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UL wide receiver Kyren Lacy (2) runs into the end zone on a pass intended for tight end Hunter Bergeron thrown by running back Chris Smith during Saturday's 21-16 home win over ULM.

If the 37-yard touchdown pass from halfback Chris Smith to wide receiver Kyren Lacy looked a little peculiar to you, you weren’t imagining anything.

Yes, Smith’s fourth-and-2 pass was intended for the wide-open tight end Hunter Bergeron. Only Lacy hauled in the pass right in front of Bergeron and raced into the end zone for a 14-3 lead with 3:48 left in the first period.

“Yes, it was,” UL coach Billy Napier laughed, confirming the pass was for Bergeron. “But you know, sometimes on that concept, the corner route and the naked over end up in the proximity. I’m going to give him (Smith) a hard time, because it did float a little bit now. It wasn’t perfect.

“It was in the air, but the good thing is Hunter was open and Kyren stole the show. That’ll be a great story to tell.”

Napier also revealed after Saturday’s 21-16 win over UL-Monroe that Smith was essentially playing former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden on that play.

“Chris Smith can throw it,” Napier said. “He’s an old four-sport Mississippi kid. He’s an heck of an athlete. That’s an old copy-cat Arkansas-McFadden play. That’s where we got that one. Coach (Jeff) Norrid pulled that one out — an old grainy video from back in the day.”

Freshman running back Emani Bailey said Smith has been begging to run that play for a long time.

“He’s definitely not going to let us hear the end of that one,” Bailey laughed. “I’m sure I could do it to, but that’s been Chris. He’s always been saying he always wanted to throw a touchdown pass. He’s always warming up with the QBs in practice. So coach was like, you know, let’s put something in there for Chris.”

QB evaluation

The day could not have started any better for UL senior quarterback Levi Lewis.

He hit tight end Neal Johnson for 55 yards on the game’s first play. On the next play, he scored on a 20-yard run up the middle.

Instead of being a highlight-film day for Lewis, however, there were not many more highlights the rest of the way.

Lewis finished 13-of-22 passing for 163 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He still only has four interceptions on the season. He also ran six times for 20 yards and a touchdown.

“First of all, I can help him a little bit,” Napier said. “Then there were some plays where he can play better. I felt like we didn’t protect him as well at times tonight. I felt like there were some issues in the pocket — maybe not as clean as we’d like it to be. You’ve got to give them a little bit of credit. But at times, he’s having to hold it with a little bit of design and that’s my job.”

Lewis did throw off target on several slant routes, but Napier insists the passing-game issues were a team problem.

“He and I have an agreement,” Napier said. “I get him open and he throws the completions. So when they’re not open, that’s my fault.

“Sometimes when the quarterback seems to be not at his best, we call need to understand that at quarterback, you’re a direct reflection of the players around you. If they’re playing really well, typically you have an opportunity to play well.”

Big-play Johnson

Tight ends haven’t been a huge part of UL’s passing game since Ladarius Green left a decade ago.

But on Saturday, Johnson was the team’s leading target with three receptions for 80 yards. Johnson has 22 catches for 287 yards this season, making him the first UL tight end with at least 20 catches in a season since 2011.

“He’s a good player, man,” Napier said. “He’s grown up so much as a person and has become a very consistent, dependable player. He’s really turned it around off the field too.

“He’s why you coach. He’s come a long way. He’s been a developmental player as a tight end ... and he’s done a nice job of improving each year on the field, but more importantly, he’s really kind of got his act together off the field.”

Senior Day news

Not all of the 19 “seniors” honored before Saturday’s win were out of eligibility, so being part of the ceremony was more of a news item than typical Senior Day activities would present.

Among those listed as seniors were: Lewis, Jamal Bell, Ferrod Gardner, Chauncey Manac, Jalen Williams, Cameron Solomon, Nate Snyder, Ken Marks and Tayland Humphrey.

Then there are juniors already invited to NFL all-star scouting events like Percy Butler and Max Mitchell.

But also honored were such “juniors” who have already graduated and are planning to move on after this season. That group included Shane Vallot, Bergeron, David Hudson, Troy Kruchten, Malcolm Rollins, T.J. Wisham and Tanner Wiggins.


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.