One aspect of UL's offense that looked markedly different during Wednesday's 30-27 loss to Coastal Carolina was the running of senior quarterback Levi Lewis.
Since UL coach Billy Napier's arrival in 2018, running Lewis a ton hasn't been part of his philosophy. The game plan on Wednesday, though, featured a few more designed runs for Lewis.
"I think we had a few more plays in the plan to let him run the ball, whether those were draws or read plays," Napier said. "Then certainly he scrambled a few times tonight and made some critical plays."
At times, Lewis did scramble to avoid pressure from Coastal's pass rush, but half of his six carries were called in the huddle. Lewis finished with 84 yards and a score to lead all rushers in the game. Of course, the highlight-film, 51-yard scramble early in the fourth quarter is what most will remember.
If you look up the definition of a seesaw battle in the dictionary, the film of UL’s 30-27 loss to Coastal Carolina on Wednesday at Cajun Fiel…
Cynics also will recall the third-quarter interception Lewis threw that set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Chanticleers early in the fourth quarter.
Teammates like guard Ken Marks, though, weren't surprised at all by how well Lewis bounced back from his miscue to keep the Cajuns in it.
"We have a team motto, ‘Play the next play,’ " Marks said. "If something bad happens, you move on to the next play. You don’t harp on something, because you’re going to make mistakes in a game. Nobody is ever perfect in this game, no matter what level or who you are. You make a mistake, you own it and you move on from it."
There are potentially several reasons to choose from to explain why Coastal Carolina's offense was able to rattle off 23 first downs and eat up 38:11 on the clock.
The Cajuns' defense hadn't played since Sept. 26, and such key starters as Joe Dillon, Kris Moncrief, Chauncey Manac, AJ Washington and Cameron Solomon hadn't seen the field since before that.
Perhaps that was responsible for so many yards after initial contact for the Chanticleers.
It’s a stretch that will likely haunt the No. 21-ranked UL Ragin’ Cajuns for quite some time.
"The first possession in particular, we had to adjust to the play speed and kind of settle in," Napier said. "Outside of that, there was another drive right there before the half that basically led to their scores in the first half.
"I think there’s going to be a lot of things when we watch the tape. I certainly think we could have tackled better. I think a lot of that you’ve got to credit them too. They put their players in position to have success."
Coastal's rushing attack was balanced. Behind CJ Marable's 73 yards, Reese White added 68 hard-earned yards on 11 carries and Shermari Jones added 28 yards on five tries to go along with quarterback Grayson McCall's 45 yards rushing.
"I wouldn't say the tackling is what caused a lot of it," safety Ja'Len Johnson said. "I would say it was probably our lack of execution. We could have done a lot of things better throughout the game. But it definitely played a part in it.
"They were a good team. They made some good plays out there."
Good at two-minute
While the overall passing game may not be quite to Napier’s standard just yet, it would be hard to argue with the execution with the offense’s two-minute drive for most of the season.
The Cajuns got a field goal to end the first half at Iowa State and should have gotten field goals in the next two games as well. At Georgia State, Lewis foiled the plan with an interception. Against Georgia Southern, a missed 34-yard field goal spoiled the effort.
On Wednesday night, though, Lewis and company turned in their best performance in that situation yet with a textbook nine-play, 77-yard drive in 54 seconds to get an 8-yard touchdown run by Lewis to tie the game at 13-13 with five seconds left until halftime.
"It helps having the timeouts," Napier said. "I can’t emphasize that enough just as a play-caller, because you’re able to mix it up. We rolled the dice on a few runs, we were able to attack the middle of the field instead of having to work the boundary the entire time when you don’t have timeouts.
Freshman receiver Kyren Lacy got the drive going with grabs for 17 and 15 yards, before Jalen Williams pulled down a 23-yarder to get UL to the Coastal 8. Lewis scored on the next play.
"I thought Levi was outstanding in that possession," Napier added. "Kyren Lacy, the true freshman, made a couple of big plays, and Jalen made a nice catch on the double move and then we ran the quarterback draw to go score there."
No reason was given, but senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner did not play Wednesday. He was listed on the depth chart for the game released Sunday evening but wasn’t available. That meant more playing time for Moncrief, who missed the previous two games, and the first career start for Jourdan Quibodeaux.
Quibodeaux finished with four tackles, Moncrief had five and Johnson stepped up the most with eight tackles, including a key minus-2 to force a punt.