He may not have looked like it in Saturday's win, but UL coach Billy Napier said he's pleased with the consistency and stability of the Cajuns' wide receiving corps.
Since day one of August camp, quite possibly the most discussed issue for the Cajuns has been the wide receiver depth chart.
For many, the desire was to settle in on the primary targets for quarterback Levi Lewis by the time the stretch drive in the 2020 season arrived.
Well, it’s here. And while the completions seem to be as spread out as ever, Napier said the focused has actually been narrowed.
Eight different Cajuns caught passes in the first half — although one was running back Elijah Mitchell for 20 yards.
Things really began to be spread out on UL’s first two plays on its first drive of the second quarter. On the first play, Lewis hit St. Thomas More product Dalen Cambre for 10 yards and then connected with Calif Gossett for 24 yards.
Later, the drive ended with a 3-yard TD pass to true freshman Errol Rogers.
By the end of the game, the Cajuns had 12 different players catch at least one pass. Three of those are running backs.
Peter LeBlanc had the most receptions with five for 34 yards, but seven different Cajuns had between 20 and 34 yards receiving in the game.
Nevertheless, Napier said it's all according to plan.
"I think we have a good group," Napier said. "We settled into the same lineup. We're playing Peter and Kyren and Jalen and a backup at that position."
Napier explained that Cambre was actually a replacement for Devon Pauley, who was held out due to contact tracing. Pauley was one of two Cajuns held out for that reason, the other being starting left tackle Carlos Rubio.
"We're getting good play with Errol Rogers and Dontae Fleming," Napier said. "We've actually settled into the same players in the same positions. We're practicing those guys. They're doing the same things in our system. I think that allows Levi to have chemistry and those guys to make individual improvement."
Kicking roles settled?
UL coach Billy Napier said Wednesday the decision on the starting placekicker for Saturday’s game was going to be a pregame decision for him and special teams coach Robby Discher.
Kenny Almendares, fresh off making two field goals in the previous game against Arkansas State, booted all the extra points in the Cajuns’ 38-10 win, while Nate Snyder kicked off each time.
"Kenny had a great week," Napier said. "He didn't miss one all week. He was outstanding … He's really improved working with the first-team snapper and holder. We've seen him go to even another level. I think it's good for Kenny to get even more experience."
In addition to making all five extra points in the game, Almendares also made the 25-yard field goal in the third quarter look routine, which had been an issue at times earlier in the season for the Cajuns' kicking game.
It sure looked like the Cajuns were headed for another successful two-minute drill right before the end of the first half. But much like at Georgia State, the precision was spoiled by an interception.
This one, however, wasn’t a bad read by quarterback Levi Lewis like in Atlanta. Trying to haul in a pass at the USA 2, Jalen Williams ended up tipping the ball in the air and Jaguars’ linebacker Nick Mobley intercepted it in the end zone with three seconds left.
Prior to the interception, though, Lewis was well on his way to putting up more points. He connected with tight end Neal Johnson twice for 15 yards and then twice with Peter LeBlanc for 14 yards, before Trey Ragas’ six-yard run produced a first down.
The drive began at the UL 49 with 1:10 left after Percy Butler’s sack forced a fumble, recovered by Zi’Yon Hill.
"Yeah man, that's disappointing," Napier said. "I hate it for Jalen too, because he's hard-working, blue collar, tough, loyal. I love him like a son. It was just a tough play, a bang-bang play — good throw. He just kind of tipped it up in the air there and we turned the ball over.
"But we did well there. We were able to mix it up and we had a couple timeouts there. We had an opportunity to go 35 (points) and we let them off the hook. That'll be on the reel tomorrow when we meet with the team. I think we lost an opportunity there to get the game completely under control, but Jalen is one of our best competitors. Everybody makes mistakes."
Butler great again
Junior safety Percy Butler continues to surge toward ending his college career as one of the best safeties in program history.
He began creating trouble for South Alabama’s offense on the first drive of the game with an interception of Jags’ quarterback Desmond Trotter. That set up a nine-play, 57-yard scoring drive for UL that ended with a 5-yard TD pass to Jalen Williams.
Later in the second quarter, Butler blitzed and created a sack-fumble on Trotter, which was recovered by Zi’Yon Hill.
Butler finished the game with a team-high six tackles in addition to the sack, a forced fumble, interception and tackle for loss.