Napier headshot

BILLY NAPIER

As a bonus for this week, here's everything that Louisiana coach Billy Napier said at his press conference on Monday. 

The Ragin' Cajuns will play at Appalachian State on Saturday in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.

OPENING STATEMENT:

"A little recap from the game, I think we certainly weren’t at our best at times, in all three phases I think we made some mistakes, but I think it’s a sign of a mature group when you’re not quite at your best and you can find a way to win the game. I thought we made some huge plays at critical moments in the game. I think we can all agree that ULM, you gotta give a lot of respect for their program and team, certainly they had a lot at stake, trying to get in position to be bowl eligible and certainly they played that way. I thought they played extremely hard, they had really good plans offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. Certainly their quarterback’s a terrific player and they got play from a lot of defensive players as well, and gave us some issues on special teams. A lot of respect for coach V and what they’ve done there, certainly I think they should get more recognition and respect for how they play.

"We’re excited about the tenth win, no question. There’s hundreds of people that affect our football team, and it wouldn’t be right not to say thank you to all those people. So many people, not just the coaches and the players, we’ve got tons of people in our organization that do a great job for us, and certainly tremendous support from our administration. We had a great group of fans there Saturday night, I thought they were outstanding at the end of the game and affected the game.

"You can’t say enough about this group of seniors that we have. I thought some of these guys maybe played the best game of their career, they were great in critical moments, great competitors, played extremely hard in the game, but lots of things to correct and certainly lots of things we can learn off of.

"We’re excited about this week, excited to be back in the conference championship game, excited to represent the Western Division, we’ve got a terrific opponent, one that we’re all very familiar with, and certainly excited about the challenges that come with that. We’re right off to a good start here, certainly put the game to bed pretty quickly Sunday and I’ve been grinding away on this plan."

On what he’ll do different from first game:

"I don’t necessarily see it that way, and probably wouldn’t be very smart of me to talk about that. I do think that, just looking at both teams, both teams have improved. Just looking at their football team, in all three phases, they’ve really taken steps forward and gotten better, they certainly have played some huge games, and played well down the stretch, much like we have. They’ve got a lot of experience on their team, I feel like we’ve played these guys three times now and we know them, we know ther personnel, certainly got a little bit more film on all three coordinators. It’s an individual game with individual matchups and we’re going to approach it that way."

From looking at last game:

"We had a few too many negative plays on offense, created playing from behind the sticks a little bit, and certainly missed opportunities down in the red zone, we had fourth and goal from the one when we didn’t punch it in, we missed a field goal in the game. So offensively I think there’s a handful of things. We didn’t play the quarterback run game very well in the game. We had them backed up at one point there and they got out of there with an explosive pass on a double move, so there’s lots. We also did a lot of things really well in the game. I think we’re two different teams, I think their team is different, I think our team is different, there’s young players that have emerged, there’s lots of players that have a bigger role on the team, there’s been injuries, there’s lots of things that are different here. It’s an individual game, this will be different from the last one, and certainly we’re excited about the opportunity."

On the quarterback run game:

"I think that’s what makes him unique, is his ability to make the big play with his feet, not only the designed runs where he’s reading a defender but also the ability to take off on you on third down. He just makes so many plays, unannounced plays. You may have the pattern matched, you may have a great rush plan and all of a sudden the guy gets loose and they’re moving the chains. It’s one of the challenges that goes with playing him, certainly he’s given us issues each and every time we’ve played them."

On benefit of going a day early:

"From a logistical standpoint, with the travel, Lafayette to Boone, if we were to do it on Friday we’re talking about waking our team up at 4:30 in the morning, which is just not feasible. It’s not necessarily going to be that way if you play somewhere else, it just happens to be the travel time of flights, the drive and all that. We’re fortunate, you have to plan for these things. We went through it last year and it was a logistical nightmare. We’ve done this before, this thing’s mapped out by the minute. Troy Wingerter has done a terrific job, and we won’t be spending time on that this week, we’ll be focused on the game. We’re fortunate that we have administration and investors that are wiling to do that for us, certainly we’re thankful for that and it’ll benefit our team."

On improvement from last time:

"I think it always comes down to fundamentals, it comes down to having poise and discipline to execute what you have planned, all the things that affect every game. This game will be no different, it’s going to come down to rushing the ball, stopping the run, owning the ball, attacking the ball. it’s going to come down to conversion downs, it’s going to come down to scoring touchdowns in the red zone, you’ve got to cover punts and kicks really well, and you gotta try to create an explosive play in the kicking game. It’s the things we talk about each and every week, it’s no different than each of the games we’ve played since then, we’ve got a formula in how we go about it, and we’ll use that same formula this week."

On road environment:

"I don’t necessarily, you know, it’s not like we’re going to play at Lambeau Field here, we’ve been here and we know what we’ve getting into. It’s a terrific environment and I think we embrace that, it’s a great place to play football, I’ve played there as a player, certainly our players have been there twice last year, our veteran players. It’ll be a great venue, the conference does a great job with it, and certainly we’re excited about the challenges and opportunity that come with the game."

On Levi Lewis’ growth:

"I think he’s one of the players I’m talking about, we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve gotten good play around him. The way that teams have played us at times, he’s had to throw it more often and certainly he’s done a really good job with that. We ask him to make lots of decisions, and does a great job preparing. He’s a good in-game decision maker relative to the risk, he knows when he should take a chance and when he shouldn’t. He’s a winner, the guy’s been winning football games for a long time, as a high school player and certainly as a player here. He does a great job of setting an example of how to prepare, how to practice, the intensity, the urgency, the discipline that we would want from every individual player, and that’s what I respect about him the most."

On playing a rematch:

"It’s the right mix of, you know, maybe you took some things away from them last time, there’s always a little bit of a chess match relative to what you had success with and what you didn’t have success with, the right mix of those things. I think both teams have got a good identity, I think that’s one of the reasons we’re in the championship game. We kind of know who we are, they very much do and I think we do too. It’s going to come down to players making plays, players executing at critical moments, efforts, strain, fundamentals, good decision making, great communication, and that’s what we’re going to spend our time on."

On injuries:

"McCaskill’s fine. We do expect to get Percy back, we expect to get Ferrod back, we expect to get Zi’Yon back this week. Joe is a little bit day to day, we’ll be able to evaluate him as the week goes. Jamal Bell right now is doubtful, Robert Hunt is doubtful. I think that’s pretty much it. Cam Solomon got ejected for targeting but he’ll be back, he missed the second half of the game."

On if team’s healthier than in past few weeks:

"I don’t’ know about that, I think we were more depleted Saturday than we’ve been at any point this year, in particular on defense. Hey, that’s why it’s a team game, next man up, I think it’s great opportunities, there were great opportunities for guys in that game Saturday and certainly a lot of those guys stepped up and did their job for the team. We always view it that way, we have lots of players on this team that work really, really hard, injuries are a part of the game and they create opportunities for other players."

On Appalachian state losing Sutton:

"They’ve got a player at that position that played early in the season that was a starter. They’ve got skill players all over the place, man, this team’s loaded with skill players, running backs, receivers, tight ends, the quarterback can beat you with his feet and throw it, so they’re not hurting for skill players, that’s for sure."

What’s missed with Ferrod out:

"I think cohesion's the big thing. Communication at that position is very important, right, the ability to mix and match players in the lineup, who plays with who, certainly he’s a guy who’s more a veteran player, so when Jacques is out maybe he plays, so that you got a veteran communicator in there and that can help align the front seven better. I’d say that’s the biggest thing is cohesion, and the opportunity to roll the players a certain way, we missed that a little bit."

On McCaskill:

"I think we’ve seen Lorenzo really grow this season, he’s a young player, you’ve got to remember he only played four games last year, he’s a guy that’s kind of a rookie, with limited exposure last year, really when he played he didn’t play a lot, I consider him kind of a rookie, it’s like he redshirted. As he gets more experience and he gets more serious about becoming a student of the game, that’s what you’ve seen from him, he’s really dived into his football IQ, his communication, his knowledge of the big picture. I think you’re seeing a guys who’s learning the game and has benefited coach Roberts and coach Guiliani there. He’s learning the game, and therefore he’s processing quicker, he’s anticipating better and he’s being more productive."

On comparing team to last year’s team that went to title game:

"Man, I would say we’re a different animal right now, we just have much more knowledge is what I would say. I think that’s why we probably are playing better football. We’ve added some pieces, but we’re really just much more familiar with what we’re going in all three phases. We communicate better, we process quicker, therefore we play faster. We execute better, and I think a lot of it has to do with having a better and more thorough understanding of what’s going on out there."

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