Football: Napier's Cajuns beat Texas State with 'good, sound plan'
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Oct. 7, 2018
SAN MARCOS, Texas — Sure, there were late-night scares.
But after a lighting-delayed, four-touchdown first half gave UL just the sort of start it wanted, coach Billy Napier's Ragin' Cajuns held on to beat Texas State 42-27 and even their Sun Belt Conference record to 1-1.
The opening half was just the opposite of the way the Cajuns in an upset Sun Belt-opening loss to Coastal Carolina last month, and just what UL needed after it lost 56-14 at No. 1 Alabama one week earlier.
"I'm very pleased with the players' approach this week," Napier said. "I think we grew up in terms of how to practice, how to prepare. And I think the first half of that football game was a product our players, leadership in particular, having the team ready to play.
"I think our staff did an outstanding job putting together a really good plan," Napier added. "Any time you can go on the (road) and get a conference road win, it's a pretty big deal. So, I'm really happy."More: Breakdown of the win
Running back Elijah Mitchell led 2-3 UL with 20 carries for a career-high 191 yards and three touchdowns, while Trey Ragas added 21 carries for 104 yards and a TD.
That gives Cajun running backs six 100-yard rushing games this season, including four in five outings by Ragas.
UL compiled 327 of its 557 yards of total offense on the ground.
"We had a good, sound plan," Napier said. "We got ourselves in some advantage runs, ran the numbers quite a bit. But I think in general our staff did a great job of getting a good plan together, and I think the players executed it."
"Really, we just practiced hard," Mitchell said. "Coach Napier made sure we had everything in line to prepare us ... and, really, I've got to give it up to my offensive linemen. They really moved the front, the d-line, to open up holes for us."
Texas State opened the final quarter with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Vitt to Keenan Brown, and the PAT cut UL's advantage to 35-20 with 12 minutes and 38 seconds remaining.
But the Cajuns answered with Andre Nunez's 6-yard TD pass to Rhyeem Malone, set up by Mitchell's 64-yard run, and with Kyle Pfau's PAT UL was up 42-20.
Vitt, though, came right back with another TD throw to Brown, this one a 15-yarder, and with the PAT it was 42-27 UL with 9:17 left.
Texas State threatened again late, but UL got the Bobcats to turn the ball over on downs with just less than two minutes left to preserve the win.
After an exchange of second-half punts, Vitt split the UL secondary and hit Jeremiah Haydel with a 36-yard touchdown to cut the Cajun lead to 28-6. The PAT was no good.
The Bobcats followed that with a 5-yard Hutch White TD pass to a wide-open Vitt on a double-reverse trick play; the PAT was good this time, cutting the Cajun lead to 28-13 with 6:14 left in the third quarter.
UL answered, though, with a 6-yard Mitchell touchdown run set up by a 37-yard pass from Lewis to Bradley. Pfau's PAT made it 35-13 Cajuns.
"That's lovely," Bradley said of the four balls that dropped to him. "That's what we practice all day. ... It's sort of like we're at practice. ... Drop back, throw it, I run and catch it."
Mitchell scored from 13 yards out on the first play of the second quarter and Pfau added the PAT to put UL up 14-0.
A 45-yard pass from starter Nunez to Raymond Calais Jr., who toed the sideline, boosted a five-play, 76-yard drive.
Lewis entered for a pre-planned drive later in the quarter and finished it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bradley, helping to make it 21-0. It was the fifth TD catch of the season for Bradley, a junior.
Mitchell's second rushing touchdown of the night and Pfau's PAT that followed gave UL a 28-0 lead with 45 seconds to go before halftime. This one came from 9 yards out, ending an 11-play, 81-yard drive engineered by Nunez.
UL had 340 yards of total offense at halftime for 110 for the Bobcats, and Mitchell had 95 rushing yards to go with his two TDs at the break.
UL took a 7-0 lead with a 2-yard Ragas run and Kyle Pfau's PAT with 4:54 left in the first quarter.
The score capped an eight-play, 60-yard drive that featured a 34-yard pass from Nunez to Bradley.
UL had its opening drive extended by a roughing-the-punter penalty, but Ragas was stuffed on third down and the Ragin' Cajuns had to punt again.
The Cajuns' second drive featured a 44-yard Mitchell run, but Nunez was picked off by safety JaShon Waddy on the sideline at the 3.
Texas State punted out of its first three drives, the second time from the end zone.
"Are there things we can get better at? Absolutely," said Napier, whose Cajuns have New Mexico State next for Homecoming on Saturday. "But the key to the drill here is that we make improvement going forward, a little bit better each week, and that will be our mission."
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