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UL head coach Billy Napier's No. 23-ranked Ragin' Cajuns continue to effectively deal with the scheduling maze that's been the 2020 football season.

Apparently sometimes it’s better to not play than to play and win on the last play of the game.

Despite being off this past weekend, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns jumped back into the Top 25 at No. 23 in both the AP and coaches poll.

But while the Top 25 movements are new for UL, the Cajuns are seemingly handled it like old pros.

“It’s a good thing to know that we’re back in there, but we’re not really worried about what they think of us or where they ranked us,” UL cornerback Mekhi Garner said. “We’re just worried about the next opponent we have to play every Saturday.”

That’s certainly how the Cajuns’ coaching staff wants its players to feel.

“We ain’t drinking the Kool-Aid,” UL tight end Johnny Lumpkin said. “We’re just staying focused on our opponents, man. We’re not really all into the ranking stuff right now. We’re just trying to win the next game. We just have an opportunity to come out, show our success and execute the game plan.”

UL coach Billy Napier echoes those sentiments. He actually labels the issue as “a problem” when it comes to managing his team’s perspective.

“It’s a good problem,” Napier said. “We’ve had some bad problems around here. This is a good problem to have and certainly one I hope our team can handle well — having a little bit of success and having a target on your back. It’s a new set of problems. We say all the time every team’s has got a set of problems to managed.

“We’ve certainly got a big list of things we’re working on right now, and keeping our team humble maybe is one of those relative to these polls, early in the year in particular. I think it’s good for the program, it’s good for the university and community to get the attention, but I also think it’s really not that significant at this moment and time.”

A 3-0 Coastal Carolina squad is preparing to come to Cajun Field for an 11 a.m. contest on ESPN2 with a chance to knock off a Top 25 team.

“I think what matters the most is the next opportunity you get, you play better football, you play winning football and as an individual player, you play with efficiency and your execution level improves, your technique improves,” Napier said. “The cumulative effect of that is better overall execution and more players that can play winning football.

"Then the result is the result. If you want to stay in the polls, you’ve got to keep winning and keep playing good.”

It also influences perceptions. For instance, Napier isn’t so sure Iowa State “upset” Oklahoma.

“You can call it an upset and you’re basing that off some preliminary poll, but Iowa State beat them,” Napier said. “That’s all that matters, no different than when we went to Iowa State. It’s week to week. You’ve got to put the ball down and play. It doesn’t matter which number is besides your team’s name on the internet or in some newspaper.”

Rubio fared well

All the post-game talk following UL’s 20-18 win over Georgia Southern was about Nate Snyder’s game-winning field goal, so a few other positive individual performances were overlooked.

Starting right tackle Max Mitchell didn’t play in that game, and redshirt junior Carlos Rubio filled in nicely.

“I think Rubio did a lot of good things (last Saturday),” Napier said. “That’s really the first time in his career here that he’s played an entire game. I think Rubio really has improved a lot in the last year, year and a half. He’s gotten bigger, stronger. It’s become more important to him. I think there for a while, he kind of felt like, ‘OK, I’m going to wait my turn.’ But knowing that this year he’d kind of have an opportunity, he’s had a good offseason.”

Like so many players, Rubio’s progress has largely centered around an improved perspective.

“I thought he did a lot of good things in the game and certainly like most young players, there were certainly a handful of plays where he can do better,” Napier said. “The good thing is he’s got a good attitude, he works really hard at it and it’s really important to him.”

Coastal looks sharp

While some offenses across the country, including the Cajuns', have struggled in the early going, Coastal Carolina’s unit wouldn’t be in that number.

The Chanticleers have scored 38, 43 and 52 points in their three wins over Kansas, Campbell and Arkansas State.

One reason for that early-season success may be the fact that Coastal Carolina is one of the few programs nationally to get an entire spring season in — all 15 practices before the March coronavirus shutdown.

“I do think there’s no question those 15 practices they got ... there's no question they benefitted from that,” Napier said. “Spring is a time when you can experiment a little bit. You can try a little bit out. There’s a lot of competition and a lot of player development that happens. Players that you redshirted, get to hit the ground running and get some significant experience with your coaches.

“There’s a lot that happens in the spring semester that obviously we missed out on. There’s no doubt, they benefitted from having spring. You can see it with the way their football season is playing now.”

Similar, not the same

Somewhat like Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina’s offense is a triple-option attack.

That doesn’t mean the actual scheme is the same, nor is the preparation from UL’s perspective.

“There’s probably some conceptual carry-over, but for the most part, it’s a different animal here in terms of groupings, formations, concepts … this is a lot different entity here,” Napier said.

Garner said he wouldn’t go all the way to “complicated” but rather a different challenge in carrying out assignments.

“I don’t think it’ll be a complication,” he said. “It’ll just be more of us doing our assigned jobs. That’s it. Be more sound and be more sound doing our jobs.

"They throw it more, way more than Georgia Southern, but it’s based out of triple option.

“I would say probably still go man and for me, my technique has to be better than it’s been the last few weeks.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.