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Football: UL's Boudreaux one to watch in his final game as a Cajun

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Jan. 6, 2020

MOBILE, Ala. — Five to watch when UL faces Miami (Ohio) in Monday night’s LendingTree Bowl …

1. JACQUES IN THE MIDDLE

Jacques Boudreaux, UL’s starting Mike linebacker, is among several seniors who will be playing their final game as a Ragin’ Cajun in the LendingTree Bowl.

For someone who has come as far as Boudreaux has since his 2016 arrival at UL from Holy Cross School in New Orleans, he is worth one good long last look.

And it’s not just because of his team-high 102 total tackles this season.

“I think he’s one of the guys I’m most proud of, to watch him grow and develop as a leader,” UL coach Billy Napier said of Boudreaux, who played as a true freshman.

“His ability to communicate, his energy, his positivity, challenging people to do it the right way — he’s one of my favorite players of all time.”

More: UL coach Napier 'not a candidate' at Mississippi State

Related: Once in trouble, the Cajuns bought into Napier right away

Napier knows Boudreaux gets all the respect he deserves from those around him the most, but he also realizes how underappreciated he is to some.

“We know how hard he works, the way he communicates, the way he prepares, the decision-making, a lot of things people might not understand,” the Cajuns coach said. “But he makes decisions every play. He does it the right way. He prepares. He’s relentless.”

Starting linebacker Jacques Boudreaux will be playing his final game as a Ragin' Cajun in Monday night's LendingTree Bowl.
Starting linebacker Jacques Boudreaux will be playing his final game as a Ragin' Cajun in Monday night's LendingTree Bowl. (Photo: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

A permanent team captain, and a stand-up spokesman for the Cajun defense as well, Boudreaux feels he has “grown tremendously.”

“In the same sense,” he said in Mobile, “I feel like my best ball is still in front of me.”

Experience helped him develop as much as he has so far.

“The more plays you have under your belt, the more prepared you are and the better you see things and you’re able to react faster to things,” Boudreaux said. “It really just becomes a game of knowledge, and this coaching staff did a great job taking all of us players under their wing and teaching us the ins and outs of the game.”

More: Cajuns linebacker Boudreaux ready for the next step in 'last go-round'

2. THE CAJUN DEFENSE

For its first 11 games of the season, UL’s defense didn’t permit an opponent more than 500 yards of total offense. Eight times, it allowed less than 400; three times, less than 500.

In three games amid a four-game span to start November — wins over Texas State, Coastal Carolina and South Alabama — the Cajuns gave up a combined total of just 13 points.

Lately, though, the defense has been porous.

UL gave up 30 points and 570 yards in a one-point, regular season-ending win over UL Monroe. And in a Sun Belt Conference championship loss at No. 20 Appalachian State, the Cajuns yielded 416 yards and 38 points on offense. In three of its last four games, it’s allowed an average of 34 points per game.

With that, UL’s total defense — which had been in the Top 20 nationally — was down to 51st when bowl season opened.

So see which UL defense shows up against Miami.

The Cajuns hope it’s not the one that showed at App State, where they weren’t always gapped out right and communication lacked at times.

 Safety Deuce Wallace feels Cajun heads may be overloaded with too much information.

“We were prepared to stop too many things,” Wallace said.

“Obviously, they’re a very talented team, but they’re not made to do anything flashy,” he added with reference to the Mountaineers. “They’re going to beat you with their bread-and-butter and if it works, they’re going to stick to it.”

More: Cajun dads Wallace, Dotson nearing end of second run

Related: Family ties helped turn UL's Dotson into All-American

3. OFFENSIVE NUMBERS

Offensively, see if the Cajuns can finish their season averaging more than 500 yards.

They’re currently at 501.3, good for eighth in the country when bowl season began.

Also: See if UL can boost its average of rushing yards per game just a bit. It's currently 265.3, which was seventh nationally when bowl play got under way.

The Cajun goal?

“Our offensive line always talks about our rushing,” All-American guard Kevin Dotson said. “We want to stay in the top five.”

More: LendingTree Bowl about the ring and more for the Cajuns

4. MIAMI’S D-LINE

Sophomore defensive end Kam Butler leads Miami (Ohio) in tackles for loss with 13 and senior defensive tackle Doug Costin has 12.

Watch both, especially the young but undersized Butler, who according to RedHawks coach Chuck Martin has quite a “motor.”

“He plays as hard as any cat I’ve ever been around,” Martin said Sunday. “He loves to play and he loves to compete. He’s also really talented.”

More: Five things to know about the LendingTree Bowl

Related: Cajuns will face 'Cradle of Coaches' in LendingTree Bowl

5. THE CHAINS

Watch the chains, and how well UL moves them, because if it’s anything like the Cajuns have so far, it will be a lot.

UL currently is ninth in the nation with 239 plays of 10-plus yards.

A whopping 112 of them have come on the ground behind a rushing game led by the trio of running backs Elijah Mitchell, Raymond Calais Jr. and Trey Ragas.

UL also is tied for 14th with 78 plays of 20 or more yards, and it is one of just two schools with at least four runs of 70-plus yards this season.

More: Cajun players love celebrating with their Baller Baton



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