MOBILE, Ala. — The bulk of the pregame talk was about how the monthlong break would affect the execution in Monday’s LendingTree Bowl matchup between the UL Ragin’ Cajuns and the Miami Redhawks, of Ohio.
If the game was played two or three weeks ago, no one would have blinked. Every indication was both teams handled the long break quite well.
“I thought it was a really good football game,” UL coach Billy Napier said. “We had a few undisciplined penalties at times — some procedural issues — but for the most part, we didn’t turn the football over. I thought we tackled well.
“Outside of the one fumble we had early, I thought we had pretty good ball security. I thought we had good plans. I thought we had really good practices leading up the game. We made progress as a team.”
MOBILE, Ala. — Heading into Monday night's LendingTree Bowl, much of the X-and-O discussion was about UL’s vaunted rushing attack and Miami’s …
Despite the loss, Miami coach Chuck Martin was still fired up about the experience in the postgame news conference.
“From pooch punting to decision making to returners to blocking to very few penalties, no I thought it was two really disciplined teams that play really hard,” Martin said. “I thought it was a great football game. If we both played our best, I thought that’s what it would look like and I thought we both played really, really well.”
The Cajuns did get nine penalties for 53 yards, but besides that, Napier credited the identities of both teams for the crispness of the matchup.
“A lot of it has to do with you’re playing against a good opponent,” Napier said. “Each team has a good identity and I thought that led to a really good football game. I thought it was pretty clean and sometimes when you’re off for a month, that’s not the case.”
Special kicking games
One of the best pregame matchups was the two kicking games and neither one disappointed.
The two punters put on a show in the first half. UL’s Rhys Byrns delivered two punts for a 44.5-yard average, including downed at the 4. He finished with four punts for a 45.2-yard average.
Miami’s Kyle Kramer, meanwhile, punted three times for a 46.7-yard average, including two inside the 10.
A year ago, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns were a bit of a surprise to many in coach Billy Napier’s first season.
The special teams standout of the game, though, was UL placekicker Stevie Artigue, who nailed field goals of 33 and 38 yards and made all three of his extra points.
The nine points moved Artigue into No. 2 on the school’s all-time scoring list.
“(Holder) Bam (Jackson) actually saved me on that one,” Artigue said of the 38-yard field goal that gave UL a 10-point lead at the time. “We were a yard too far back and Bam was, ‘Retake your steps, retake your steps.’ I had to go retake my steps for 7 yards, not 8 yards. Thank God he did that. Thank God, he’s a heads-up guy.”
For his work, the former Lafayette High standout was voted as the Special Teams Player of the Game.
“It means everything,” Artigue said of significance of his strong finish. “As you know I’m from Lafayette High and we didn’t do too well in high school, but ending this year with an 11-(win) season, that’s worth it.”
Big bowl advocate
Don’t even try to tell Miami coach Chuck Martin that Monday’s LendingTree Bowl was a virtually useless bowl that just as easily not be played.
One, he’s not listening, and two, he’ll likely give you a piece of his mind.
“You hear the stories about how besides the final four, the bowl games are stupid, we don’t need these bowls … they’re unnecessary,” Martin said. “They haven’t spent five days in Mobile. What this meant for our team, for our players, for our coaches, for our families, for our fans, for our alumni and what we experienced this week was as fun as it gets.
“It’s an unbelievable reward for college athletes that entertain us all year round. These bowl games are awesome.”
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Martin and his players raved about everything they experienced from the Mardi Gras parade on Friday to the battleship on Sunday.
“Then it ends with an unbelievable football game,” Martin said. “I got to stand on the sidelines and watch two football teams absolutely get after each other for four quarters.
“It was fast, it was hard-hitting, and it was fighting for every inch.”
Moncrief stands out
His name may not be the first or second or third one that comes to mind for the average UL football fan.
But Miami’s coaching staff sure know the impact sophomore linebacker Kris Moncrief had on Monday’s 27-17 win.
Moncrief contributed five tackles and 1.5 sacks.
“Absolutely,” Napier said of Moncrief’s impact on the game. “He’s one of the guys that probably doesn’t get recognized enough. He’s one of the best players we’ve got. I think in the future, you’re going to see him be a very productive explosive player. He’s a good one.”