Saturday’s 53-3 thumping of Troy by the UL Ragin' Cajuns may have surprised some.
But even for those of us who expected a much more competitive game, it wasn’t difficult to understand why it took place.
For starters, UL coach Billy Napier explained afterwards his 9-2, 6-1 Cajuns were guided by an even higher standard than usual in this contest.
“I’m proud to be associated with those players and that staff in that locker room,” Napier said. “We had a special day today. Military Appreciation Day, I thought that went over well. I thought we got a lot accomplished relative to educating the players about what goes with that — the real heroes.
“We challenged the players to play with some of those qualities that maybe the military exhibits — sacrifice, bravery, selfishness, respect, service — past, present and future — I hope we got that accomplished today relative to the people that were here and the way we went about our business.”
Somehow the coaching staff upped the ante on what a successful effort was.
“We talked about before the game challenging the team to play with an undeniable level of commitment,” Napier added. “As an individual player, your commitment to the team, every position group, every unit and every phase of the kicking game. (team chaplin) Eric Treuil’s message today in chapel was being a giver, not a taker, and certainly I thought a lot of guys played that kind of ball out there and went about it the right way.”
Just two games after the sound thrashing of Coastal Carolina 48-7, the Cajuns just might have outdone themselves with this demolition.
It was a blackout night at Cajun Field for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
Peeling back one more layer, though, there was a more tradition football reason to explain why UL was so sharp Saturday.
They weren’t the week before at South Alabama.
“I think we learned some lessons last week with how maybe we weren’t quite ready to go last week against South,” Napier said. “We weren’t in the right frame of mind. We didn’t have as much intensity or urgency about us at times, and we got exposed a little bit. I thought that was a great opportunity to remember now what got you here.
“That was intensity, urgency, great focus and executing the plan. We kind of went back to that. What happened to us last week was kind a blessing in disguise.”
The opponent helped too.
Sure, this is a transition season for Troy under a new head coach, but it’s still the same program that beat LSU two years ago and beat Nebraska last season and beat these the Cajuns by 10 points a year ago.
Three games ago, the trip to Coastal Carolina was supposed to be challenging.
“Our players respect Troy, because we got beat by Troy last year,” Napier said. “They beat us by 10 last year at their place and they’re a very accomplished program.
“They’ve got really good players.”
Those “really good” players didn’t approach that level Saturday. A seasoned senior quarterback in Kaleb Barker looked like a rattled rookie most of the game.
Take away 61 gift yards at the end of the first half and Troy wouldn’t have reached 300 total yards, despite averaging 477 coming into the game.
There was also a carrot.
The win secured the Sun Belt West crown for the second time in two years of the conference's division play.
It’s not the opportunity UL’s football program has been waiting for since they walked off the field after the Sun Belt Conference championship…
Let’s just say there were a couple extra doses of focus for this one.
Of course, acknowledging that isn’t what Napier wants his players pondering just yet.
“This week, it was hard to find a hole out there tonight, but that ain’t going to be the case next week,” he said. “It’s going to be about what we do starting tomorrow when we start working on ULM. We’ve got to execute and go about working the right way between tomorrow and next Saturday.”
The kind that would make any drill sergeant proud.