It was early in the fourth quarter.
His UL Ragin’ Cajuns were clinging to a tenuous 23-21 lead as a four-touchdown favorite on the road.
It was fourth and less than a yard from his own 39 with one of the top rushing offenses in the nation at his disposal.
It wasn’t a total no-brainer. UL coach Billy Napier called timeout and discussed the scenarios with his coaches.
When push came to shove, though, he pulled the aggressive lever and it hit jackpot.
Elijah Mitchell broke through the line for a 13-yard gain to keep the drive going. It ended up being a 17-play, 85-yard drive that earned the Cajuns a two-score lead that their never relinquished.
“I think it was just we had a decision to make there,” Napier said. “In my opinion, we needed to keep the momentum of the game. It was really less than a yard. I thought we had a good play in our pocket. I talked it over with coach (Ron) Roberts, coach (Rob) Sale and our guys.
“We felt good about what we had there and certainly defensively at that point, it would have done us a lot of good to get a first down and stay on the field.”
MOBILE, Ala. — At times this season, it’s been the offense that has shined the brightest.
Getting a good push made it work and so did the hard running of Elijah Mitchell.
“The fourth-down play, you just have to have that mentality that it’s fourth down, so we really need it and run hard,” Mitchell said. “I ran hard and I got the first down.”
Mitchell’s 117 yards rushing and two catches for 20 yards provided stability to the Cajuns’ offense when necessary. Consequently, he and his teammates didn’t panic when challenged.
“Yes, it’s not bad,” Mitchell said. “Stuff like this happens. Like coach Napier said, we just have to stay together and that’s what we did. We just changed some things up and it started working for us.”
Mitchell’s critical 13-yard gainer did more than just pick a first down help to take 7:12 off the clock.
“We were trying to eat up as much clock as we could,” Napier said.
It was supposed to be easy.
It was the kind of domination of the line of scrimmage the Cajuns had grown used to for much of the season, but didn’t enjoy as often in Saturday’s win as possible.
The first downs were even at 23-23, the Jaguars outgained UL on the ground 352-255 and outgained the Cajuns overall 468-391.
“Those two runners they’ve got are big, thick lower-half — run the ball with power,” Napier said. “You’ve got to give them some credit too. They had their guys ready to go. I think they benefited from last week, probably got some confidence playing Texas State close.
“But you know our kids, I don’t know if we ever panicked.
It was just kind of like, ‘Alright, here we go. We’ve got to go make a few plays and get some stops.’ ”
The issue that seemed to aggravate Napier and his offense the most was having to kick three short field goals.
“Of course, we have some things we need to work on,” Mitchell said. “That’s not us in the red zone. We’re just going to work every day and just keep preparing for it. In games like this, we need to score. That’s a big deal.”