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UL left tackle Carlos Rubio (65), shown here celebrating a touchdown against Ohio, has suffered a major injury and may be lost for the season.

One conference road victory down and now the UL Ragin’ Cajuns turn their attention to grabbing a second road Sun Belt Conference win against South Alabama at 7 p.m. Saturday in Mobile.

UL coach Billy Napier commented on two of the major obstacles to his Cajuns getting off to a 2-0 start in conference play in his weekly news conference Monday.

The first one is his team’s injury situation. Two offensive lineman went down at Georgia Southern on Saturday. Shane Vallot returned to the game. Left tackle Carlos Rubio did not and the news doesn’t sound good.

Napier stopped just short of saying Rubio has been lost for the season, pushing a more official announcement until the weekly depth chart update Wednesday evening.

“Right now, we have declared that Carlos will be out a pretty significant amount of time,” Napier said. “We’ll know a little more (later Monday), but we won’t have him this week for sure. Then we’ll kind of see where he’s at relative to the season.”

Rubio missed two games earlier this season. The running game was best this season when Rubio was starting, particularly against Ohio on Sept. 16. To date, the plan has been AJ Gillie replacing him at guard with Ken Marks moving out to tackle.

Making matters worse is reserve guard Tyler Brown was already declared out for the season, along with defensive lineman Andre Landry, and Napier revealed last week that reserve offensive lineman Jax Harrington is expected to miss a month.

“I think the big thing here is going to be what does that two-deep look like and how do we practice the players from a development standpoint?” Napier said.

The other challenge is how the Jaguars’ defense has performed under first-year coach Kane Wommack.

That defense has spearheaded a 3-0 start for South Alabama, allowing just 15.7 points, 290.7 yards total and 55.3 yards rushing per game with wins over Southern Miss, Bowling Green and Alcorn State.

“They’re playing good defense,” Napier said. “They’ve always played good defense, truth be known. They’ve got big, physical, long, fast, explosive players. They’ve given us problems in the past, and a lot of those players are still playing.”

Also worth noting is the Jaguars were off last week, while the Cajuns were winning at Georgia Southern.

“(Time off) can be good and bad,” Napier said. “I think it’s been good and bad for teams I’ve been a part of. There’s something to be said early about getting into a rhythm of how the season goes, but also sometimes you need to get healthy and sometimes a little extra time to prepare. I think it goes both ways and a lot of it is relative to maybe where your team is.

“I think each one of those decisions is independent of when. It’s more about the variables that each team is going through.”

Before addressing South Alabama, though, Napier gave his assessment of watching the film from Saturday’s win in Georgia.

“I was proud of the intangibles that our team showed,” Napier said. “I thought we played hard in the game, I thought we played physical. The effort was there. We showed some poise kind of playing through a slow start and playing through a little bit of a hectic fourth quarter there when the game got to one score.”

Napier also commented on Sunday’s announcement that Georgia Southern fired coach Chad Lunsford after a 1-3 start to the season.

“I just want to personally say that I’ve got so much respect for Chad as a person, as a coach,” he said. “The way he goes about his business, his foundation relative to his faith, his family and certainly his passion for players and helping people in general.

“He’s been a class act since I’ve known him. That’s the tough part of the profession, so our thoughts are with him and his family certainly, their players and the staff.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.