UL's Napier still kicking himself after App State loss
Five days later, even with an ESPNU-televised visit to Arkansas State right around the corner, UL coach Billy Napier still was kicking himself.
Meeting with media members for the first time since the night of last Wednesday’s 17-7 ESPN2-televised home loss to Appalachian State, Napier was hard on himself and the unit for which he calls plays.
“Certainly for us, we can coach better, in particular on offense,” he said.
“I think I can do a better job of positioning our players better, and then we have a handful of players that can play better.
“But you can’t help but be pleased and sense the progress that we’re making on defense,” he added, “and certainly on special teams outside of our placekicker, field goal woes, we have had a terrific year so far.”
Related:UL stonewalled again, falls to Appalachian State
A UL offense that had been averaging 44.4 points per game was stymied by now-5-0 Appalachian State, which with its win broke into the Top 25 of both major national rankings — the USA TODAY coaches’ and AP writers’ polls.
“We left a fourth-and-1, fourth-and-goal, seven-point opportunity out there,” he said, “and certainly a (missed) three-point field goal there early in the second half.
“Ten points left out there, and didn’t execute or play with any type of consistency on offense throughout the day.
“It’s time to hit the reset button,” the Ragin’ Cajuns coach added. “You gotta flush it, gotta move forward, and that’s what we’ve done. We’re on to Arkansas State.”
Related:UL defense heads to Arkansas State feeling quite good
They are, and in their second straight midweek game, the 4-2 Cajuns will meet the 3-3 Red Wolves in a matchup of two Sun Belt Conference West Division foes.
On Monday, though, there was as much talk about Appalachian State during Napier’s weekly news conference as there was about Arkansas State.
A few questions after his introductory remarks, Napier was what — after watching film — he’d change.
He did not hold back.
“I pride myself on giving the players the answers — always being able to say, ‘You know what, we gave our players an opportunity, we had the pieces of the puzzle in the right spots, we had the answer for this pressure and the answer for this look,’” Napier said.
But after seeing the tape?
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“More plays than usual, I’ve got to look myself in the mirror,” Napier said. “That’s always tough as a coach.
“There were a handful of games last year where maybe I felt like we could have done a better job coaching. But there are also plays where we’re in a good play and we don’t execute.
“I think it comes down to some of those things that we talked about going into the game; poise in a big-time atmosphere game like that,” he added. “I think was important, and I don’t know that sometimes we had that.”
Napier also suggested the Cajuns may have been hurt use 29 players Wednesday who were in either their first and second year in the UL program.
“Some of our youth showed up,” he said. “Some of the players that were out there in that type of setting for the first time, that showed up.
“As much as we wanted it — I wanted to win too, and I felt like there was a great opportunity there to capitalize on where we were at — maybe we weren’t quite ready for that moment yet.
“We’re still building, and still very much a work in progress,” Napier added. “But that’s probably the thing as a coach — those six, eight, 10 plays where maybe you can help them a little bit more than you did.”
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A few notes from UL’s news conference …
» Napier said Stevie Artigue will handle all PAT/FG duties at Arkansas State and Kenneth Almendares will again kick off, as he has all season.
The two had shared PAT/FG work the last two games, but Almendares missed UL’s only field goal try against Appalachian State.
The Cajuns have not made a field goal from beyond 40 yards this season.
“He’s hit the ball well (in practice the last few days),” Napier said of Artigue, “and we’re going to let him be the placekicker this week against Arkansas State.”
Artigue has not missed a PAT this season.
More:UL's Stevie Artigue returns from ACL tear
» Napier said Ja’Marcus Bradley, the Cajuns’ top receiver, will play Thursday night.
Bradley made an early exit from UL’s loss to Appalachian State, due to an apparent ankle injury, and finished with just one catch.
“He’s been day to day,” Napier said, “but we do anticipate having him 100 percent for the game.”
More:Receivers Ja'Marcus Bradley, Bam Jackson ready to take Cajuns to next level
» UL punter Rhys Byrns was named the Sun Belt Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week for his work against Appalachian State.
App State quarterback Zac Thomas was named the Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Week and Akeem Davis-Gaither of the Mountaineers was named SBC Defensive Player of the Week.
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