UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth almost appeared to breathe a sigh of relief Monday.
Hudspeth said true freshman quarterback Levi Lewis, who stepped in to start the Ragin’ Cajuns’ past two games but left Saturday’s 50-22 loss at Ole Miss with an ankle injury, has been cleared by team doctors and is expected to return to practice Tuesday. That’s when the Cajuns (4-5, 3-2) begin preparation for Saturday’s 4 p.m. Homecoming contest against New Mexico State.
“He checked out good, and he’s going to practice tomorrow,” Hudspeth said of Lewis, a Scotlandville product who saw his first collegiate action two weeks ago and led the Cajuns to a 19-14 Sun Belt Conference win at South Alabama. “I expect him to be 100 percent by Saturday.”
Lewis threw two touchdown passes and scrambled for 129 rushing yards against the Jaguars. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 166 yards against the Rebels but was limited to 11 rush yards counting three sacks. The third came in the third quarter, when he came up hobbling and was replaced by Jordan Davis.
Hudspeth said unless Lewis’ ankle does not respond well to practice, he’ll again be under center in Saturday’s pivotal league game against the Aggies.
“If Levi’s healthy, he’ll start, and all indications are that he’ll be at 100 percent,” Hudspeth said. “He did a lot of good things on Saturday. You see him pass and you see him run, but what stands out is his poise. You see him fixing to pull it down and run, but then he’ll look downfield and look to extend the play. He did that a lot against South Alabama and Ole Miss to convert third downs and move the sticks.”
Davis, who started UL-Lafayette’s first five games, led a pair of second-half touchdown drives against the Rebels. He had touchdown runs of 10 and 31 yards among his 52 rush yards.
“I was really proud of Jordan,” Hudspeth said. “The reason he performed so well was that he’s continued to practice well. He kept competing and kept working. That says a lot about that young man.”
UL-Lafayette’s other quarterback, Andre Nunez, has been sidelined for the past two games with a concussion suffered at Arkansas State. The junior started against Texas State and Arkansas State, and Hudspeth said he has been cleared to return to practice this week.
“He’ll do some limited things tomorrow,” Hudspeth said, “and they’ll check his progress each day.”
Back in the hunt
With Arkansas State’s surprise loss to South Alabama on Saturday, the Sun Belt Conference standings went through a major shuffle, and the Cajuns find themselves still with a chance to share the league title.
Troy, Georgia State and Appalachian State are all 5-1 in conference play with two games remaining, and Arkansas State is 4-1 with three games left. UL-Lafayette (3-2) is the only two-loss team and has home games against New Mexico State and Georgia Southern (0-9, 0-5) before a regular-season finale at Appalachian State.
The one-loss teams have enough games among one another — Appalachian State at Georgia State on Nov. 25, and Troy at Arkansas State on Dec. 2 — that every team in the league could wind up with at least two losses.
“With everything that’s going on in the conference, the race is really still up in the air,” Hudspeth said. “We have a chance to finish first or second in the conference if we can close the season strong. We control our own destiny a little … we need some help from a few other teams, but it’s going to be really tight.
“The league’s really competitive from the top on down. It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks.”
Hudspeth said the Cajuns have to clean up issues in the kicking game, specifically field goals and extra points, and it’s not just about kicker Stevie Artigue.
Artigue missed a 28-yard field goal on UL-Lafayette's first second-half possession and then missed an extra point after Davis’ first touchdown run. Backup kicker Calvin Linden then missed the conversion after Davis’ second touchdown.
“We’re going to work on the operational part of that, because we have to clean that up,” Hudspeth said. “We left five points there, and in close games like we’re likely to have these last three weeks, every point matters.
“I can’t tell Stevie to work harder, because that would be impossible. He had one of the best weeks he’s had in practice last week. His swings were solid; a lot of it was the hold and the spot. We’re going to clean that up and work a little smarter.”
The Sun Belt announced Monday that UL-Lafayette’s Nov. 25 home finale against Georgia Southern will kick off at 4 p.m., just like this week’s Homecoming game against New Mexico State.
The league announces kickoff times 12 days in advance for non-network television games. The Nov. 25 game will appear on the ESPN3 platform.