Reviewing the film of UL’s 38-18 road loss to the Texas Longhorns gave Cajuns coach Billy Napier a few more ideas about his team’s performance.
But his approach to handling the setback was very similar to his postgame reaction after Saturday’s defeat.
“I think the things that we failed at make us stronger,” Napier said. “I think it’s sometimes difficult to separate the emotions from that and really evaluate what contributed to it.
“But in general, let’s call it like it is. The film is not up to standard to Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun football. The good thing is it’s correctable.”
The offseason of hype and living off last year’s breakthrough season officially ended in Austin, Texas on Saturday for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
Napier said he told his team at Sunday’s light practice, “you have to earn the right to win in this game that we play and coach. Certainly we need to coach better and we need to play better in order to win.”
The staff stressed the fundamentals, especially “a little bit more detail and a little bit more discipline and a little bit more finish.”
The Cajuns now prepare for Saturday’s 6 p.m. home opener against Nicholls. The Colonels, who lost at Memphis 42-17 Saturday, made the trip to Tennessee last Wednesday to escape Hurricane Ida’s damage to the Thibodaux area.
Napier said the Colonels’ plan is to stay in Memphis until it’s time to travel to Lafayette for the game.
“(Nicholls head) Coach (Tim) Rebowe has done an exceptional job of rebuilding that program,” Napier said.
Of course, Napier’s primary focus was on his team’s execution level.
AUSTIN, Texas — UL’s 31-14 road upset of Iowa State last season was largely due to an aggressive defense and elite special teams.
One of the most discussed issues for the Cajuns in the loss was tackling.
“It’s all very correctable,” Napier said. “It’s leverage, it’s fundamentals, it’s gap integrity, it’s assignment sound. There’s no question, any average fan can tell there were a couple of things that they had some really good skill players in space that created some issues for us, but we also believe in our players.
“We see that if they used better technique, better angle or better leverage, they get the guy on the ground.”
The passing game struggled to produce third-down conversions, finishing 4 of 13 overall compared to 10 of 15 on third down for Texas.
Still, Napier wasn’t discouraged upon further review.
“I saw a lot of good things,” he said. “I think overall, we protected well. We gave up a few sacks in individual matchups where technique maybe was an issue.
“I do think in the throw game, I think all of the receivers for the most part, it was clean. I think the tight end room, we had a few routes that could be cleaned up … the same could be said for the running back room.”
Quarterback Levi Lewis was 28-of-40 passing for 282 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and four sacks.
“I’ve got no issues there,” Napier said. “I think we’re going to be fine in that area. I think Levi’s got a handful of plays he probably would like to have back. Like most times when you play 60 plays in a game, there’s going to be a few here or there.”
As for the running backs unit, which produced 95 yards on 23 carries, Napier said the rotation will likely remain the same, but there’s no telling if the distribution will change.
On Saturday, Chris Smith got 11 carries, while Montrell Johnson and Emani Bailey both got six.
1. Special teams struggled
“I think Chris ended up getting more carries as a result of how the game went while he was in there,” Napier said.
The big question on the offensive line was redshirt freshman A.J. Gillie being pressed into duty at left guard because of injury.
“I thought there were a handful of plays where technically he could be a little bit better, but he did a lot of good things,” Napier said. “I thought for the most part, he held his own in there.
“The guy’s been a steady, consistent player. He’s got some ability. He plays with power, he’s got long arms for a 6-2 guy and really a tough kid that takes a lot of pride in his work. I think he’s headed in the right direction here. He’s only going to get better with experience.”
The review of the special teams units produced a few more issues.
“I thought the punt coverage needs work,” Napier said. “I thought the guard-tackle shield in my opinion was not up to standard.
“I think overall the kickoff coverage can improve as well. I think we’ve got some things to correct in our coverage units.”
Napier added the missed extra point was simply the ball being kicked too low.
Injury-wise, senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner's status remains uncertain, but Napier said “he’s in a little bit better place today than maybe we expected, so that’s a good thing.”