AUSTIN, Texas — UL’s 31-14 road upset of Iowa State last season was largely due to an aggressive defense and elite special teams.
Cajuns’ kicker Kenny Almendares certainly followed suit with field goals of 37 and 48 yards in the first half, but unfortunately later missed an extra point.
"We’ll look back at the extra point," UL coach Billy Napier said. "Sometimes we always want to talk about the kicker, but sometimes the snap and hold have something to do with that. We’ve got to do the simple things well and certainly making a PAT is on that list."
The return teams were neutralized by Texas kicker Cameron Dicker consistently booting the ball out of the end zone for touchbacks to take Chris Smith out of the game.
The problem was the coverage teams left a lot of work to do. UL’s first punt was actually returned 83 yards for a score, but fortunately was called back by two flags.
Then came a 25-yard kickoff return by the Longhorns to initiate the first touchdown drive by Texas, before a 16-yard punt return set up the second touchdown drive of the first half.
It got even worse to open the second half when UL’s kickoff sailed out of bounds to give Texas possession on the 35.
That set up another Longhorns’ touchdown drive for a 21-6 lead and created an opportunity for more kicking game heartache.
At that point, UL coach Billy Napier opted to roll the dice with an onsides kick.
"On that first possession of the (second) half, we didn’t slow them down much," Napier said. "So if we were going to get back in the game, we needed to do something to change the momentum and really create a break for our defense and try to give us a spark.
Not only did Texas recover, but the Cajuns were flagged for offsides on the play.
"That’s something else that we practice and executed and we did not execute it very well today," Napier added.
Running backs question
The biggest preseason question about the 2021 Cajuns was replacing running backs Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell.
The running game was certainly spotty at times, but there was plenty of hope for the future.
Chris Smith ran for 55 yards and a score on 11 carries, but perhaps more encouraging was true freshman Montrell Johnson adding 27 yards on six carries.
"I think we’re going to be really pleased with that group once we look at the body of work," Napier said. "Those guys were competitive today. Overall, we were getting some push. We had our chances."
August camp began with talk of 16 capable wide receivers. The plan is eventually a handful would emerge as the top targets for senior quarterback Levi Lewis.
That didn’t happen after Saturday’s three-touchdown loss to Texas.
Going into to the final mop-up drive of the game, Errol Rogers led the way with four receptions for 42 yards.
Kyren Lacy didn’t have any receptions until late, but one of his three catches was a highlight-film touchdown grab from 19 yards out.
"I think it was just execution on the receivers' part," said Jalen Williams, who had five catches for 71 yards. "We have to do a better job of executing so they don't have to hold guys while we get open."