A special season is about to become even better for either No. 19 Louisiana or No. 12 Coastal Carolina.
The teams, both of which have had unprecedented success, meet in the Sun Belt Conference championship game Saturday afternoon at Conway, S.C.
“Our team has played well all year long and earned an opportunity to obviously host it, and one that our team is looking forward to,” Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said. “We know that we have our work cut out for us.”
That’s because the host Chanticleers (11-0) must tangle with Louisiana (9-1) in a rematch of a regular-season game decided in the final seconds.
“Each week that’s kind of what’s consumed us, is coming up with plans for improvement,” Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier said. “We played that game, we learned from that game and we moved forward after that game. I think we’ve been focused on improvement since then.”
Coastal Carolina won 30-27 on Oct. 14 at Louisiana on Massimo Biscardi’s 40-yard field goal with four seconds left. CJ Marable had two touchdowns for the Chanticleers, while Louisiana’s Elijah Mitchell scored two touchdowns
Quarterback Levi Lewis of Louisiana will be one of the focal points for the Chanticleers.
“The thing that’s happened is they’ve gotten better and better, the receivers have gotten better and better since we played them in early October,” Chadwell said. “We’re going to have to do some different things to try to not allow him to beat us with his feet, and that’s where he really gave us issues that time.”
Plus, Ragin’ Cajuns linebacker Ferrod Gardner, who’s the team’s second-leading tackler behind linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill, didn’t play in the first matchup.
Coastal Carolina can counter with Grayson McCall, who has thrown for two or more touchdowns in eight of the 10 games he has played this season. Marable has at least one touchdown in each of the last 10 games.
“They’ve got a very consistent team,” Napier said. “They haven’t had a lot of injuries. They’ve had a lot of continuity in terms of the players that play in the game.”
Louisiana has played five games decided by four points or less, going 4-1 in those contests.
Coastal Carolina has been involved in a couple of thrilling finishes the past two weeks, stopping BYU at the 1-yard line on the game’s final play to hold on for a 22-17 win, and then scoring a last-minute touchdown to win at Troy 42-38.
The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t played since the thrilling 24-21 victory on Dec. 4 at Appalachian State. Running back Trey Ragas has 37 career rushing touchdowns.
Louisiana has developed numerous reliable players in terms of production.
“I think each week’s been a little bit different, different personnel available, different variables, different matchups,” Napier said. “The big thing is we’ve found ways to win, and certainly we’ve been consumed with improving.”
The title game is sold out, though the current capacity at Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium is less than usual due to the pandemic.
“We’ve had great electricity here, so we’re thankful we don’t have to travel and thankful for having it here,” Chadwell said. “I think that is a benefit, especially with us playing this past weekend and them sitting at home. I don’t know how much of an advantage it is …it’s about the team that’s most rested and ready to go preparation wise.”
Coastal Carolina is the only team in the country with more than 10 victories after the program’s first undefeated regular season.
–Field Level Media