Graduate assistants, quality control coaches and analysts don’t often get a lot of credit, but UL head coach Billy Napier changed that trend following UL’s 27-20 homecoming victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.
In one of the biggest drives of the season for the Cajuns and a momentum-changer of the game, Napier credited graduate assistant Matt Bergeron and offensive analyst Ryan O’Hara.
Bergeron works behind the scenes in the Cajuns’ two-minute offensive drills and that worked like a charm in a six-play, 61-yard drive for the game-winning points Saturday.
“We work on it all the time. Matt Bergeron does our two-minute report,” Napier said. “He’s our receiver (graduate assistant). He works really hard on that report. We always talk about it at the end of the week and review that with the quarterback.
“We’re well-prepared and execute it really, really well.”
After only collecting 108 yards in the first half, UL’s offense finally got going with a 29-yard completion over the middle to Peter LeBlanc to the ASU 33.
“Well-designed,” Napier said of the big play that preceded Levi Lewis’ 33-yard quarterback draw for a touchdown for a 7-6 UL lead.
“Ryan O’Hara is actually one of our quality control coaches and he designed that play during the week and did a nice job there catching on a tendency from a certain formation,” Napier said.
“We executed it perfectly and certainly I thought Peter ran a really clean route. It was precise. The steps were exactly right, the angles were good, it was a good throw and we got them in the right coverage. It was a big play there coming out of half.”
The drive before Kenneth Almendares made a 43-yard field goal to give UL a 20-12 lead with 3:59 left to play actually had all the makings of a touchdown drive.
Elijah Mitchell ran 47 yards to the Arkansas State 2, only to look back and see a flag on the ground. It was a 15-yard late hit penalty on guard O’Cyrus Torrence well behind the play.
Two plays later, Lewis was sacked for a 12-yard loss, making the 43-yard field goal necessary.
Napier didn't seem overly upset about the call.
“I think it was a very subjective call,” he said. “(Torrence) is playing with great effort. I think the big lesson there is you shouldn’t block behind the ball. We talk about that quite a bit. If the ball breaks and you’re behind the ball, you’ve got to fold your cards.
“That was the issue there. I thought he had a great block on the play. It was a clinic tape that running play. He’s just trying to play with a little edge, he’s trying to finish his block. I think the lesson here is to fold your cards. You’ve already won the hand.”
Going for it iffy
Entering Saturday’s game, UL’s offense had converted on three of eight chances on fourth down for 38%.
In the first half Saturday, those percentages got worse, converting on one of three tries … with the third one being especially painful.
“The two we didn’t get, I would call those every time again,” Napier said.
Another one in the third quarter left UL’s offense just 1-for-4 on the day in fourth-down conversions.
“The first one was a fourth-and-short from the UL 46,” Napier said. “Then right before the end of the first half, a fourth-and-goal from the 1 resulted in a 5-yard loss on a reverse. We got a wildcat direct run and we can’t get an inch. That’s going to be execution and mentality.
“That was actually our 2-point play we ran down there on fourth-and-1 play on the goal line. Their end was up the field and made the ball bounce. I can live with both of those calls. I think they were the right call.”
Saturday’s win put UL in position to return into the AP Top 25 poll, a spot the Cajuns held for three weeks earlier this year. UL was ranked as high as No. 19 but dropped out after the 30-27 loss to Coastal Carolina three weeks ago.
The Cajuns were second among teams receiving votes in this week’s AP poll with 101 votes. Northwestern was the top receiving-votes team with 106 and No. 25 Liberty — which got a last-play 51-yard field goal to beat Virginia Tech 38-35 Saturday and remain unbeaten at 7-0 — had 118 votes.
No. 21 Boise State was routed 51-17 by BYU on Friday and No. 23 Michigan fell to Indiana 38-21 on Saturday.