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Cajuns blast ULM



MONROE, La. — The Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t have to hold their collective breath this time.

The previous two meetings between the University of Louisiana and in-state rival ULM came down to the waning seconds, as the Warhawks missed field goals to tie the game in 2018 and then to win the game in 2019. The expectations from third-year head coach Billy Napier was that it was going to be another challenging contest.

“I think they got respect for ULM and the way they compete and see it in the film,” Napier said. “This team (ULM) plays with effort and toughness. They certainly gave us fits the last two years. We came up here expecting it to be difficult.”

There would be no such difficult-to-breathe finish on Saturday.

No. 24 UL set new records in the in-state rivalry series with its resounding 70-20 victory over ULM. The 70 points were not only the most points scored by the Ragin’ Cajuns in the series, but it was also the most points scored by either team. The 50-point win also surpassed the previous largest margin of victory in the series, eclipsing the 34-point win by UL back in 1954.

“It was a real good thing,” senior offensive lineman Ken Marks said. “It was good to get some of the young guys in and get them some playing time this year, to develop at such a young age and not have the game go down to the wire and have them miss a kick again.”

“I don’t think it was the goal for us to not have a close game,” safety Bralen Trahan said. “I just think the goal was to dominate and finish the west the right way.”

With help from a 33-yard punt return by Dontae Fleming, the Ragin’ Cajuns (8-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) scored first on their second possession as Trey Ragas powered his way into the end zone from 11 yards out. Then the defense got the ball back as Lorenzo McCaskill recovered a fumble by Jeremy Hunt. With the short field, the offense quickly got on the board again as Levis Lewis scored his first of five touchdowns on the day as he ran it in from 11 yards out.

“We always talk about starting fast and trying to jump out on people,” Lewis said. “We feed off the defense’s energy. When those guys get stops then we try to capitalize on the other’s team mistakes.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns made one of their few mistakes when former Catholic High star Trey Amos was unable to cleanly field a punt. The Warhawks recovered at the goal line and quarterback Jeremy Hunt threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Darling.

UL responded with a six-play, 70-yard scoring drive as running back Elijah Mitchell took a handoff and went 44 yards for the score. The former Erath High star finished the game with 93 yards on only eight carries and became the sixth Ragin’ Cajun with more than 3,000 rushing yards in his career.

ULM (0-9, 0-6 SBC) responded with a quick touchdown drive highlighted by a 43-yard completion from Hunt to Jonathan Hodoh. Hunt capped the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.

A close game (21-14) became a laugher in the second quarter as UL outscored ULM 28-0 in the period.

Lewis scored three touchdowns in the quarter as he threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Neal Johnson Jr., rushed for a seven-yard run and threw a 22-yard pass to Kyren Lacy.

Lewis completed 18-of-25 passes for 147 yards with three touchdowns while also rushing for 55 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground in three quarters. Lewis’ five total touchdowns set a new career high.

“I didn’t get sacked today,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t pressured. The o-line has a good day at the office always gives you a sense of calmness. You can take a deep breath when those guys are having a good game.”

“The coaches put in a game plan that if we executed it right then you will dominate the game,” Marks said. “We just had it on our mind to be physical, to play physical on every play. Big people beat up on little people.”

In addition to the trifecta of scores by Lewis, Bralen Trahan picked off Hunt and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. The Ragin’ Cajuns defense held the Warhawks to 247 yards, forced three turnovers including a fourth-quarter pick by Amos and sacked Hunt twice — both times by former Catholic High star Zi’Yon Hill.

“Up front they played a hell of a game tonight,” Trahan said. “They played a hell of a game and that helped us a lot on the back end.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns scored three more touchdowns in the second half as they cruised to a 50-point victory. The team, which had to cancel last week’s game against UCA due to COVID-19 issues, will now try to carry Saturday’s dominant performance into the regular-season finale at Appalachian State on Friday.

“I think the goal was to dominate and just finish the right way,” Trahan said. “We just wanted to dominate the game and have momentum heading into next week.”