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Levi Lewis Just Doing His Job

By Jim Johnson
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Levi Lewis was exactly what Louisiana needed him to be all season long.

For most football teams, at any level, the biggest, brightest star is often the quarterback.

Granted, that doesn’t mean the signal caller is always the best player, but usually they’re the most easily identifiable, most discussed, and most well known.

For Louisiana, recently, that has not been the case.

With perhaps the most proficient trio of backs in all of college football running behind one of the game’s premier offensive lines, led by an All-American in Kevin Dotson, not to mention one of the league’s best pass catchers in Ja’Marcus Bradley, Levi Lewis probably isn’t even one of the top three most talked about players in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ backfield, much less the offense, or the team at large.

Maybe it’s fair -- this was an offense that went about 60-40 run-pass, after all -- maybe it’s not. However, the fact remains, for much of the season, even if he wasn’t grabbing headlines, Levi Lewis was exactly what this team needed behind center.

For a QB leading an offense that is built to grind opponents into submission with an unceasing, occasionally unstoppable rushing attack, complemented by the passing game, his job, first and foremost, should be to avoid turning the ball over.

The entire objective of the offense is to more or less keep opposing defenses on the field and bend them until they break. Obviously, giving the ball away accomplishes the opposite. No passer in the Sun Belt, and few in the nation, were better than Lewis at taking care of the rock. His four interceptions are the fewest of any SBC quarterback that played in at least six games, and only four guys in the entire FBS, with at least 300 attempts, had fewer.

As the season progressed, and Lewis continued to earn the coaching staff’s trust, his role grew correspondingly. Over the first seven games of the season, he averaged just about 24 attempts per game. From November on, that number grew just shy of 30.

The aforementioned trust was rewarded accordingly, featuring career games against Coastal Carolina and ULM, as well as a valiant comeback bid at App State in the conference title, all culminating in a standout showing against Miami (OH) in the Lendingtree Bowl.

After a somewhat slow start, Lewis quickly got dialed in, leading the Cajuns to points on all four possessions in the second and third quarters, as well as the final field goal on the second drive of the final frame.

Finishing 19/26 with 246 passing yards and a pair of scores, not only did Lewis lead his team through the air, but on the ground as well, outshining his elite running back teammates for a team-high 62 yards on eight carries, the second highest total of his career.

It’s easy to look around the sport, see the gaudy volume numbers that many quarterbacks are posting, and feel left wanting by a guy like Lewis’ raw production.

Yet, the primary job of a quarterback is not to put up huge numbers. It’s not to throw for the most yards or touchdowns or make the most highlight reel plays or break the record for broken records. The primary job of a quarterback is to put his offense in the best possible position to succeed.

For different guys, that means different things. For some, that may well entail all the above. For most, like Lewis, it does not.

Lewis did exactly what was asked of him, pretty much the entire season. He was content to turn and hand the ball off first, second, and third down if that’s what was working. When asked to throw, he made sure to throw it to his team. And, when called upon to take the reins, like he was in the bowl game, he was able to do that, too.

With some changes coming to that elite offensive line, not to mention some other key departures on Louisiana’s offense going into 2020, it’s hard to say how similar or dissimilar things will look next fall.

That said, Levi Lewis has now proven time and time again that whatever shape his role takes, he’ll be ready.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP