In what has been building as a historic season for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns, one of the question marks remaining has been the depth of the wide receivers.
You wouldn’t know it, however, after the first half of the Cajuns’ 48-7 rout of Coastal Carolina on Thursday in Conway, South Carolina.
In the first half, quarterback Levi Lewis was 17-of-19 passing for 181 yards with a touchdown, before finishing 26-of-30 for 296 yards and three TDs.
Ja’Marcus Bradley had four first-half catches for 44 yards and freshman Peter LeBlanc saw his role continue to grow with four grabs for 31 yards.
Jalen Williams added two receptions for 26 yards, but it went deeper than that. All four tight ends — Pearse Migl, Hunter Bergeron, Nick Ralston and Neal Johnson — all had a catch, as did Raymond Calais and Calif Gossett to make it 10 Cajuns with a catch in the first half.
"Lots of different skill players showing up," coach Billy Napier said. "We talked about challenging a player's loyalty, accountability and being prepared when you get your opportunity to do your job."
Then on the first drive of the second half, Jamal Bell caught a pass to make it 11 different targets with at least one reception. Bell’s catch was a 28-yarder in traffic on a third-and-10 from the 38.
On the touchdown drive before that, Lewis hit five different targets among seven completions — finishing it off with a 1-yard TD pass to Johnson for his first career touchdown.
Then on UL’s first possession of the second half, Williams produced a 10-yard TD grab for his first career touchdown as well.
For the record, Jarrod Jackson caught three passes on UL’s second drive of the second half to make it 12 Cajuns with a catch.
Then Brian Smith caught two passes from backup quarterback Jaiave Magalei to make it 13 UL players with a catch in the game. Cassius Allen made it 14 with a fourth-quarter reception from Magalei.
Defense adjusts again
It’s a trend that’s not exactly alarming.
After all, the majority of the game means more than the first drive.
But again Thursday, UL’s defense saw an opponent drive down the field on the game’s first drive. The big play in the drive was Coastal executing a 36-yard flea-flicker on the game’s first play.
Two plays later, C.J. Marable broke loose for a 14 yards. The Chanticleers reached the UL 17, but a fumble halted the drive’s momentum and Massimo Biscardi missed a 35-yard field goal.
"I thought we played with great effort and great physicality," Napier said. "Early in the game, we kind of bounced off a few tackles. We settled in as the game went. And again, lots of players playing on defense as well."
That proved to be really bad news for Coastal, which punted on its next four possessions. The next time the Chanticleers approached the red zone again, the score was 31-0 midway through the third quarter.
In the first half, the Cajuns shut out Coastal, allowing six first downs, 54 yards rushing, 49 passing and a 1-of-5 on third down. The Chanticleers finished with 14 first downs and 236 total yards.
Time of possession
Coastal Carolina’s offense led the Sun Belt Conference and was ranked in the top 20 nationally last season in time of possession.
The same could be said about the 2019 … coming into Thursday’s game.
On this night, the Cajuns’ offense was operating at its most efficient level of the season and the defense continued to dominate.
The result was UL dominating first half time of possession 18:51 to 11:09.
UL finished with a time of possession edge of 33:26 to 26:34.
The Cajuns are now 4-0 on the road this season with one game left at South Alabama on Nov. 16.
The last time the Cajuns went undefeated on the road was 1970, which was the program’s last bowl berth before coach Mark Hudspeth’s arrival in 2011.
"I think our team has been very focused," Napier said. "We've accepted the challenge of playing better on the road. We didn't play very well on the road last year. I think it's a mentality."