ATLANTA — The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns found themselves trailing Georgia State by two touchdowns early during Saturday’s Sun Belt Conference opener. No. 19 Louisiana though overcame the deficit to begin conference play with a hard-fought 34-31 overtime victory.
How It Happened:
The Ragin’ Cajuns had the first opportunity to put points on the board.
After the two teams began the game punting on each of their first two drives, Louisiana’s defense stepped up as safety Kam Pedescleaux forced a fumble and fellow safety Percy Butler recovered it.
Despite having the ball at the 46-yard line, the Cajuns were unable to put points on the board as the drive stalled and Nate Snyder’s 47-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
That is when the Panthers seized control of the game.
Georgia State responded with a 7-play, 70-yard touchdown drive (which was aided by a 15-yard roughing the passer call) as quarterback Cornelious Brown powered his way into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown run.
Then Louisiana kick returner Chris Smith caught the ensuing kickoff near out of bounds at the one-yard line. Smith was ruled out at the one and the Cajuns started the drive in their own end zone.
Louisiana managed to move the ball some and punted the ball away. Georgia State responded with a 10-play, 90-yard touchdown drive (which was aided by a third-down defensive pass interference call on Jayrin Wilson) as Brown found tight end Roger Carter for a 28-yard touchdown.
The Ragin’ Cajuns got things rolling before halftime when cornerback Mekhi Garner intercepted a deep pass by Brown. That turnover gave Louisiana the ball at its own 20-yard line with 3:16 left on the clock.
Louisiana went 80 yards on just nine plays, including a 19-yard pass from Lewis to Devon Pauley on fourth down, and capped the drive with a 18-yard screen pass to Smith for the touchdown.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Cajuns got the ball back and had a chance to score again as the offense went 49 yards on five plays. The drive though ended in disappointment as Lewis was intercepted in the red zone by Quavian White.
The Panthers held a 14-7 lead at halftime.
Louisiana got the ball to start the second half but on third-and-six, Lewis rolled out to his left and found a wide open Golden Elke. The redshirt sophomore though could not haul in the pass as it bounced off of his hands and Georgia State linebacker Victor Heyward picked it off.
The Panthers promptly went 66 yards and capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run by Marcus Carroll.
The Ragin’ Cajuns responded with a 7-play, 86-yard drive capped with a four-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Kyren Lacy. After a quick three-and-out, the Cajuns tied the game on a 59-yard touchdown run from Elijah Mitchell.
After another Georgia State punt, Louisiana needed only four plays to go 63 yards as Mitchell busted off a 53-yard run. Two plays later, Trey Ragas scored on a two-yard touchdown to give the Cajuns their first lead of the game.
Georgia State responded with a 13-play, 75-yard drive which was capped with a 4-yard touchdown run by Destin Coates.
After the two teams traded punts, Louisiana got the ball back at the 45-yard line with 2:39 left to play. After three straight runs, the Cajuns faced a fourth and four at the 39-yard line with 1:51 to go. Lewis stood in the shotgun and when nothing was open scrambled around to find an open receiver but was sacked for a loss of 15 yards.
Georgia State was unable to take advantage of the field position and was forced to punt as well. The Cajuns would get the ball back at their own 10-yard line and 41 seconds on the clock. Louisiana opted to just run out the clock and head to overtime.
After giving up a 12-yard run on first down, Louisiana’s defense clamped down and the Panthers had to settle for a Noel Ruiz field goal.
Louisiana took to the field for offense and appeared to have won the game on a 15-yard touchdown run but it was called off because Georgia State called timeout prior to the snap. Two plays later Mitchell would score a 12-yard touchdown as the Cajuns won 34-31.
Big Number: 27
The Ragin’ Cajuns had just seven points in the first half but the offense found its rhythm in the second half. Louisiana would score 27 points in the final two quarters and overtime to record the road win.
Player of the Game: Elijah Mitchell
The former Erath star started off slow as he managed just 18 yards on six carries. Mitchell though came up huge in the second half as he had a 59-yard touchdown run and a 53-yard run that setup a touchdown run by Trey Ragas. Mitchell ended the game with 164 yards on 16 carries for his 11th career 100-yard rushing performance.
Up Next: Louisiana (2-0, 1-0 SBC) returns to Cajun Field for its home opener against Georgia Southern. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.