Louisiana survived the mid-week scare.
The No. 24-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns avoided suffering an upset by the visiting Georgia State Panthers on Thursday night at Cajun Field, as the team rallied from a 10-0 deficit to gut out a 21-17 win.
With the victory, Louisiana claims the Sun Belt Conference West championship for the fourth-straight season.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Louisiana opened up the game with a lengthy drive as Lewis found Peter LeBlanc three times for 54 yards. The Ragin’ Cajuns got the ball inside the 10-yard line but the drive stalled. Instead of kicking the short field goal, Louisiana opted to go for it but Lewis’ pass sailed out of the back of the end zone.
Georgia State responded by putting together an 11-play scoring drive but Louisiana’s defense held and the Panthers settled for a 39-yard field goal by Noel Ruiz.
Neither offense could sustain drives until late in the second quarter. Louisiana drove the ball all the way to Georgia State’s six-yard line, highlighted by a 51-yard pass from Lewis to Jalen Williams. Once again the drive stalled and the Ragin’ Cajuns opted not to kick the field goal. With 17 seconds on the clock and facing fourth and two, Lewis took the snap and was sacked by Jacorey Crawford.
The second half began with some excitement.
Georgia State took a shot deep on its opening possession as Darren Grainger had appeared to have found Robert Lewis down the right sideline for a 45-yard pass. The play was reviewed and was overturned. Two plays later, the Panthers were forced to punt.
Louisiana’s Eric Garror then returned the ensuing punt back 70 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown but the score came off the board due to a block in the back. That was followed by a Ragin’ Cajun assistant coach being flagged for unsportsmanlike penalty which backed them up to their own 14-yard line.
After the two teams traded punts, Georgia State’s defense gave their offense a needed spark. Louisiana’s Lewis rushed a throw to Errol Rogers Jr. and Antavious Lane picked off the pass. A few plays later, Grainger found tight end Roger Carter for a 37-yard touchdown.
With 8:46 left in the third, Georgia State held a 10-0 lead.
Louisiana then started to mount its comeback.
The Ragin’ Cajuns went 75 yards but the drive once again stalled inside the 20-yard line. This time the fourth-down conversion was successful as Lewis found LeBlanc for the 14-yard touchdown.
Louisiana’s defense then stepped up as AJ Riley sacked Grainger on second down, and then Andre Jones and Zi’Yon Hill sacked him on third down to force the punt.
The Ragin’ Cajuns wasted little time attacking the Panthers’ defense as Lewis hit Michael Jefferson for a 31-yard reception that placed the ball inside the red zone. The drive was capped with a three-yard touchdown run by Montrell Johnson.
Georgia State responded with a methodical scoring as the Panthers went 75 yards on 15 plays, with all of them being running plays. The drive was capped with a one-yard touchdown run by Tucker Gregg. With 5:25 left in the game, Georgia State led 17-14.
Louisiana reclaimed the lead as the Ragin’ Cajuns needed only seven plays to go 71 yards. Johnson, who had a 23-yard run on the drive, capped it with a 13-yard touchdown run.
BIG NUMBER: 21 The Ragin’ Cajuns trailed 10-0 at halftime and scored all three of their touchdown drives in the second half.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: PETER LEBLANC & MONTRELL JOHNSON
The former Catholic High-New Iberia led all receivers with 9 receptions for 118 yards and the game’s first touchdown, a 13-yard catch on fourth down in the third quarter. Johnson meanwhile led the team with 98 rushing yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns on the ground.
UP NEXT: Louisiana (8-1, 6-0 SBC) travels to take on Troy on Saturday, November 13. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.