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UL offensive players Nick Ralston (22), Jarrod Jackson (17), Levi Lewis (1), Peter LeBlanc (29) and Elijah Mitchell (15) are hoping to duplicate Saturday's dominant performance in the 53-3 win over Troy.

It sounds like the thing to say, and it’s certainly the goal every week.

But the expectation of playing a complete game week in and week out is actually a bit on the unrealistic side.

UL coach Billy Napier nodded his head in agreement during Monday’s weekly news conference.

Yet, his Ragin’ Cajuns are on a mission.

They desperately desire to achieve some awfully big things over the next three games.

Just think about what that mission entails. First of all, the Cajuns want to secure the program’s first 10-win season when they kick off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday against UL-Monroe on ESPNU.

Then, UL is hoping to beat Appalachian State for the first time in the series to claim its first Sun Belt title under the new format.

At that point, the Cajuns hope to make it a clean sweep with a New Orleans Bowl victory to finish out at 12-2.

The way the Cajuns (9-2, 6-1 SBC) have played since losing to Appalachian State at home on Oct. 9, it that seems very possible ... perhaps even likely to some UL fans.

But coming off two complete, near-perfect efforts in the past three games, it’s a bigger task than most realize.

“We just have to keep the momentum from last week’s game,” UL sophomore center Shane Vallot said.

Easier said than done in most situations.

One week after the gem at Coastal, the Cajuns had a natural letdown against a 1-8 South Alabama club. Not happy about that effort — plus the extra incentive of the Sun Belt West title on the line — UL followed with another impressive performance.

“We had a challenge (last week),” Vallot said. “We didn’t come out and play our best ball against South Alabama. Everybody saw that. We kind of took that personal, so we went out last week and we practiced really hard and we stay focused and we went out and played our best ball.

“We had a challenge, went out and took it and we’ve got to do the same thing this week and keep the momentum from last week.”

The beauty of the South Alabama game was that while the defense took a step backward, the kicking game shined. The secret to complete teams is the ability to win in many different ways, so a complete performance isn't always necessary.

So while three more complete performances aren’t likely coming, they may not be necessary for the Cajuns to finish 12-2.

“You have to find — each week’s a little different — you’ve got to find ways to win lots of different ways,” Napier said. “It’s very rare that you’re emotionally ready to go, maybe the schematic things that you have planned work well, and then the players as a group, offense, defense and special teams, that all are hitting on all cylinders. Saturday was unique for that, in my opinion, I think we checked about every box.

“There’s been weeks where we sputter on one side or the other, maybe offense has got to pick up the defense, or defense has got to pick up the offense, or you make some explosive plays in the kicking game.”

The other big key to overcoming potential matchup difficulties, or simply just a bad day at the office in one phase of the game, is having a good damage-control game plan.

That’s an area where the Cajuns have greatly improved in Napier’s second season.

“We’ve improved as a group in how we compete; nobody’s hitting the panic button,” Napier said. “I think we’ve improved our football IQ. We kind of know. When it goes wrong it’s not like everybody’s wondering why. Everybody understands why, and we’re able to get it fixed and make adjustments in the game. I think that’s one of the biggest things I’ve seen from our team in the second year.”

Besides the possible matchup problems, the other way to win anyway is to master the human element part of game preparation.

One aspect is the healthy competition between teammates. When the defense dominates, as it did against Troy on Saturday, it ignites the offense as well.

“It motivates us,” Vallot said. “When we see them do stuff like that, it makes us want to go out there and put points on the board every time we touch the ball. Our goal is every time we touch the ball, just score — field goals or touchdowns. We personally like touchdowns, but we take field goals.

“When we see them do their thing, we want to do our thing.”

In this particular game against a state rival, a few bitter feelings can help as well.

“They’re going to come out and play hard,” Vallot said of ULM. “They don’t like us. They’re going to try and do some crazy things to get us off of our momentum. But like I said, if we just go out this week and have our best practice and keep the momentum from last week, I don’t think anybody can stop us.

“They’re going to try a lot of different things. If we stay focused and stick to the plan, we’ll be fine.”

Another potential method to success for the Cajuns is to have a coaching staff that has its team trained to think productively.

“We can do a lot more to get better,” UL sophomore linebacker Kris Moncrief. “We can get better every day. Watching more film, taking more notes in meetings. We can do anything to get better than we are now. We just have to keep it going. Whatever coach asks us to do, we do. We’ll just keep it going.”

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.