Three games ago, the trip to Coastal Carolina was supposed to be challenging.
Instead, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns responded with their most complete performance of the season with a shellacking of the Chanticleers.
Then in a game UL was favored by four touchdowns, it had to surge late for a hard-fought, 10-point road win over a one-win South Alabama squad.
On Saturday night at Cajun Field, the Cajuns were back to tempting perfection in demolishing the Troy Trojans 53-3 to secure a spot in the Sun Belt Conference championship game for the second straight season.
The Cajuns improved to 9-2 for the second time in school history and first time since 1976, while getting to 6-1 in league play as the West division champions for the second time in the two-year format.
"That’s about as complete as it gets," UL coach Billy Napier said. "I didn’t think it would be that easy to be honest with you, but we had a good look in our eye the last couple of days. Wednesday walk-through, Thursday practice and certainly yesterday we were engaged. Pregame, they were ready to go."
If Appalachian State beats Troy on Friday, the Cajuns will play the Mountaineers in Boone, N.C., on Dec. 7 for the Sun Belt title and a trip to the New Orleans Bowl.
If UL and Troy both win next week, the Cajuns would meet Appalachian State at Cajun Field on Dec. 7.
Like so many around the country, I’ve gotten pretty immune to any excitement level when it comes to polls.
Much like against Coastal Carolina on Nov. 7, the Cajuns were totally dominant from start to finish in all three phases of the game.
The Cajuns’ offense struck Troy’s defense from every angle in building a 28-3 halftime lead.
On the first drive, it was Levi Lewis and the passing game with four completions for more than 10 yards. A 13-yarder to Jamal Bell got UL in the red zone and a 12-yard touchdown to Ja’Marcus Bradley did the honors for the quick 7-0 lead.
UL’s next two drives ended in three-and-out punts, but the Cajuns scored on their next three possessions and all three covered a lot of ground in six plays.
Lewis finished 21-of-33 passing for 273 yards and a touchdown.
It was a huge part of the preseason excitement surrounding the 2019 Ragin’ Cajuns
It was the running game’s turn on the second touchdown drive. Trey Ragas ran for 14 and Raymond Calais broke loose on a 27-yard scoring run up the right sidelines for a 14-3 lead with 55 seconds left in the first quarter. It was a 61-yard drive.
After a Chauncey Manac sack ended Troy’s ensuing drive, Ragas rumbled for 45 yards to ignite another scoring drive that ended with a Ragas 1-yard touchdown plunge to make it 21-3. That drive covered 72 yards in six plays.
Ragas finished with 79 yards and two scores on 11 carries, while Calais added 61 yards on seven tries.
Reserve back Chris Smith led the team in rushing off the bench with 87 yards on five carries, thanks to an 80-yard touchdown run
Troy had another three-and-out to set up a six-play, 67-yard scoring play in 2:48 for a 28-3 lead. A 34-yarder to Bradley was the big play on the drive that ended in powerful 11-yard touchdown run by Elijah Mitchell with 8:18 still left until halftime.
While UL’s offense rolled throughout the first half to the 18 first downs, 168 yards rushing and 189 yards passing, the Cajuns’ defense had its way with a Troy offense putting up huge numbers entering the game.
Quarterback Kaleb Barker and the Trojans’ offense had seven possessions in the first half. Five of them ended in punts, one in a made 30-yard field goal and one in an interception by A.J. Washington at the UL 7.
Troy entered the game averaging 39 points and 477.7 yards per game. In the first half, Troy’s offense looked anything but efficient and productive. Barker was under pressure throughout the game and never got in a rhythm. The Trojans picked up 59 easy yards in the final 17 seconds of the first half to reach 12 first downs and 229 yards total in the first half. The Trojans finished with 359 yards total on 18-of-40 passing.
And just in case there was any doubt, the second half began with Jacques Boudreaux forcing a fumble recovered by Kris Moncrief to set up a 45-yard field goal by Stevie Artigue. Artigue had booted a 49-yarder late in the first half for a 31-3 halftime score.
Then on Troy’s second possession of the second half, UL linebacker Jourdan Quibodeaux sacked Barker in the end zone for a safety and a 36-3 lead.