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UL coach Billy Napier walks the side line during the Cajuns' 27-24 win over Nicholls on Saturday.

UL coach Billy Napier on Monday still was discussing the fan support more than his team’s play after Saturday's 27-24 victory over Nicholls State.

“What an incredible environment and venue,” Napier said to kick off his weekly Zoom teleconference. “Just great energy … it was electric in there. Certainly having 25,000 people in there meant a lot to our players and our entire organization. I know how much work went into the effort to create that.

“Really excited to see our students there. I don’t know that we’ve had that big a push from our students since we’ve been here. Certainly we’re thankful and grateful for that.”

Not counting 28,866 against Grambling in 2018 and 26,891 against McNeese State in 2016 — where huge visiting crowds spiked the attendance — it was the largest crowd to watch the Cajuns since 26,824 against Northwestern State in 2015.

“I know that I received countless comments from our players on how appreciative they were and how much that meant to them,” Napier said. “It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal to me. I remember that first year we were here, what it was like.”

It’s going to be challenging for UL’s faithful to duplicate those numbers with the next game scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday against Ohio on ESPN.

The Cajuns have grown accustomed to midweek games over the years to get the Sun Belt Conference exposure on national television. It’s going to happen three more times this season after the Ohio game — at home against Appalachian State on Oct. 12, at Arkansas State on Oct. 21 and at home against Georgia State on Nov. 4.

“We spent a lot of time in years past working on kind of what our blueprint would be for these five-day turnarounds, eight-day turnarounds, 10-day turnarounds,” Napier said. “We’ve got a number of different scenarios on the schedule this year.

“This happens in the National Football League quite a bit, where a team may play in a five-day turnaround. So two years ago we played Coastal in a very similar situation. We researched what NFL teams do when they have these type of scenarios and that’s really what we went with. We’ve got a plan. The key is going to be how we execute that plan.”

Ohio enters the game 0-2 with losses to Syracuse (29-9) and Duquesne (28-26).

The first step to the Cajuns (1-1) improving their play is an upgrade on defense after giving up 511 yards to Nicholls on Saturday.

“Yes, there’s no doubt,” Napier said of how opponents are attacking UL’s defense. “We’ve got some wrinkles that we didn’t expect. That’s in general early in the season you’re going to get new things from the opponent, right? Whether it’s a formation or a personnel group or a pressure or a little different coverage — whatever the case may be. There are lots of instances of that. It’s not going away, either.”

The biggest issue through the first two weeks is getting off the field on third down. Texas and Nicholls converted a combined 19 times on third down out of 31 tries.

“Yes, I think it’s attention to detail,” Napier said of getting off the field. “I think it’s execution of the call. I think it was a lot of times where we’re in a good call and we’re one man away on a lot of those plays in terms of executing the call and positing ourselves for success — whether that’s alignment or whether that’s location on your drop or whether that’s execution of the game upfront.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.