The No.20 ULL is looking to win the Sun Belt title opener against App St.

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana (AP) – For Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier, there was never a question of starting his next job at…

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana (AP) – For Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier, there was never a question of starting his next job in Florida until he coached the No.20 Ragin ‘Cajuns in the Championship game. the Sun Belt Conference.

This is the third time in four years since Napier’s arrival at Lafayette that the Cajuns (11-1, 8-0 Sun Belt, 24th CFP) are in the game for the conference title. In the previous two, they lost to Appalachian State. This Saturday’s game includes another rematch with the Mountaineers (10-2, 7-1).

“There was no question regarding the practice of the conference championship game. I mean, it wasn’t negotiable, ”said Napier, who was hired on Sunday to be the Gators’ next coach, said this week. “It’s important that everyone realizes the commitment we made to the players here and the staff here to really focus on singularly trying to do the best job possible for this team.”

The previous two Sun Belt title games were played in Appalachian State.

In 2020, the Cajuns went 9-1 in the regular season and broke into the national standings, but the Sun Belt Conference called off their conference title game that would have pitted the Cajuns against Coastal Carolina due to the pandemic. of COVID-19.

This season, Louisiana-Lafayette lost their opener in Texas and have earned an academic record of 11 straight wins since, remaining undefeated in the Sun Belt to earn the right to host the league game for the first time. times. The winning streak included a 41-13 crash of the Appalachian State on October 12.

But Appalachian State hasn’t lost since and played so well, in fact, that it comes into this game as a 2-1 / 2-point road favorite, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

“We didn’t train well in this game. We didn’t play this game well, ”said Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark, adding that his team were looking to simplify game plans after the setback and focus more on execution – and that it worked.

“We’re not going to change what we do,” Clark said. “We have a few running games, a few passing concepts and we’re trying to perform at a high level.”

While the ability of players and coaches to focus may be put to the test in a time of transition like the one ULL is going through, Clark said he expects both teams to be sharp.

“Both teams have been there,” Clark said. “We know how to handle this. “

DYNAMIC PRESENCE

Louisiana-Lafayette fifth-year Levi Lewis, who has won 33 of his 40 career starts, enters the game as the most successful and decorated quarterback in Cajuns history. He broke Jake Delhomme’s career touchdown record of 64 earlier this season and is now at 72. He needs 506 yards to beat Delhomme’s 9,216-yard passing mark and could make it in two more. matches (including a bowl).

Lewis has 226 net yards and four rushing touchdowns this season, running sensibly but also extending passes with his legs.

“I’m not sure we’ve tackled him again since the last time we faced them; I think he’s still running, ”Clark joked. “For what Coach Napier does, I think he’s the perfect quarterback for them and he’s won a lot of football games there.

“We did a good job the last time we played them keeping it in our pocket, but some of those shots he made were big shots,” Clark added.

IN FRONT OF STOUT

The Mountaineers are ranked No.1 in the Sun Belt in defense, allowing 319.8 total yards per game. Appalachian State is allowing 113.4 yards per game rushing, which also ranks it number one in the league. One of the Mountaineers’ best players is inside linebacker D’Marco Jackson, whose 103 tackles include 15 tackles for a loss.

This makes for a compelling clash against ULL, who averages 190.9 yards per game rushing.

HOME BENEFIT

The reception of this match was important for Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin ‘Cajuns have won 12 of their last 13 home games, with the only loss in that span coming on a late field goal against Coastal Carolina last season. This season, the Cajuns have a perfect 6-0 record at home.

PRODUCTIVE PICK-UP

Appalachian State handed his offense to a newly acquired graduate transfer quarterback from Duke this season and has been enjoying the results. Chase Brice led the Sun Belt with 2,901 passing yards this season with 22 touchdowns. But he was sometimes inclined to return the ball, throwing 10 interceptions.

Clark applauded Rice’s “leadership, her willingness to learn, to learn our attack, to learn our culture, to learn our system.”

“He really dove into the playbook,” Clark continued. “The people, they revolve around him – our players do. He’s a guy who favors the team.

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