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UL running back Chris Smith (21) breaks into the open field during a 52-yard touchdown run at Coastal Carolina.

For many around the country, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns are first identified by their three-headed monster in the offensive backfield.

Those close to the program know there’s really a fourth very explosive weapon back there as well.

Redshirt freshman running back Chris Smith displayed his ability again Saturday with an 80-yard touchdown run on his first touch of the game.

For the season, Smith is now averaging 10.4 yards a carry, sitting at 334 yards and four touchdowns on just 32 carries.

Consequently, UL coach Billy Napier said Smith is ready to step in once speedy senior back Raymond Calais finishes his eligibility.

“I think he could do it this week if we needed him to,” Napier said. “Chris has been very patient. He’s really bought into the special teams role. He plays a lot of snaps every week on special teams. When we’ve got the game in hand he’s been able to play and do well, the one week that Trey was a little banged up he played more snaps that week. Coach (Tony Robichaux) Robe’s deal, about working while you wait, I think he’s a prime example of that.”

In addition to his skill level, Napier also raves about Smith’s leadership ability.

“He always has good energy, always positive, a guy that you love to be around, and a guy that has made a really good transition here,” Napier said. “ Great student, high character off the field, and been a very good player. He played in the final four games of the year last year and he kind of carried that momentum into this year. I think Chris, we all kind of stand up when he gets the ball and he gets to the second level. He’s going to be fun to watch for a while here.”

Artigue suddenly on fire

Slow starts don’t have to doom a season.

Just ask UL’s senior place-kicker Stevie Artigue. It wasn’t that long ago that the staff was experimenting with another kicker.

After making both kicks at Coastal Carolina, three at South Alabama and then another three against Troy to earn Sun Belt Special Teams Player of the Week honors, suddenly Artigue is 12-of-16 kicking on the season.

“Oh yeah, I think that he’s done a tremendous job,” Napier said. “I think it’s a sign of his maturity, I think he’s really come a long way just in his mental approach. He’s tougher, let’s call it like it is, he can handle the good and the bad. I think it’s important for Stevie to do his job for his team, he works as hard as anybody, and certainly his teammates sense that and they want him to have success.

“They’ve been very supportive through the ups and the downs, and I think that’s one of the reasons he’s been able to overcome a little bit of that slump. We certainly are happy for Stevie and he’s been huge for our team here in the last couple of weeks.”

Even better, Artigue mixed in long kicks from 49 and 45 yards against Troy to increase Napier’s confidence in attempting longer field goals.

Hidden Lewis talent

Once again Saturday, Napier reminded those not in the huddle that there’s more ways for a quarterback to impact a game than meets the eye of most fans or media members.

For instance, take Saturday’s performance by UL quarterback Levi Lewis.

Based on pure statistics, the junior left-hander hit on 21 of 33 passes for 273 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

But in Napier’s mind, Lewis played even better than those raw numbers.

“Part of it was just the way they played today (Saturday),” Napier explained. “A lot of those passes that you see out there, they’re running plays. We’re exposing the weakness of the defensive call. That’s where Levi (Lewis) is really an elite player in my opinion. He makes really good decisions relative to the run-pass, the run-screen.”

He wasn’t perfect, but Napier was pleased with the passing game’s production overall.

“We had a couple of other opportunities,” he said. “We missed a few out there tonight too.

Overall, he was on point and the skill players played well around him.”

Poll watch

UL’s dominating performances of late is beginning to catch the eye of voters around the country. In this week’s week 14 polls, the Cajuns got one vote in the AP Top 25 poll and are up to 18 in the Coaches Poll.

Last week was the first time since 2013 the Cajuns were recognized in one of the two major national polls.

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.