LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns overcame being shutout in the first half to defeat the rival Arkansas State Red Wolves 27-20 at Cajun Field on Saturday. With the win, the Ragin’ Cajuns improve to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Sun Belt Conference.
How It Happened:
Arkansas State opened the game having no issue moving the ball through the air.
Red Wolves quarterback Logan Bonner completed 5-of-7 passes for 58 yards during the 13-play, 72-yard drive. The drive stalled and Arkansas State had to settle for a 21-yard field goal attempt but Blake Grupe’s kick doinked off the post.
After stopping Louisiana on a fourth-and-one run from the Cajuns’ own 46-yard line, Arkansas State went 39 yards on 11 plays. This time Grupe made the 24-yard field goal attempt and gave the Red Wolves a 3-0 lead.
The Ragin’ Cajuns offense meanwhile was a non-factor in the first half.
In the first quarter, Louisiana had the ball for only 3:30 managing just 13 yards and no first downs. The Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t get their first first down until their third drive in the second quarter when Levi Lewis hit Peter LeBlanc for a 28-yard pass. That drive though ended with a punt.
After forcing a punt, Louisiana’s offense took the field but quickly turned it over as Lewis’ deep pass was intercepted by Samy Johnson who returned it back 28 yards. Arkansas State’s offense moved the ball into the red zone but had to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Grupe.
The Ragin’ Cajuns’ ensuing drive was its most promising and also most disappointing.
Louisiana put together a 12-play, 60-yard drive in which they picked up four first downs but the drive stalled near the goal line with under a minute to go. After three straight runs by Elijah Mitchell, the Ragin’ Cajuns opted to go for it on fourth and goal from the one-yard line and called a reverse with wide receiver Dontae Fleming. Arkansas State tackled Fleming for a five-yard loss.
At the break, Arkansas State held a 6-0 lead.
UL scored its first touchdown on the first drive of the second half.
After a short run, Lewis found LeBlanc for a 29-yard pass and then two plays scored on a 33-yard run.
After an interception by Eric Garror, Louisiana had the ball at Arkansas State’s 42-yard line. The drive stalled at the 24-yard line but instead of kicking the field goal, the Ragin’ Cajuns opted to go for it and Lewis’ pass to Chris Smith was incomplete.
After forcing another punt by Arkansas State, Louisiana got on the board again as Lewis threw a dump off pass to Fleming who then ran for a 52-yard touchdown. The Ragin’ Cajuns defense forced yet another punt and the Ragin’ Cajuns took over looking for more points. That drive ended with Nate Synder missing a 30-yard field goal wide right early in the fourth.
Arkansas State responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive as Jamal Jones scored from four yards out. The two-point conversion pass attempt was intercepted by Percy Butler so the Cajuns held a 14-12 lead.
Louisiana then put together a six-play, 51-yard drive — with 43 yards coming on a pass from Lewis to Neal Johnson. With a 35-yard field goal by Kenneth Almendares (his first made kick), Louisiana extended its lead to 17-12.
The Ragin’ Cajuns defense forced a turnover on downs and gave the offense the ball at midfield. Mitchell took a handoff and went 47 yards down to the two-yard line. The Cajuns though were pushed back 15 yards due to a personal foul on O’Cyrus Torrence and then Lewis was sacked for a loss of 11 on third down.
Almendares though had no issue kicking the 43-yard field goal to extend the Cajuns’ lead to 20-12.
Arkansas State responded and did so quickly as the Red Wolves went 91 yards on only four plays as Layne Hatcher hit Brandon Bowling for a 47-yard touchdown. Hatcher then found an open Jonathan Adams in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Ragin’ Cajuns answered with a six-play, 61-yard drive as Mitchell scored a two-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good and the Ragin’ Cajuns held a 27-20 lead.
The game was iced as Mekhi Garner intercepted Bonner’s pass on fourth down with less than 30 seconds to play.
Big Number: 183
After being shutout in the first half, including managing only 13 yards in the first quarter, the Ragin’ Cajuns offense woke up in the third quarter. The Ragin’ Cajuns rolled up 183 total yards of offense in the quarter compared to only 41 yards for the Red Wolves.
Player(s) of the Game: Elijah Mitchell & Kenneth Almendares
The former Erath star Mitchell led the Ragin’ Cajuns with 90 yards on 16 carries and rushed for 75 of that in the second half, including the go-ahead two-yard touchdown in the fourth. Backup placekicker Almendares came in the game and made two clutch field goals. Almendares booted field goals of 35 and 43 yards in the fourth quarter.
Next Up: Louisiana will host South Alabama on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.