Sep 4, 2021; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns tight end Cade Brewer (80) hugs quarterback Hudson Card (1) after catching a touchdown pass in the first half of the game against the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Hudson Card shines in debut as No. 21 Texas routs No. 23 Louisiana

Hudson Card passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in his first collegiate start as No. 21 Texas began the Steve Sarkisian era with a 38-18 win over No. 23 Louisiana on Saturday afternoon in the season-opener for both teams in Austin, Texas.

Card was 14-of-21 passing and connected with six different receivers while playing three quarters for the Longhorns (1-0). Bijan Robinson ran for 103 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 73 yards and another score in Texas’ romp while Jordan Whittington led all receivers with seven catches for a career-best 113 yards.

The Longhorns’ defense limited Louisiana to 359 yards, 179 of which came in the final 12:24 of the game after things were out of reach. Dual-threat Ragin’ Cajuns’ quarterback Levi Lewis passed for 282 yards and a scoring pass late, combining with Kyren Lacy on a 19-yard touchdown.

Louisiana (0-1) got on the board first via a 37-yard field goal by Kenneth Almendares at the end of a 42-yard drive with 8:16 to play in the first quarter. Texas answered with an 18-yard TD pass from Card to Robinson at the 2:25 mark of the first that culminated an 11-play, 70-yard march.

The Longhorns added to their lead when Card hit Cade Brewer on a 6-yard touchdown pass with two minutes to play before halftime. Almendares booted a career-long 48-yard field goal on the final play of the half to allow the Ragin’ Cajuns to pull to within 14-6 at the break.

Robinson stutter-stepped his way to a 7-yard TD run on the opening drive of the third quarter to push Texas’ lead to 21-6. Louisiana responded on the ensuing possession with a 27-yard touchdown run around right end by Chris Smith before Almendares’ extra point was blocked by the Longhorns’ Keondre Coburn.

Card’s 3-yard scoring run expanded Texas’ advantage to 28-12 with 2:43 to play in the third quarter. Whittington’s 14-yard catch-and-run TD from backup quarterback Casey Thompson early in the fourth quarter removed any real notion of a comeback from Louisiana.

Texas’ Cameron Dicker booted a 49-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to provide the final margin of victory.

–Field Level Media

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns head coach Billy Napier watches his team play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium. The Ragin Cajuns beat the Cyclones 31 to 14.   Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

UTSA, No. 19 Louisiana get call for First Responder Bowl

Louisiana didn’t get a chance to play for the Sun Belt Conference championship.

The No. 19 Ragin’ Cajuns are trying to prevent that disappointment from adversely affecting their performance against UTSA in the First Responder Bowl on Saturday on the SMU campus in Dallas.

Louisiana (9-1) flew to South Carolina last Thursday to play Coastal Carolina for the Sun Belt title, but returned home the next day after the game was canceled due to COVID issues within the Chanticleers’ program.

Both teams were declared co-champions.

“We’ve got to take that anger and frustration and disappointment and move forward and use those things as fuel on the fire to get ready to play,” Cajuns coach Billy Napier said. “We’ve got a very competitive culture here. We’ve got a very competitive group of people.”

The Cajuns opened the season with a 31-14 road victory against No. 10 Iowa State and have the best 10-game record in school history.

They have won the Sun Belt West division and played in a bowl game in each of Napier’s three seasons as head coach. That success led to Napier being a candidate for coaching vacancies at South Carolina and Auburn, but Louisiana announced this week that Napier is staying put.

Louisiana’s defense has forced at least two turnovers in each victory this season. The only time it failed to do that was in a 30-27 home loss to Coastal Carolina on Oct. 14.

The Roadrunners are 7-4 in coach Jeff Traylor’s first season. A victory over the Cajuns would be the first bowl victory for a school that is making just its second appearance in a bowl and it would tie the school-record for wins in a season.

UTSA was originally scheduled to play SMU in the Frisco Bowl, but the Dec. 19 game was canceled due to COVID issues in the Mustangs’ program.

The First Responder Bowl stepped in and invited the Roadrunners, who gladly accepted but had to wait five days to learn that Louisiana would be their opponent.

“What an awesome opportunity,” Traylor said. “I’m just so thrilled for our players, coaches and staff to be playing in a bowl game.”

The UTSA program is in just its 10th season. The school tied an NCAA modern startup program record by reaching a bowl game in just its sixth season, losing to New Mexico 23-20 in the 2016 New Mexico Bowl.

The Roadrunners finished second in the Conference USA West division with a 5-2 conference record.

“We’re building something special here,” quarterback Frank Harris said. “Coach Traylor is doing a great job of instilling a culture. We are following it now and seeing the results.”

UTSA set school records for total offense (624 yards) and rushing yards (443) in their last game – a 49-17 victory against North Texas on Nov. 28. It was the second consecutive game that the total offense record was broken.

“I think we finished the (regular) season out in the right way,” said running back Sincere McCormick, who had a record 251 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns head coach Billy Napier watches his team play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium. The Ragin Cajuns beat the Cyclones 31 to 14.   Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Louisiana survives scare from Appalachian State

Trey Ragas ran for two third-quarter touchdowns and No. 25 Louisiana survived two late scoring chances from Appalachian State to win 24-21, defeating the Mountaineers for the first time Friday night in Boone, N.C.

Appalachian State kicker Chandler Staton missed on a 30-yard field goal boot with one second remaining that likely would have forced overtime.

The teams played Appalachian State’s home finale in miserable rainy conditions.

Levi Lewis was 8-for-23 passing for 101 yards for the Ragin’ Cajuns (9-1, 7-1 Sun Belt Conference), who already had clinched a spot in the league’s championship game.

Appalachian State, trailing 24-19, threatened by moving to the Louisiana 23 before a fourth-down sack with about two minutes remaining. The Mountaineers used two of their timeouts on defense before the Ragin’ Cajuns intentionally took a safety at the 1:46 mark rather than risk a punt because three earlier punt snaps went over the punter’s head.

Then the Mountaineers took advantage a defensive pass interference penalty, putting the ball at the Louisiana 13-yard line. Two incompletions preceded the field-goal try, which sailed wide left.

Zac Thomas was 10 of 21 passing for 92 yards and two interceptions for the Mountaineers (7-3, 5-2). Camerun Peoples rushed 21 times for 99 yards and a TD.

Ragas had scoring runs of 17 yards and 1 yard for a 24-10 lead. Teammate Elijah Mitchell had 95 rushing yards on 12 attempts.

Appalachian State responded on Peoples’ 1-yard run to cap an 80-yard, 14-play drive with 8:17 remaining. Then came two safeties that helped cut the gap.

Earlier, Mountaineers running back Nate Noel opened the scoring on a 33-yard run in the first quarter. This came after Appalachian State took possession at midfield following a botched Louisiana punt play.

The Mountaineers got another chance in ideal field possession after a botched Louisiana snap in punt formation allowed Appalachian State to take over at the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 22-yard line. That chance went awry on Staton’s missed field goal from 37 yards out in the final minute of the opening quarter.

Likely because of the rain-swept field, the teams began with a mostly conservative approach. They combined to attempt eight first-quarter passes, with just one completion.

Appalachian State led 10-9 at halftime after Kenneth Almenda’s 26-yard field goal on the last play of the first half for Louisiana.

These teams met the last two Decembers in Boone in Sun Belt Conference championship games, with the Mountaineers winning both times. This time, Louisiana entered this matchup having already secured a spot in the league title game for later this month.

Appalachian State, which has one regular-season game remaining, was aiming to bolster its bowl stock.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis (1) runs with the ball against the Georgia State Panthers during the first half at Center parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Louisiana looks to finish strong vs. Appalachian St.

It still qualifies as a showdown, but there won’t be as much on the line in this December game when Louisiana visits Appalachian State for Friday night’s Sun Belt Conference game.

That’s because it’s a regular-season game in Boone, N.C. In this case, No. 25 Louisiana already has secured a spot in the conference championship game.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (8-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) still have work to do as their stock rises, appearing in this week’s College Football Playoff standings.

Appalachian State (7-2, 5-1), which will be in its second-to-last regular-season game, still has plenty at stake as it attempts to bolster its bowl stock. This will be the first Top 25 opponent to visit the Mountaineers.

Louisiana is fresh off Saturday’s 70-20 pounding of Louisiana-Monroe, improving to 5-0 in road games.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are trying to avoid distractions, particularly with coach Billy Napier’s name surfacing as a potential candidate for higher-profile jobs.

“You know I’m not going to comment on those things,” Napier said. “For us to be where we’re at and have success and be recognized and be in those conversations, I think, if anything, it’s humbling. That’s what I think about it.”

Napier had been in insolation after a positive coronavirus test before rejoining the team shortly before last weekend’s game.

Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis has thrown for 16 touchdowns and rushed for five touchdowns this year. Running backs Elijah Mitchell (40 career rushing touchdowns) and Trey Ragas (35 career rushing touchdowns) give the offense balance.

“They’re very similar to the past with more playmakers,” Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark said.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are limiting opponents to 175.2 passing yards per game.

Appalachian State might have a counterattack for that kind of defense. Senior receiver Malik Williams is coming off a 113-yard game for his first time above 100 receiving yards in his career.

“He’s so productive,” Clark said. “All he does is catch and get open and make plays. I was really dumbfounded that he never had that much yardage in a game.”

This is the third year in a row that Louisiana makes a December trip to Appalachian State. The Mountaineers won home games in the past two such matchups that came in Sun Belt Conference title games, including 45-38 last year.

This regular-season game was pushed back from earlier in the season because of coronavirus issues.

Appalachian State seemed to recover in fine fashion after losing to Coastal Carolina, but the loss meant it won’t have a chance to defend its title.

The Mountaineers thumped visiting Troy 47-10 last week, with senior quarterback Zac Thomas matching his career high with four touchdown passes.

“When people counted us out, we came right back for the fight,” Clark said. “It’s good to be back on the winning side of things.”

With the short turnaround, the Mountaineers benefited from using starters for only about three quarters in the Troy game.

Snow covered Kidd Brewer Stadium earlier this week, so the conditions could be a factor. Due to state pandemic-related restrictions, attendance will be limited to 2,170.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns head coach Billy Napier watches his team play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium. The Ragin Cajuns beat the Cyclones 31 to 14.   Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Louisiana coach Napier tests positive for COVID-19

Louisiana football coach Billy Napier tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating away from his family, the school announced Saturday.

The No. 24 Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1) aren’t playing this weekend. Their game against Central Arkansas, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled because of coronavirus-related issues in the Louisiana program.

The school said Napier began to exhibit symptoms on Wednesday and had two negative test results until a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken on Friday returned a positive result.

The team was scheduled to resume practice on Saturday after halting operations on Tuesday.

“Pending a successful recovery, Coach Napier will travel separately from the team to Monroe, Louisiana, for the Saturday, Nov. 28 game vs. ULM,” the school said in a statement.

Napier issued a statement of his own.

“I will be following all guidelines and recommendations set forth by our team medical staff and local public health officials,” said Napier, 41. “I am proud of how our student-athletes and staff have responded to this adversity. I challenge everyone, myself included, to adhere to all safety recommendations as we navigate this unprecedented time.”

Napier is in his third season with the Ragin’ Cajuns and has a 25-11 career record. His name has been mentioned in connection with the vacancy at South Carolina, which opened last weekend with the firing of Will Muschamp.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis (1) runs with the ball against the Georgia State Panthers during the first half at Center parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Louisiana downs South Alabama to clinch Sun Belt title game berth

Led by senior quarterback Levi Lewis’ three touchdown passes, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns punched their return ticket to the Sun Belt Conference championship game on Saturday with a 38-10 victory over South Alabama in Lafayette, La.

Louisiana (7-1, 5-1) clinched the top seed in the Sun Belt’s West division and will play for the conference championship for the third consecutive time since the title game was introduced in 2018. The Ragin’ Cajuns lost the previous two Sun Belt finals against Appalachian State.

Lewis, who announced earlier this week he would stay at Louisiana for one more season, completed 21 of 31 passes for 252 yards, one interception and threw his touchdown passes to three different receivers. Lewis completed passes to 12 different receivers overall.

South Alabama (3-5, 2-3) mustered 123 yards rushing, led by Terrion Avery’s 62 yards on 14 carries, but Carlos Davis — one of the Sun Belt’s leading rushers — was held to 18 yards on six carries.

Jaguars sophomore quarterback Desmond Trotter, the conference’s most accurate passer (70.1 percent completion rate) entering the game, completed 15 of 28 attempts, but was held to 133 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Louisiana junior safety Percy Butler recorded that takeaway when he intercepted Trotter on South Alabama’s first possession, which led to Louisiana’s first score. Late in the first half, Butler nailed Trotter on a safety blitz forcing a fumble that was recovered by junior defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill.

Senior receiver Kawaan Baker caught six passes for 43 yards, including South Alabama’s lone touchdown on a 7-yard catch-and-run from Trotter in the second quarter.

Louisiana, ranked No. 25 by AP, finished with a nearly equal offensive output, also rushing for 254 yards, led by Chris Smith’s 99 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Elijah Mitchell ran for a touchdown and finished with 61 yards on 15 carries while Trey Ragas ran for 78 yards on 10 carries and caught a 25-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns running back Elijah Mitchell (15) reacts with wide receiver Kyren Lacy (2) after he scored game winning touchdown against the Georgia State Panthers during overtime at Center parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 Louisiana, Coastal Carolina set for delayed showdown

Louisiana has emerged as the type of Sun Belt Conference team that Coastal Carolina is working to become.

The No. 21 Ragin’ Cajuns (3-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) are ranked for the first time since 1943 as they prepare to host the Chanticleers (3-0, 1-0) on Wednesday night.

The game was postponed four days because of the threat to Louisiana from Hurricane Delta.

The contest figures to be a good measuring stick for both teams.

“It comes with the territory as you start to build a program and develop a team that’s got an identity that people respect on the outside looking in,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier said of the ranking. “It’s a good thing for everyone involved.”

Both teams will be playing on national television for the fourth time in as many games as the Sun Belt continues to receive the spotlight.

The Cajuns jumped into the rankings after opening the season with a 31-14 victory at preseason No. 23 Iowa State. But in a sign that the program and the Sun Belt still have a ways to go in building their reputations nationally, the undefeated Louisiana team is now ranked one spot below the team it beat in the opener.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Louisiana defensive end Andre Jones said. “We can’t do anything about where they put people. We just go out and play football.”

They’ve played it so well that they are the only team from Louisiana that is ranked after defending national champion LSU (1-2) tumbled out of the Top 25 following a 45-41 loss at Missouri last week.

“This is something I dreamed of, really, something everybody on the team dreamed of,” Jones said of the team’s recognition. “We always have been labeled as a smaller school, underrated. We’re going to shock the world now. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

Louisiana defeated the Chanticleers 48-7 last season. But Coastal Carolina, which is in just its fifth season in the FBS and fourth as a full-time member of the Sun Belt, thinks it has narrowed the gap compared to last season.

“That game last year was a huge embarrassment,” linebacker Teddy Gallagher said. “We didn’t step to the plate and we folded a little bit. We’re going into this game expecting to compete with these guys.”

The Chanticleers, who had a 2-6 conference record in each of the past three seasons, have a chance to start 2-0 in the league for the first time.

“That would put us in an unbelievable position,” coach Jamey Chadwell said.

Coastal Carolina has received votes in the AP poll the last two weeks for the first time in the program’s short history.

“It’s always nice to receive votes and get recognition from the outside,” wide receiver Sam Denmark said, “but we don’t allow our heads to get big. We always knew that if we worked hard that would come.”

Chadwell called Louisiana “the most talented team” and “the most complete team” the Chanticleers have faced.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how we stack up against them,” Chadwell added.

Coastal Carolina, which has won each of its games by at least 15 points, like the Cajuns began its season with a road win against a Big 12 team, beating Kansas 38-23.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2020; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers running back CJ Marable (1) runs past Kansas Jayhawks linebacker Dru Prox (40) and  linebacker Denzel Feaster (18) at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 Louisiana, Coastal Carolina end up in early showdown

The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were supposed to have this weekend off, but the pandemic-induced need for flexibility in scheduling prompted the game to be moved up one week to Saturday.

No. 23 Louisiana was scheduled to play Wednesday at Appalachian State, but that game was postponed on Oct. 1 because the Mountaineers were dealing with a slew of positive COVID-19 tests.

That led to the two unbeaten Sun Belt programs being scheduled to square off this weekend in Lafayette, La.

The move was made to decrease the downtime between contests, a decision that was fine with Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier.

“I think you’ve got to make the decision with the health and safety of the players in mind,” Napier said. “Outside of that, you have to evaluate, ‘Is it safe to go play a game with these players — you know, this number of players at this position or that position, or overall as a team, are we prepared? Has the quality of our preparation been what it needs to be to go compete and play, and for it to be safe?’

“So, I think there’s lots of contributing factors here. I can only speak on the behalf of our team, that we haven’t had significant issues to a point where we would have to cancel. Not to say that that can’t happen in the future. But at this point in time we’re very fortunate and blessed that we haven’t gotten to that point.”

Louisiana (3-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) last played on Sept. 26 when junior Nate Snyder kicked a last-second 53-yard field goal to defeat visiting Georgia Southern, 20-18. This marks the school’s first 3-0 start since 1988.

The Ragin’ Cajuns’ best victory is a 31-14 road triumph over Iowa State, a win that feels even more impressive after Oklahoma lost on the Cyclones’ field last Saturday for the first time in 60 years.

Senior quarterback Levi Lewis has passed for 723 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Lewis is 265 yards away from becoming the sixth player in school history to reach 5,000 passing yards.

Lewis ranks fourth with 39 touchdowns. The school record-holder is former NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme, who tossed 64 scoring passes from 1993-96, according to the school.

Coastal Carolina (3-0, 1-0) is off to its best start in its four seasons at the FBS level.

The Chanticleers began their season with a 38-23 road win over Kansas. More recently, they drubbed Arkansas State 52-23 last Saturday to increase their scoring average to 44.3 points per game.

“There’s a lot of excitement. We’re hot right now,” senior running back CJ Marable said. “The only thing is we have to keep it a game at a time. Don’t make it bigger than what it is. Just go out there and play Coastal football.”

Marable paces the rushing game with 190 yards, while redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall energizes both facets of the offense. McCall has passed for 728 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception, while adding 139 yards and two scores on the ground.

The teams have split two previous meetings, but last season’s game was no contest: The Ragin’ Cajuns rolled to a 48-7 road win.

“We just came out there flat,” Marable recalled. “We can’t do that this year. They’re a good team, so we have to come out there with the same energy we have in the past three games.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 7, 2019; Boone, NC, USA; An Appalachian State Mountaineers lays on the sidelines during the second half against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Appalachian State-Louisiana game PPD

Next week’s Sun Belt showdown between Appalachian State and Louisiana will be postponed, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported Thursday.

The game slated for Wednesday, Oct. 7, in Boone, N.C., will likely be rescheduled for Dec. 4 or 5 due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing at Appalachian State, per the report.

The rematch of last season’s Sun Belt championship game, won 45-38 by Appalachian State, was scheduled to be televised for a national audience on ESPN.

The next game on the schedule for the Ragin’ Cajuns (3-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) is an Oct. 17 home date with Coastal Carolina.

The Mountaineers (2-1, 0-0) will now play their conference opener at Georgia Southern on Oct. 14.

–Field Level Media