On a night typically reserved for high school football, there was a high-profile matchup from the group of five ranks that more than lived up to the hype between the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns and the UAB Blazers. After falling behind by double digits late in the second quarter, the momentum started to turn in favor of the Cajuns and resulted in a 24-20 victory at Legion Field.
How It Happened:
Both teams struggled to get on the board for much of the first quarter, but a methodical 12-play drive got UAB on the board late in the opening salvo courtesy of a 33 yard field goal from Matt Quinn. The Cajuns responded on the very next drive with an 11-play drive that was highlighted by a 14-yard run by Levi Lewis to convert a third-and-long. However, they couldn’t punch it in from the UAB four-yard line, settling for a chip-shot field goal from Nate Snyder.
The Blazers marched down the field thanks to a healthy balance of Spencer Brown and DeWayne McBride, but couldn’t cash in after a pass from Bryson Lucero fell incomplete on 3rd and 4 from the Louisiana seven-yard line, settling for a 25-yard field goal to take a 6-3 lead. After the Cajuns turned it over on downs with 6:05 left in the first half, Spencer Brown made it a 10-point ballgame with a one-yard jaunt into the endzone.
That lead lasted all of twenty seconds when Chris Smith sprinted down the field on the ensuing kickoff, taking it 100 yards into the endzone to make it a 13-10 deficit as both teams headed into the locker room at halftime. This was Smith’s second kickoff return for a touchdown, being the first player to record two kickoff returns in a season since Raymond Calais.
The Cajuns looked poised to take advantage of the newfound momentum to start the second half, but a holding penalty at midfield stalled out their opening drive and the Blazers defense forced them to punt. UAB took full advantage of the early punt, marching down the field with a methodical 13-play drive that ate up 7:45 off the clock. ending with Brown finding the endzone on 4th and goal from the one-yard line.
Louisiana was able to respond on the next drive with an eight-play drive that ended with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Jalen Williams, making it a 20-17 deficit with 20 seconds left in the third quarter. After forcing a three-and-out, the Cajuns took control of the ballgame with a 14-play drive that ate up 6:40 off the clock and capped off by Lewis connecting with Pearse Migl in the endzone to take the lead for the first time in the contest.
The Cajuns defense came up huge on the next drive with Cameron Solomon picking off Lucero on a deep ball with 6:35 left in the ballgame. For a moment, it looked like UAB was going to get right back into the ballgame after forcing a three-and-out. However, Rhys Byrns forced the Blazers to work with a long field with a booming 74-yard punt that was downed at the UAB six-yard line. Former Acadiana High standout sealed the victory for the Cajuns with a late interception to the UAB 20.
Big Number: 21
The impressive 21-game win streak at Legion Field came to an end on Friday night with the Blazers loss. It was also the Cajuns first win over UAB in Birmingham.
Player of the Game: Chris Smith
There may be another Sun Belt Special Teams Player of the Week in the future for Smith. The Cajuns kick returner only had four returns for 160 yards, but the 100 yard kick return may be more than enough to give him the award for the second time in 2020.
Next Up: Saturday, October 31st vs Texas State; Kickoff at 7 pm