MOBILE, Ala. — If everything goes as planned, UL coach Billy Napier and the Ragin’ Cajuns football program will experience much more success in the future.
But that doesn’t mean the softest spot in his heart won’t always be the job this year’s seniors did to get his head coaching career off to a good start as well as rejuvenate UL’s program.
Napier will coach that senior group one final time in the LendingTree Bowl at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
For at least one more afternoon Friday, Napier's name was again supposedly on the top of the list of an SEC school.
“Certainly, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we’ve accomplished so far this season if we didn’t have that steady leadership and energy that this group has provided,” Napier said.
In short, this senior class “verifies and confirms all of those things that you believe in.”
Twenty seniors were honored on Senior Day at Cajun Field on Nov. 30, and the stories behind most of them cover the spectrum.
The group ranges from the king of the mountain in guard Kevin Dotson to confident team leaders like Deuce Wallace, Jacques Boudreaux and Jarrod Jackson.
It also includes four-year standouts like wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley to one-year transfers like Nick Ralston … from the outgoing like offensive tackle Robert Hunt to the reserved types like Terik Miller … to those with dramatic stories like Kamar Greenhouse and Bennie Higgins.
There was a time not so long ago that former UL quarterback Donnie Wallace wanted no part of his sons Deuce and Dane playing football.
“We’ve got lots of players in this class,” Napier said. “We have a mix of players in this class. We’ve got some talented guys. We also have some guys who have a great story - they’ve made tremendous improvement and overachieved.
“We’ve got some dynamic personalities, some guys who have done a good job of taking our message and delivering that and living that out.”
Win or lose Monday, this senior group has been “a tremendous example” for the under classmen and “a fun group to be around.”
When a high school standout leaves the state to play college ball, he might get one opportunity for his team to visit his hometown.
UL sophomore cornerback and Mobile native Eric Garror is lucky enough to get it twice.
After contributing a long punt return in UL’s 37-27 road win over South Alabama back on Nov. 16, Garror’s Cajuns will return to Ladd Peebles Stadium on Monday for the LendingTree Bowl.
“It means a lot to be home, especially playing another game in your home town where your family and friends can come see me play,” Garror said. “It’s a good experience for all my family and friends to come see me play, especially in a bowl game.”
MOBILE, Ala. — In the postgame news conference following the Sun Belt Conference championship game loss at Appalachian State on Dec. 7, UL coa…
The former McGill-Toolen High standout certainly enjoyed the first trip, especially the 72-yard punt return.
“The first time was real fun. After that big return, my family was going crazy in the stands,” laughed Garror, who has been credited with 28 tackles and eight pass breakups this season. “The first time was pretty good.”
Who is hungrier?
Between the two competitors in this year’s LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, it would likely be a tight battle trying to determine which team is hungrier for a victory.
On one hand, there’s the Cajuns, who hasn’t won a bowl game since 2014, but that was under a different head coach.
This group of seniors has already lost two bowls – one in 2016 to Southern Mississippi in New Orleans and the second to Tulane in last year’s Cure Bowl in Florida.
For a senior graduate transfer like tight end Nick Ralston, it’s kind of time to do a little reflection on his decision to transfer to UL from…
“I definitely think this team is still hungry,” UL sophomore safety Bralen Trahan said. “This team is totally just about winning. I know we didn’t end the season how we wanted, but I think we’re still as hungry as we were before we even played the Sun Belt championship. I think everybody’s ready, having fun at the bowl and ready to win this game.”
On the other hand, there’s Miami of Ohio, which hasn’t won a bowl game since the 35-21 win over Middle Tennessee in Mobile after the 2010 season.
In fact, this is only the second bowl since that win with the other one being a 17-16 loss to Mississippi State in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2016.
Bowl win abroad
Monday’s LendingTree Bowl game offers UL’s football program a unique opportunity.
Since breaking a 41-year bowl drought in coach Mark Hudspeth’s first season in 2011, the Ragin’ Cajuns have now been to seven bowl games in the last nine seasons.
All four of the bowl victories, however, have come in the New Orleans Bowl from 2011-14.
Mobile, Alabama isn’t New Orleans, but it’s not far from it.
After losing to Tulane 41-24 in last year’s Cure Bowl, the Cajuns still have not won an out-of-state bowl game in the modern era.
The 1970 bowl loss to Tennessee State was played in Baton Rouge.
In fact, the only time the program has ever won a bowl game outside of Louisiana was a 24-7 win over Arkansas A&M in the 1944 Oil Bowl played in Houston, Texas.