Perhaps it comes with in-state rivalries, or perhaps it’s just this opponent.
But the UL Ragin’ Cajuns are anticipating a lot of trash-talking on the field during Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. regular season finale against ULM at Cajun Field on ESPNU.
Few things frustrate a good defense more than a dual-threat quarterback.
“That’s what they do best,” UL sophomore center Shane Vallot said. “They’re going to try to talk. We just have to stay focused and do what we do. We can’t let them talk us out of our game.”
Vallot said he’s prepared for even more than talking.
“They’re going to come out and play hard,” he said. “They don’t like us, so they’re going to come out and play hard. They’re going to try to do some crazy things to get us off our momentum."
Sophomore linebacker Kris Moncrief said the Cajuns need to heed their coaching staff’s warning.
The Appalachian State game on Oct. 9 was encouraging with 21,012 fans. The next game was homecoming against Texas State with 21,063 fans.
“Their defense is probably worse,” Moncrief said. “They love to talk. It’s just how they are. It’s just how they come. You just have to keep a level head and play ball.
“It’s easy (to ignore). That’s one thing coach (Billy) Napier always preaches about. We will not talk to the opponent.”
For sophomore defensive end Andre Jones, what motivates ULM is the furthest thing from his mind.
“First of all we don’t really care what they think about it,” Jones said. “We’re on a mission. Y’all in our way. We’re going to beat y’all. That’s how we look at it.”
It won’t exactly be scoreboard watching for Napier and his players and staff Friday, but likely some will be monitoring the 5 p.m. Sun Belt Conference game between Appalachian State and Troy.
The stakes are obvious. If Troy pulls off the huge upset and UL beats ULM on Saturday, the Sun Belt West champion Cajuns would host the East champion Mountaineers at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, in the Sun Belt championship game.
If Appalachian State wins as expected, the Mountaineers would host.
It sounds like the thing to say, and it’s certainly the goal every week.
So how close will Napier be following that game Friday?
“Well, hey, who won the game, what’s the score, that’s about it,” Napier said. “We have our own grass to mow right now. We need to continue to improve, we’ve got areas of our team where we have to get some things fixed, and we’ve got a challenging ULM team coming here to play against. Whatever happens there happens, we’ll handle that part of our plan when we get to that part.”
The Cajuns do not control their own destiny because of a 17-7 home loss to Appalachian State earlier this season.
“Unfortunately, it’s not up to us,” Napier said. “We had an opportunity to maybe handle that ourselves and we didn’t, so that’s in somebody else’s hands and the only thing we can worry about is the next team we play and that’s ULM.”
Mitchell answers call
When a mid-major program has a player with the ability that merits an invite to the Senior Bowl, having that player suffer an injury typically leaves a void in the lineup.
But with right tackle Robert Hunt missing the past month, the Cajuns’ offense hasn’t appeared to pay a huge price for his absence because of sophomore Max Mitchell’s smooth transition from left to right tackle.
For many around the country, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns are first identified by their three-headed monster in the offensive backfield.
As the coaches quickly learned, it wasn’t actually much of a transition at all for the former Neville High player.
“I think it’s been great for Max to play beside him (right guard Kevin Dotson),” Napier said. “Max is a little more comfortable, truth be known, at right tackle, that’s what we’ve found is that he’s more natural there, his experience in high school on that side of the ball’s helped him.”
Hunt isn’t expected to play Saturday with Napier listing him as questionable after being day-to-day for the last five weeks.
“We’re basically in the same position we have been in the past,” Napier said. “Robert is making progress. I would say he’s probably questionable for the game this week, but at some point here we’ll pull the trigger as we approach the weekend and get a little bit better idea where he’s at going forward.”
Moncrief regrets targeting
In the victory at South Alabama, Moncrief was ejected in the first half of the game because of a targeting flag for his hit on the opposing quarterback.
“I made a mistake,” said Moncrief, who has 26 tackles, three sacks, 6.5 stops behind the line and four QB hurries this season. “It hurt me. It hurt me bad because I feel like I let me team down. So moving forward, I just have to make better tackles and the way I’m supposed to make them.”
Troy’s defense has not been good all season long.
Moncrief said it shouldn’t be difficult to correct his mistake.
“No sir, it isn’t,” he said. “It’s just that sometimes when you’re in the moment, you just don’t think about it like that. It just ends up happening.”