Levi Lewis

UL quarterback Levi Lewis threw three touchdown passes with no interceptions during the Cajuns' road win over Liberty on Saturday.

For the past two seasons, it’s almost become a weekly part of the postgame news conference for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.

With a few exceptions, there are comments from the UL defensive staff praising the halftime adjustments made by the offense.

This season has come with constant adjustments or UL coach Billy Napier and the offense as the Cajuns have seen each of their opponents' best curve balls.

The offense prepares all week based on what opposing defenses typically do and then something completely different lines up in the first quarter on game night.

“Each team is different, but I think we’re heading in a direction in our league that it’s a little more game-plan oriented, rather than, ‘Hey, we’re just going to show up and do what we do,’” Napier said. “I think overall, football may be trending that way. We’re very much a game-plan team.

“I think the number of variables that you see each week in all three phases is going up. So that causes you to make some adjustments.”

Sure, it’s part of football, but that knowledge is rarely part of watching football.

With the fans and media not really knowing what the offense is expecting, assessing a unit’s play can often be off base.

Take UL’s win over Liberty, for instance.

The Flames’ defense had typically played more zone, so that’s what the Cajuns prepared for. What they saw was a lot more man-to-man.

So the Cajuns didn’t get a first down on their first three possessions. From the outside looking in, it appeared the offense was in real trouble against Liberty’s tough defense.

“Early on, they rushed the passer well and they covered us, played more man coverage, which was not their MO,” Napier said. “They really sold out to get an extra defender in the box. Some of the stuff that was in the script might not have been as great against man, and I think that was part of it.”

It’s a prime example of the value of having a seasoned quarterback. Even though he was struggling with it, Levi Lewis didn’t panic his way to a turnover.

He simply took what was there — even though at times it wasn’t much — and handed things over to his defense and special teams.

“Early, we got some stuff we weren’t expecting,” Napier said. “Some of that is him managing the game. We don’t have a great play here, and he’s managing the game and he’s getting to the next possession.”

Once the offense made the adjustment, Lewis completed 13 of his final 17 passes for 166 yards passing with three touchdowns, no interceptions and three sacks.

“We put him in better positions,” Napier said after the game.

In an era of focusing heavily on individual players, it’s still a team game and that includes coaching staffs.

On the other side, Liberty quarterback Malik Willis was 14-of-34 passing for 162 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and was sacked seven times.

“We’ve got a quarterback too, now,” Napier said after the game, “and he’s a pretty good one.”

That extra defender in the box also led to some impatience in the running game. UL’s offense only rushed for 28 yards in the first quarter and six in the second.

Yet when the going got tough early in the third quarter with Liberty narrowing the gap to 21-14, Napier went back to the running game and handed it to freshman Montrell Johnson four straight times for 22 yards to ignite a 74-yard touchdown drive.

“That was a big possession,” Napier said. “I think it was probably (Johnson’s) turn, but I said, ‘Hey, let’s jump back into 12 here and try these things that we’ve got ready for the second half and it ended up working out.’”

One quarter later, UL’s offensive line went to work with a 12-play, 66-yard drive with 11 running plays called.

“That was definitely the highlight,” offensive guard David Hudson said. “It was the nail in the coffin. You know we had to finish them right there. It was just a big-time finish with a touchdown.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.