With Saturday night’s 24-16 victory over Appalachian State, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns claimed their first outright Sun Belt Conference Championship.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Louisiana scored on their opening drive as the Ragin’ Cajuns needed only nine plays to go 85 yards. Levi Lewis was efficient on the drive as he completed 4-of-5 passes for 73 yards, including a 35-yard pass to Peter LeBlanc and then a 27-yard touchdown to Michael Jefferson.
After having two drives net them negative seven yards, Louisiana scored early in the second quarter going 92 yards in less than two minutes. Lewis capped the drive by taking a designed run as he sprinted his way for a 56-yard touchdown run — the longest rush for Lewis’ storied career.
For the majority of the first half, App State’s offense was held in check, being held to 39 yards on its first four possessions. The Mountaineers finally got on the board with its fifth drive as running back Camerun Peoples took a handoff and made one cut to the left for a 43-yard touchdown run.
Louisiana responded with a scoring drive before halftime.
After an incompletion on first down, Lewis found LeBlanc down the right sideline for a 30-yard completion which placed the ball at the 24-yard line of App State. With only a few seconds left on the clock, the Ragin’ Cajuns sent out Nate Synder for the field goal attempt.
Synder, who had not made a field goal since the Texas State game more than a month ago, drilled the 33-yard attempt.
At the break, Louisiana led 17-7.
Appalachian State opened up the second half with a methodical 15-play, 57-yard drive that ate 6:54 off the clock. The Mountaineers drive stalled and were forced to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Chandler Staton.
Louisiana extended its lead with a seven-play, 72-yard drive.
Lewis led the Cajuns down the field by completing back-to-back passes to Errol Rogers for 39 yards, and the drive was capped with a 35-yard touchdown run by Emani Bailey.
App State put together one final scoring drive late in the fourth as Chase Brice connected with Thomas Hennigan for a 24-yard touchdown. The ensuing two-point pass play was no good.
Louisiana sealed the win on defense.
After a strip sack fumble was overturned as an incomplete pass, the Ragin’ Cajuns defense got the ball back for good as Chauncey Manac stripped Brice and recovered the ball. The play was reviewed and confirmed.
Louisiana’s offense then took the field for the victory formation.
BIG NUMBER: 16
Appalachian State entered Saturday’s championship game averaging 35.8 points per game. Louisiana’s defense stifled the opposition all game long, holding them to 16 points. That was nearly the same amount of points App State was held to in the 41-13 loss to Louisiana back on Oct. 12.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Emani Bailey & Zi’Yon Hill
The Ragin’ Cajuns running back led all rushers with 115 yards on only 14 carries, with 104 yards of that coming in the second half. Hill meanwhile anchored the defensive unit as the former Catholic High star recorded five tackles and led the team with two sacks.
UP NEXT: Louisiana (12-1, 9-0 SBC) will now wait to find out its bowl destination on Sunday. The Ragin’ Cajuns are expected to play in the New Orleans Bowl.