Football: UL's Napier - 'Sometimes it takes a crisis' to get attention + game day information
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Sept. 20, 2018
After a 56-10 loss at now-No. 14 Mississippi State, first-year UL coach Billy Napier did not seem discouraged whatsoever.
In fact, he appeared somewhat upbeat as his 1-1 Ragin’ Cajuns prepared to turn the page to the opening of Sun Belt Conference play with Saturday night’s visit to Cajun Field from 2-1 Coastal Carolina.
Two days later, however, a lopsided loss to UL’s first of two nationally ranked SEC opponents in three weekends seemed to sting quite a bit more.
“We’re certainly disappointed with the outcome Saturday,” Napier said, “and I will take 100 percent ownership and accountability in terms of the outcome.
“My job is to get the team ready to play, and certainly we didn’t perform like we wanted to, relative to the outcome.”
On film afterward, Napier indicated that he saw missed chances “to make plays.”
The Cajuns had an early 3-0 lead in Starkville, but the Bulldogs promptly proceeded to score touchdowns on their first seven straight drives of the night.
“I think this is an opportunity for us to really look in the mirror,” Napier said Monday. “I think adversity sometimes can reveal character.
“We’ve got an opportunity to respond, and I think it’s critical that our leadership be at their best — whether that’s players, coaches, support staff or myself.
“We need to be thinking in terms of solutions, and not problems. And I think it’s critical,” he added, “that we’re positive and enthusiastic about the opportunity that’s in front of us … (We’ve) got a chance to open conference play this week and really get that bad taste out of our mouth.”
With that perhaps in mind, Napier suggested competition in practice this week will be critical as starting jobs at several positions — he mentioned cornerback, left tackle, center, running back, receiver and inside linebacker — could be up for grabs.
Nevada grad-transfer Kendall Johnson and true freshman Eric Garror started on the corners against Mississippi State, with Garror opening over converted receiver Michael Jacquet. But it was Jacquet and Garror, who had a fourth-quarter interception, who played extensively in the second half.
First-year starter Rico Robinson made a second straight start over true freshman Max Mitchell at left tackle, but Mitchell played extensively Saturday and drew high praise from Napier on Saturday.
Cole Prudhomme, a returning starter, made his second straight of the season at center.
Ja'Marcus Bradley started again at X receiver and had UL's lone touchdown catch at Mississippi State, but Keenan Barnes played behind him and had four receptions for a team-high 76 yards.
Returning starter Trey Ragas opened at running back after usual No. 3 back Raymond Calais got a special-formation start in a season-opening win over Grambling, and Ragas — who averaged 7.0 yards on seven carries against the Bulldogs — finished as UL’s top rusher for a second straight outing this year.
And at the Mike inside linebacker spot, backup Ferrod Gardner emerged from the Mississippi State game listed as a co-starter along with Jacques Boudreaux, who has back-to-back starts this season.
“There are several positions on our team where maybe there is not a significant difference in the 1 and the 2,” Napier said, “and it’s about who prepares well and practices at a high level — who shows that they’re gonna earn it and they’re gonna run out there first and represent the team.”
Napier’s in-the-mirror message, he suggested when asked, should hit home particularly hard following a loss like Saturday’s — even if it was one to a Mississippi State team for which he has high regard.
“Yeah — I mean, it’s human nature,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a crisis to really get your attention.
“No matter if you’re a college football player or you’re a local businessman, sometimes it takes a little bit of a crisis to really get your business in order and make sure you’re really evaluating yourself and thinking about solutions and not problems.
“You know,” Napier added, “I think that’s the most critical thing here — is that we don’t just sweep those things under the rug; we actually take action and develop a plan to fix and correct some of the issues and clean up some of the mistakes that we made.”
In that regard, the mission is not much different than it was in 49-17 season-opening win for the Cajuns.
“We talked about some of these same things after we had a pretty convincing victory against Grambling, you know?” Napier said. “We’ve got to address the issues we have. We’ve got continue to improve.
“Championship-level football teams get better weekly, and it will be critical that we prepare that way, coach that way and try to make improvement as we go.”
UL’s Sept. 29 game at Alabama will start at 11 a.m. and be televised by the SEC Network, it was announced Monday. … Napier said none of the Cajuns missed practice Sunday night because of injuries sustained in the Mississippi State game, but that “some guys … were modified a little bit.” That includes starting right guard Kevin Dotson, who sustained a soft tissue injury in his right foot on Saturday night. … Napier said both juco-transfer backup inside linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill (ankle) and freshman reserve defensive lineman Sammy Ochoa (hip) are questionable for Saturday due to lingering injuries.
MORE: Breakdown of the Mississippi State loss
Athletic Network Footnote: Game Day Information