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Louisiana closes out Billy Napier era with program's first outright Sun Belt title

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  • Billy Napier
    American-football player (1979-)

Billy Napier is leaving Louisiana with a Sun Belt Conference championship.

Napier has already accepted the head-coaching job at Florida, but had one final piece of business to take care of before he headed to Gainesville: Win the Sun Belt. The 24th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns did just that at home on Saturday, and did so in convincing fashion by beating Appalachian State, 24-16.

On the first possession of the game, Napier’s offense marched right through the App State defense and scored. From there, the Ragin' Cajuns never looked back en route to their first outright Sun Belt title.

While the defense bottled up Chase Brice and the App State offense, the Louisiana offense ran the ball effectively and broke through with a few big plays. Veteran quarterback Levi Lewis got loose for a 56-yard touchdown run in the first half to make it 14-0. And when Louisiana’s lead was 17-10 early in the fourth, Emani Bailey reeled off a 35-yard touchdown run to get the advantage back to two scores.

App State would get back into the end zone late in the fourth, but that deficit was far too much for the Mountaineers to overcome. 

Louisiana held Brice to just 119 passing yards on 12-of-30 attempts. Additionally, App State's running back duo of Nate Noel and Camerun Peoples — who entered the game with 1,800 yards and 17 touchdowns combined — was mostly kept in check. The two went for 103 yards on 20 attempts. 

Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Levi Lewis (1) scores a touchdown in the first half of the Sun Belt Conference championship NCAA college football game against Appalachian State in Lafayette, La., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Levi Lewis (1) scores a touchdown in the first half of the Sun Belt Conference championship NCAA college football game against Appalachian State in Lafayette, La., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

All in all, it was an excellent performance to cap off a tremendous four-year run with Napier as the head coach. Napier was a longtime assistant at an array of Power Five programs, including Alabama and Clemson. Louisiana was his first head-coaching job and he quickly elevated the program into one of the best in the Sun Belt.

The Ragin’ Cajuns won the Sun Belt’s West division in all four of his seasons, but they hadn’t capped any of those seasons off with a conference title — before Saturday.

In both 2018 and 2019, they lost to Appalachian State in the title game. And in 2020, ULL was set to square off with undefeated Coastal Carolina, but the league championship game was canceled because of COVID-19 issues at CCU.

But Napier and company finally got the job done with Saturday's triumph, giving the program its first-ever outright Sun Belt championship.

Overall, Napier closes out his time in Lafayette with a 40-12 record, including a remarkable 33-5 mark over the last three seasons.