Nate Synder made the kick when it mattered most.
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns place kicker has missed three field goals on the season but with only two seconds on the clock Saturday against Georgia Southern, Synder drilled the game-winning 53-yard field goal to give Louisiana a 20-18 victory.
With the victory, No. 19 Louisiana remains undefeated on the season.
How It Happened:
Georgia Southern set the tone with its first drive as the Eagles went 68 yards on 15 plays and took 8:09 off the clock. The drive though ended with no points as Ragin’ Cajuns safety Kam Pedescleaux recorded the tackle for a loss on fourth down in the red zone.
Louisiana responded with an 11-play, 78-yard drive, highlighted by a 34-yard pass from Levi Lewis to Devin Pauley. That drive though ended with no points as well as the Cajuns opted to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal. Lewis tried to find Kyren Lacy but the pass was incomplete.
Georgia Southern got on the board first by catching Louisiana off guard with a long pass play as Shai Werts completed a 61-yard pass to Wesley Kennedy III. The Eagles finished off the drive a few plays later to start the second quarter with a two-yard touchdown run by J.D. King.
Louisiana responded with a long drive of their own.
Ragin’ Cajuns running back Chris Smith had back-to-back runs of 36 and 13 yards, but Smith got injured shortly after those runs and was forced to leave the game. Louisiana capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run by Trey Ragas. The extra point was good, and the two teams were tied at 7-7.
After forcing Georgia Southern to punt, Louisiana moved the ball quickly 30 yards but a deep pass by Lewis was intercepted by Reynard Ellis.
Louisiana’s defense would return the favor as Bralen Trahan intercepted Werts moments later. Trahan fumbled the ball during the return, but fellow defensive back Percy Butler recovered the fumble. Lewis then connected with Peter LeBlanc for a 34-yard gain and after a spike the Cajuns had the ball at the 17-yard line with two seconds before halftime.
Nate Snyder though came out and missed the 34-yard field goal and the teams remained tied 7-7 at half.
After Louisiana punted on its opening drive of the second half, Georgia Southern put together a 13-play., 66-yard drive that took off 7:34 off the clock and ended with a 27-yard field goal by Alex Raynor.
Louisiana responded with a long drive (13 plays, 67 yards) and this time Synder made the kick with a 25-yard field goal that tied the game at 10-10.
After a quick three-and-out by Georgia Southern, Louisiana grabbed its first lead of the game with a quick five-play, 58-yard drive capped with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Errol Rogers Jr.
After Georgia Southern’s ensuing drive stalled and ended with a failed 41-yard field goal attempt, Louisiana went three-and-out. A few moments later, Georgia Southern appeared to have tied the game on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Werts to Beau Johnson. Officials though reviewed the play and determined that Johnson fumbled the ball at the two-yard line and since the ball went out of the back of the end zone that it was a touchback – thus giving the ball back to the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Louisiana though went three-and-out and gave Georgia Southern a chance to tie-win the game. The Eagles needed a mere 41 seconds to do just that as Werts led the team down the field in five plays as he found Khaleb Hood for a 28-yard touchdown. The Eagles then completed the two-point conversion pass and held a 18-17 lead with less than a minute on the clock.
Lewis would lead the Ragin’ Cajuns down the field and Synder came out to attempt a 53-yard field goal as time expired. Synder who had missed three fields goals this season drilled the kick down the middle to win the game.
Big Number: 255
Georgia Southern is known for its triple option offense but it was the Eagles’ passing attack that proved to be the difference on Saturday. Quarterback Shai Werts completed 11-of-18 passes for a career-high 255 yards and one touchdown and one interception. Werts ended the game completing seven consecutive passes including a 28-yard touchdown to Khaleb Hood.
Players of the Game: Levi Lewis & Nate Synder
The Ragin’ Cajuns senior quarterback overcame the loss of two of his star running backs, and a first-half interception, to lead Louisiana to a come-from-behind victory. Lewis completed 18-of-32 passes for 290 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Lewis also added 15 yards rushing on three carries.
Synder may have had his troubles this season (missing three field goals in three games) but when it mattered most the transfer came through as he made the 53-yard field goal as time expired for the win.
Next Up: Louisiana (3-0, 2-0 SBC) returns to action on Wednesday, October 7th when it plays at Appalachian State. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.