Football: UL's Napier points to coaching after loss to Coastal Carolina
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Sept. 23, 2018
It was his first loss at Cajun Field, his first loss to a Sun Belt Conference opponent.
So first-year UL head coach Billy Napier was hard on himself and his new Ragin’ Cajuns coaching staff Saturday night, pointing inward after a 30-28 to 3-1 Coastal Carolina in the SBC opener for both teams.
“I think there’s lots of missed opportunities in that football game,” Napier said after UL rallied from 16 points down to make it tight before Coastal was able to run out the clock in the final five-plus minutes.
“Simply put, we can coach better. I really believe that. I think that we can help our players and put them in position to have success in the future, and there’s one responsible for that, and that’s me.”
Coastal produced 497 yards of total offense to 381 for UL, which struggled to move the ball in the opening half, and controlled the clock, at almost 39 minutes to 21.
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“I think we’ve got to go back to work,” said Napier, whose 1-2 Cajuns face No. 1 Alabama next.
“I think we’ve got a good group of young men in that locker room that have character. They’ve worked really hard this offseason. It’s a tight-knit group of kids that believes in themselves and realizes they can do better, I think.
“But, in general,” Napier added, “I would say that we can help these young men and coach better, and that’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re gonna do in the future.”
Up 16-7 at halftime, Coastal Carolina took a 23-7 lead on a 1-yard Marcus Outlow run that capped its opening drive after the break.
The touchdown was set up by a 59-yard to the 1 from Chanticleers quarterback Kilton Anderson, who was injured on the play after getting caught from behind by Cajuns safety Corey Turner.
The Cajuns responded right away with a 30-yard Elijah Mitchell run.
RELATED: Breakdown of the loss
After a short, unsuccessful Coastal drive handled by backup quarterback Bryce Carpenter — Anderson was wearing a walking boot and using crutches on the sideline — the Cajuns followed with a career-long 61-yard touchdown run by Raymond Calais Jr. that helped to make it 23-21 Chanticleers.
The run gave Calais 100 yards rushing on just three carries at the time, and he finished with 108 on five.
“In the first half we started off slow," Calais said. “But we went in at halftime; they made adjustments. The offensive linemen and the tight ends, everybody, manned up … and I just made the most of my opportunity.”
UL got the ball right back after the Calais run, as safety Deuce Wallace forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Tra’Vontae Booker.
“I felt like at that point momentum completely shifted,” Wallace said.
But, with backup quarterback Levi Lewis in for a pre-planned drive, the Cajuns could not capitalize.
Coastal Carolina took advantage, going 87 yards in 10 plays ending with a 29-yard reverse flea-flicker pass from Carpenter to Isaiah Likely.
Lewis appeared on two pre-planned drives for UL, and both stalled quick, obviously impacting Cajun momentum, especially in the second half.
“I think we’ll continue to play Levi,” Napier said. “We believe in the young man. I think he’s a very capable player.
“And he had opportunities to make the play, and I think the players around him maybe can play a little bit better when he’s in there.
“But,” Napier added, “there’s no one individual responsible for anything that happened tonight.”
UL did make it tight with a 15-yard scoring pass from Andre Nunez to Keenan Barnes with five minutes and 20 seconds to go, and the Cajuns had a chance to get the ball back late.
But in one rather rough final defensive series for UL, Coastal first converted a third-and-10.
It then got a boost on one play when a Torrance Marable fumble on second-and-21 was recovered by teammate Jaivon Heiligh downfield and advanced to produce a third-and-1.
One play later, UL true-freshman defensive lineman Timaje Porter was called offside to extend the drive.
“If you want to say ‘blame’ — I don’t like that word — we’re gonna be able to spread things out all over the place, starting with me,” said Napier, who calls plays. “And that’s my job: to get everybody ready, not just the offensive players.”
UL took a 7-0 lead with 6:13 left in the first quarter, when Trey Ragas scored on a 3-yard run set up by Nunez's 20-yard pass to Earnest Patterson and Calais’ 40-yard run.
Kyle Pfau made the PAT.
Coastal answered with 50-yard field goal from Massimo Biscardi.
The Chanticleers took a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter with a 2-yard Outlow run and the PAT that followed.
UL had a chance to tie it up with 28 seconds to go before the first half ended, but Pfau’s 49-yard field goal attempt fell short.
Coastal Carolina needed just 24 seconds to score before the break, getting a 31-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to a wide-open Jy’Jon Tyler in the left corner of the end zone.
But Massimo’s PAT hit an upright, leaving it 16-7 Chanticleers at halftime.
“There’s no question that was one of the bigger sequences of the game, in my opinion,” Napier said of the late-half scoring. “I really think that’s where we can coach better, in my opinion.
“We lose contain on the quarter; we’ve got bad eye-discipline at corner. … In my opinion, that was the biggest two-series sequence in the game.”