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Football: Cajuns will honor D.J. Looney with name on jersey in Birmingham

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Oct. 19, 2020

The Ragin’ Cajuns will honor late assistant coach D.J. Looney in a special way when they travel to play UAB on Friday night in Looney’s hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

Looney was an offensive line coach for the Cajuns.

“Each one of our players this week will wear Coach Looney last’s name on the back of their jersey,” UL coach Billy Napier said Monday morning.

“So our entire travel roster will have ‘LOONEY’ in their nameplate on the back of their jersey this week to honor Coach Looney.”

Related:Ragin' Cajun coaches mourn loss of UL assistant Looney

UL assistant coach D.J. Looney died in August of a heart attack. He will be honored when the Ragin' Cajuns visit UAB on Friday in his hometown of Birmingham.
James Mays Special to the Advertiser.

Napier said he expected “a big contingent” of Looney’s family members to be at Legion Field when the Cajuns (3-1, 2-1 Sun Belt Conference) face the Blazers (4-1, 2-0 Conference USA) in Friday’s nationally televised game (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Looney, 31, died on Aug. 1 of a heart attack that occurred during a mini-camp practice at Cajun Field a few days prior to the start of preseason camp.

He was a Mississippi State offensive lineman from 2007-10 and a former Bulldogs tight ends coach who at the time of his passing was heading into third season on Napier’s UL staff.

Looney played at Oak Mountain High in Birmingham area.

He also was an assistant coach from 2014-15 at Central Arkansas, which visits UL in November.

The Cajuns’ dedicated their season-opening upset win at then-No. 25 Iowa State to Looney.

The victory vaulted previously No. 21 UL, which fell out of the Top 25 with last Wednesday night’s 30-27 Sun Belt loss to Coastal Carolina, into the Amway Coaches Poll and into the first national rankings for the first time since 1943.

UL assistant Looney remembered:'He always cared about you,' Mississippi State teammate says

Seeking consistency

After dropping their first Sun Belt game of the season, the Cajuns are seeking more consistency from two particular groups.

One is the offensive line. The other is at receiver.

“To me those are the two positions where we haven’t had continuity,” Napier said, “because of injuries, because of (COVID-19) contact tracing, because of young players – whatever the case may be.

“I think that’s where we’ve had a revolving door and it’s uncertainly affected our play.”

Napier said Sunday that it’s “to be determined” if offensive lineman Max Mitchell will stay this week at left tackle, where he played during loss to Coastal Carolina, or if he’ll move back to his usual spot at right tackle, where Carlos Rubio got a second straight start Wednesday.

“I think that’s where we’ve had a revolving door and it’s uncertainly affected our play.”

Napier said Sunday that it’s “to be determined” if offensive lineman Max Mitchell will stay this week at left tackle, where he played during loss to Coastal Carolina, or if he’ll move back to his usual spot at right tackle, where Carlos Rubio got a second straight start Wednesday.

More:UL's Napier draws on lessons from Nick Saban after emotional loss

Related:Napier likes how quarterback Levi Lewis responded to mistakes in loss

Rubio made his first start because Mitchell missed a Sept. 26 win over Georgia Southern with COVID-19 issues.

Usual backup left tackle Spencer Gardner was out Wednesday because of COVID-19 contact tracing and Napier made a coach’s decision to start Mitchell on the left side over Arizona State graduate-transfer Zach Robertson, who was available but did not play.

Robertson had made three straight starts before Wednesday, with Gardner rotating in.

'A step forward'

The Cajuns have been playing three true freshmen at receiver along with starters Jalen Williams and Peter LeBlanc, and one of the freshmen – early season starter Dontae Fleming – has missed time due to injury. Another freshman, Errol Rogers Jr., missed preseason time because of injury.

Napier did, however, like some of what he saw from both groups against Coastal Carolina during a game in which the Cajuns gave up a critical interception, struggled with 18 missed tackles, had issues stopping the Chanticleers on third down and had trouble converting on third down themselves.

Related:Receiver Peter LeBlanc has lots to draw from in second year as a Cajun

More:True freshmen getting it done for the 3-0 Ragin' Cajuns

More:With Cassius Allen down, UL receiver depth turns to freshmen

“I think we took a step forward at receiver,” he said, “and at offensive line I thought we played a little bit better.

“We can execute much better, and we’ve got to play the critical situations much better. But … some players took steps forward.”

Napier also said Sunday that the Cajuns have had no COVID-19 issues in their last two rounds of testing and will have two more before playing UAB.

Related:COVID-19 has UL, Sun Belt football teams on a 'roller-coaster ride'

GAME TIME SET

A start time of 7 p.m. and appearance on ESPNU has been set when UL visits Texas State on Oct. 31.

More:UL football commit Ceasar not following dad's LSU basketball footsteps



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