For South Alabama first-year head coach Kane Wommack, the template for success in the Sun Belt Conference resides right here in Lafayette.
“When I turn on the film, and this is a credit to Coach (Billy) Napier and the rest of his staff,” Womack said. “You see a program that has operated at a high level going into Year Four. Talented players of course but they know what to do, they do their job, they create enough explosive plays to win football games and they don’t beat themselves. That to me is what is critical.”
Womack has applied a similar approach to the Jaguars.
Like Napier, who took over as head coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns after serving as an assistant at Arizona State and Alabama, Womack returned to South Alabama after three seasons at Indiana.
Also like Napier, Womack proceeded to hire coaches to his staff with Power 5 experience, including former Alabama and Texas assistant Major Applewhite and former Ole Miss assistant Corey Batoon who also coached at Liberty last season.
That influx of new coaches has also meant the Jaguars are running different schemes.
“It is really completely a different blueprint in all three areas,” Napier said. “They have hired three analysts from the University of Alabama on offense. It is a complete offset. It is a combination of Indiana and Liberty on defense and Alabama on offense, and Indiana on special teams. They are doing it well so far this year.”
South Alabama has been the surprise team in the SBC with starting the season 3-0 for the first time in program history, with victories over Southern Miss and Bowling Green.
The historical start can be attributed to the Jaguars’ defense.
Batoon’s defense enters Saturday’s contest at Hancock Whitney Stadium allowing 15.7 points (third best in SBC), 297.3 total yards (second best in SBC) and a mere 43.8 rushing yards per game (best in SBC).
“They’re playing good defense,” Napier said. “They’ve always played good defense, truth be known. They’ve got big, physical, long, fast, explosive players. They’ve given us problems in the past, and a lot of those players are still playing.”
South Alabama’s defense presents a hurdle for Louisiana who is struggling slightly on offense.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are averaging 17.8 points per game (seventh best), 126.3 rushing yards per game (sixth best) and are converting only 31.2 percent on third down (ninth best).
Louisiana will also be without starting left tackle Carlos Rubio who has suffered an ACL and MCL tear and is out for the season.
“I think statistics would tell you that the longer the distance the less likely you are to have success,” Napier said. “We got guys open. We’ve got to make the throws. We got two down scenarios where I can help our team by calling a little bit better concept. In general, we need to execute better and coach better.”
“It’s really just the small details,” Ragin’ Cajuns running back TJ Wisham said. “Third down is usually one of the biggest plays on the field during a game, and usually if you have one guy that is not completely solid in that role then it can mess things up.
RAGIN’ CAJUNS AT A GLANCE
WHO: Louisiana (3-1, 1-0 SBC) at South Alabama (3-0, 0-0 SBC)
WHERE: Hancock Whitney Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
SERIES HISTORY: Cajuns lead series 7-2.
LAST MEETING: 38-10 win in 2020.