey Ragas touchdown run and, after linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill recovered a Jeremy Hunt fumble, an 11-yard Lewis TD run.

ULM (0-9, 0-6) cut the lead in half when, two plays after a Warhawks punt bounced off a Cajun and was recovered at the 1, Hunt hit Cameron Darling with a 1-yard TD throw.

The Cajuns responded with a 44-yard TD run by Elijah Mitchell, who could not be caught. The Warhawks answered right back with a 10-yarder TD keeper by Hunt and UL went into the second quarter up 21-14.

But Lewis’ 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Neal Johnson Jr. extended the Cajuns’ lead early in the second quarter, and the Cajuns were off and running from there. When Michael Orphey Jr. reeled off a 48-yard touchdown run and Almendares hit the PAT, UL had a series-high 63 points. Backup quarterback Jaiave Magalei added a late 14-yard pass to Kaleb Carter after a Trey Amos interception gave UL the most points it has scored in series history, topping its 54 in 2005.

Levi Lewis really can be effective on his feet

Showing what he has for much of the season, Lewis again was effective on his feet. It’s something the Cajuns shied from last year, but not in 2020.

His 7-yard touchdown run later in the second quarter helped put UL up 35-14 and gave Lewis his first game as a Cajun with two rushing TDs. The last UL quarterback to have one: Jordan Davis against Ole Miss in 2017.

The Cajuns, incidentally, also are 15-1 now when Lewis throws for at least two TDs. He finished with 147 passing yards.

Trahan truly has a nose for the ball

When UL safety Bralen Trahan returned a deflected pass 52 yards for a touchdown to help make it 42-14 late in the first half, it marked Trahan’s team-high fourth interception of the season and the Cajuns’ first pick-six since 2016.

The last Cajun to have one was defensive lineman Taboris Lee against Arkansas State in 2016.

More:Ragin’ Cajuns long snapper Paul Boudreaux all about making an impact

UL backs were beneficiaries of huge holes

The Cajun offensive line dominated in the trenches Saturday, opening some huge holes for UL running backs Mitchell and Ragas.

Mitchell had 85 rushing yards and Ragas 81 in the first half alone. The opening-half total by Mitchell put him over 3,000 career yards, making him the sixth Cajun to surpass that plateau. Ragas already was on the list at No. 3 behind Tyrell Fenroy and Elijah McGuire.

Mitchell’s first-half TD run also gave up 40 career rushing TDs and made him one of just five Cajuns with at least 40. McGuire, No. 4 on the list, has 42.

Ragas finished with 95 rushing yards and Mitchell 93.

Cajuns had to adjust on offense

With COVID-19 issues impacting the Cajuns, UL had to adjust on offense.

Usual starting receiver Peter LeBlanc was out, as was frequent starting tight end Pearse Migl.

The Cajuns opened with a two tight end set featuring usual starter Johnny Lumpkin and usual reserve Hunter Bergeron, and started true freshman receivers Kyren Lacy and Errol Rogers as well. Rogers is a usual starter, but Lacy opened in place of LeBlanc.

With left tackles Carlos Rubio and Zach Robertson also limited in practice lately, the Cajuns gave David Hudson his first career start. Hudson opened at left guard, with usual starting left guard Ken Marks opening at left tackle. Rubio and Robertson both played, though.

Defensively, starting cornerback Eric Garror was missing as expected and A.J. Washington started instead. Inside linebackers McCaskill and Ferrod Gardner both started despite being listed as co-starters Wednesday, something common much of the season.

More:420 pounds in eighth grade, Cajuns guard O’Cyrus Torrence didn’t wait to stand out

Billy Napier has recovered from COVID-19

Cajuns coach Billy Napier was on the sideline Saturday, one day after coming out of isolation following a positive COVID-19 test.

Napier, who said Wednesday that he had completed his full course of medication, traveled to Monroe on Saturday separate from the team, as expected.