Mitchell part of 1-2-3 backfield explosion
By Bruce Brown
LAFAYETTE – We’ve all heard of a one-two punch in boxing.
When it comes to the ground game of Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns, make it a 1-2-3 assault on opposing defenses – and the best all-around threat in that arsenal is Erath High product Elijah Mitchell.
When the Cajuns outlasted Arkansas State 47-43 at home last weekend, Mitchell used his deceptive smooth stride to score on a 64-yard pass up the east sidelines and added a 65-yard run up the west side to help UL to a 14-7 lead.
The Red Wolves tied it up at 14, but that deadlock lasted one play as former Cecilia’s Ramond Calais burst through the middle and used his sprinter’s speed to go 72 yards untouched for a score.
Then, when ASU battled back to grab a 43-40 lead with 5:48 remaining, the Cajuns turned to leading rusher Trey Ragas, who scored from 2 yards out with 1:18 to go for the win.
Each of the three played a pivotal role in UL improving to 4-4 on the season.
“Those guys,” said guard Ken Marks, “find a hole when it is not even there.”
It helps when the ball carrier can go the distance with a little space provided.
Before exiting with a hard hit in the second half, Mitchell had a career-best 121 yards on six receptions and a team-best 64-yard catch and run. His 65-yard run topped the 64-yarder he had at Texas State, when he ran for a career-high 191 yards and three scores.
The versatile Mitchell has 565 yards on 75 carries (7.5 per attempt) and 14 catches for 264 yards, with 10 touchdowns. He had 257 yards on 42 carries in 2017 before a foot injury ended his campaign, and with 822 yards on 107 tries, will soon pass 1,000 career yards.
Getting Mitchell running free in space is one of the delights for first-year head coach Billy Napier.
“When I got here,” Napier said, “Elijah was rehabbing and didn’t participate in spring workouts. But people told me that he was a good player and a good teammate. He’s an unselfish player who plays well without the ball.
“He really committed himself to getting back on the fiield, to overcome the adversity he was facing. He had some good guys helping him through that test.
“He’s just a sophomore. We’re expecting more good things from him.”
Napier isn’t the only coach who’s sold on Mitchell’s ability. Troy coach Neal Brown knows his Trojans will be challenged to contain Mitchell this Saturday.
“They’re one of the best offenses in the Sun Belt,” Brown said. “Since the second half against Alabama, they’ve been running the ball well. They ran for 200 yards at Alabama.
“The Mitchell kid is coming off a huge game. He had over 100 yards receiving, and had a couple of huge, explosive plays. No. 9 (Ragas) is hard to tackle. They also bring in No. 4 (Calais), more of a scatback type.
“All three of them are really good.”
Ragas (126-734-6) is the leader of the pack, often getting the tough yards when foes know he’ll get the ball. He now has 1,547 yards on 268 career carries and is the power source.
The electricity is provided by Calais, whose career started with a bang with back-to-back kickoff return touchdowns in the 2016 opener. This year he has posted gaudy numbers, netting 435 yards on 44 attempts (9.9 per attempt). If he’s even, he’s leavin’.
Calais has 640 yards on 82 career runs, sending expectations high for long distance with each play.
And, combining the best of all three is Mitchell, a legend at Erath quietly trying to write the same script in college.