Football: What we learned from the Ragin' Cajuns win at UAB
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Oct. 23, 2020
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – What was learned from UL’s 24-20 win at UAB on Friday night, a victory that ended the Blazers' 21-game winning streak at Legion Field …
1. LEWIS’ FEET WORK WELL
As he struggled through the air, opening 2-for-6 before UL (4-1) put points on the board, the Ragin’ Cajuns again turned to the feet of senior quarterback Levi Lewis to get something going – and it again worked.
Lewis had a 14-yard gain followed by a 5-yard gain on UL’s first scoring drive, which ended with a short Nate Snyder field goal.
Lewis was 3-of-8 for 28 yards in the first half, but he did hit Jalen Williams with a 23-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in the third quarter to help make it 20-17 UAB.
2. UL CAN USE TIGHT ENDS AFTER ALL
After often getting grief about how infrequently his tight ends are thrown to, UL coach Billy Napier proved the Cajuns are willing to go to them after all.
Lewis’ 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Pearse Migl marked Migl’s first career TD catch and helped give UL a 24-20 lead with six minutes and 35 seconds remaining.
3. SMITH A WEAPON
This isn’t so much what we learned as what we were reminded of: Chris Smith is a weapon.
Because when Smith returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown late in Friday’s first half, it wasn’t the first time the redshirt sophomore brought one back this season.
He also had a 95-yarder in the Cajuns’ season-opening upset win at then-No. 25 Iowa State.
Friday marked the first time since Cecilia High product Raymond Calais Jr., now a rookie running back with the Los Angeles Rams, did it in 2017 that UL has had two kickoffs returned for a TD in the same season.
The return Friday by Smith – from Louisville, Mississippi – also was the first 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by a Cajun since Calais did it in 2017 against Southeastern Louisiana.
Smith actually fielded it about 2 yards deep, but college statistical rules count it as a 100-yarder.
4. SECONDARY SOUND
With the Cajuns getting plenty of good pressure up front on redshirt freshman quarterback Bryson Lucero, UL’s secondary held up just fine even without starting safety Percy Butler in the lineup as fellow safeties Cameron Solomon and Bralen Trahan both came up with huge interceptions.
Butler was a key, late scratch.
He wasn’t listed on the injury report UL issued last Tuesday night and no reason for his absence was given by the Cajuns. Butler did run through pregame warmups, but Cajun coaches never planned to play him.
Backup Kam Pedescleaux started in place of Butler.
Migl’s TD gave UL its first lead of the night, and with 3:51 to go Solomon came up with his pick for UL.
The Cajuns punted, but Ryhs Byrns punted 74 yards to the six – just the ninth punt in school history to go more than 70 yards – with 1:28 left and Trahan sealed things with an interception at the 1 for UL.
After the teams traded first-half field goals and Matt Quinn hit a 25-yarder to UAB up 6-3, Spencer Brown punched it in from 1 yard out. But Smith’s kickoff return made it 13-10 with 19 seconds left before the break.
The Cajuns got back starting inside linebacker Ferrod Gardner, who missed UL’s loss to Coastal Carolina last week with an undisclosed injury. … UL defensive lineman Kendell Wilkerson played Friday for the first time this season; he missed the season’s first four games with a broken leg and a dislocated wrist sustained in an offseason car accident. … Second-year tight end Neal Johnson had a second-quarter catch in his first game of the season for the Cajuns. Johnson, who played regularly in 12 games as a true freshman, missed UL’s first four after an apparent disciplinary measure bumped him down the depth chart.
UL returns to Sun Belt play on Oct. 31 at Texas State (7 p.m., ESPNU). UAB returns to C-USA play on Oct. 31 at Louisiana Tech (2:30 p.m., Stadium).