If there’s one way to start off a new era for a football program, Saturday night’s season opener at Cajun Field was an almost perfect start for the Billy Napier era.
The Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (1-0) showed that this is a different team with a dominant performance against the Grambling Tigers en route to a 49-17 win.
Things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows though as the Cajuns went three-and-out and punted away to the Tigers. Grambling opened things up with Geremy Hickbottom connecting with Quintin Guice with a 47-yard pass to get them to the Louisiana 10-yard line. They were only able to get three points out of it though when Garrett Urban sent one through the uprights to take the early lead.
The Cajuns responded in a big way on their second drive, which was highlighted by a 31-yard run by Trey Ragas. The sophomore followed that up with a quick four-yard jaunt into the endzone to get a 7-3 lead. After forcing a three-and-out, Andre Nunez made it a 14-3 ballgame with a three-yard touchdown pass to JaMarcus Bradley.
The Cajuns offense wasn’t done in the first quarter as they got another touchdown with Levi Lewis connecting with junior college transfer Jamal Bell to make it 21-3. After forcing another three-and-out, Nunez connected with Bradley from eight yards out to make it 28-3. With that touchdown, JaMarcus Bradley became the first wideout to have two touchdown receptions in a game and a half for the first time since Jamal Robinson did it in 2015 against Texas State.
Grambling finally got into the endzone though on the very next drive thanks to the mobility of Hickbottom who rushed for a total of 59 yards on the drive to make it 28-10 with 8:28 left until halftime. Late in the second quarter, the Cajuns then finished up the first half marching down the field on a 12-play drive that ended with Nunez taking it in himself to make it 35-10 at the half.
The Tigers were forced to punt to start the second half and pinned the Cajuns deep in their own territory but Lewis came in to start the second and connected with Matt Barnes for his first career touchdown to make it 42-10.
Grambling looked to turn things around with a big kickoff return that got them near midfield but came up empty with a field goal going wide left.
The Cajuns finished things up late in the third quarter with Raymond Calais running it in from two yards out after breaking out for a big run.
With the win, Billy Napier becomes the first coach for Louisiana to win their first game since Sam Robertson did it in 1980.
The Cajuns will have the next week off before taking on Mississippi State on September 15th with kickoff set for 6:30 pm.