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UL running back Raymond Calais (4) runs with the ball against Mississippi State during the second half of a football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday.

It’s already been said countless times since UL’s 38-28 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

And it’ll be said many more times all week until coach Billy Napier’s Cajuns return home to meet Liberty at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Cajun Field.

The basic message is something like, “As competitive as UL was against an SEC West team, they’ll do great in the Sun Belt.”

Beware of that mindset, folks. It very often doesn’t work that way.

For one, we still don’t have any idea how good Mississippi State is.

Secondly, there are the historical examples to the contrary. UL lost 40-33 at Kentucky in 2015 and finished 4-8.

In 2007, UL lost 28-14 at South Carolina, only to finish 3-9. Four years before that, the Cajuns lost 14-7 at South Carolina in the opener of a 4-8 season.

As accurate as they are, though, it may be difficult to sell those points to very many UL fans this week. The initial eye test from Saturday’s game seemed pretty convincing. The team on the field Saturday certainly didn't look like a team heading for a losing record.

“I’m proud of our players,” Napier said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt to anybody who watched us play last year and just watched that game that we made significant improvement. How much improvement we made? We’ll see when we watch the tape.

“On offense, defense and special teams, there’s so many snaps in that game where we can continue to … our mantra is to control what you can control, first way to win is to not beat yourself and certainly there were a number of lessons out there to reflect that."

Watching the replay of the game will likely bring about much hope and much frustration for UL’s coaches.

Five turnovers usually spell doom for a 19-point underdog away from home. Huge time of possession deficits early on don’t help either.

Somehow, UL hung tough, and just kept coming.

“We have a lot of leaders on our team that whenever we’re down in that type of situation that will pick us up,” said receiver Jamal Bell, who had eight catches for 113 yards. “We’ll all just rally around that leader, somebody will spark it and we just keep coming, keep coming.”

Instead of wilting, the Cajuns didn’t wear down.

“We’re a totally different team,” senior cornerback Michael Jacquet said. “We’re a force to be reckon with. We made a lot of mistakes out there. We’re going to clean up the minus-things we messed up on and we’re going to get it together.”

The big difference in that area is increased depth. A total of 20 different UL defenders recorded a defensive statistic of some kind in the game.

Sophomore safety Percy Butler led the way with eight tackles.

“There was a lot of good out there and a lot of lessons for our football team going forward,” Napier said. “That’s going to be the key here. We have to learn from our mistakes and make adjustments.”

That depth upgrade was one of the biggest reasons many expected improvement in Napier’s first season. The other was an anticipated upgrade in the passing game.

That remains up in the air. It's hard to judge after one game with a depleted tight end corps, a few receivers going down in the game and an elite SEC defense as an opponent.

Much of the passing success was due to creative play-calling and lots of running after the catch by both receivers and running backs.

Nothing wrong with that in certain matchups, but the offense will need both down the road to improve upon last year’s seven wins.

The running game was pretty good — 164 yards against a Mississippi State defense. That’s one area that I am convinced will improve against future opponents.

Likewise, it’s far too early to say the defense’s rushing defense isn’t improved.

“We can’t let this game hold us back,” Napier said. “We’ve got to build on the performance we had. Our performance wasn’t the best all the time, but there were times that we showed glimpses of being a great team.”

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.