Louisiana Avoids Second Half Implosion, Beats South Alabama 20-18
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns started off well against South Alabama, and they took advantage of a late missed field goal to prevent a second-half collapse and hold on to beat the Jaguars 20-18 in Mobile.
Running back Chris Smith got Louisiana off to a fast start with an 86-yard kick return on the opening kickoff to get the Cajuns started off in the red zone. On a third down, Smith ran for a 10-yard touchdown, and Louisiana took an early 7-0 lead.
The Cajuns defense also looked excellent to start, forcing a three-and-out, and using excellent defensive line pressure to force negative plays. A short, 34-yard punt set Louisiana up with good field position.
The rushing attack for the Cajuns continued dominating, as Louisiana went on a fast four-play, 57-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 23-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Levi Lewis. The Cajuns had put up a 14-0 lead in less than four minutes of game time.
After Louisiana's defense once again forced a three-and-out, a personal foul penalty on the punt set the Cajuns offense up in South Alabama territory. However, Louisiana's offense finally cooled off, and the Jaguars forced a punt.
Another South Alabama punt put the Cajuns offense back on the field, and they continued rolling with their rushing attack. After getting stopped on a third-down deep in Jaguars territory, head coach Billy Napier elected to attempt a field goal. However, a 43-yard attempt by kicker Nate Snyder came up short and Louisiana failed to stretch their lead to three possessions.
South Alabama attempted a fake punt after the Cajuns defense once again forced a three-and-out, but Louisiana stuffed it, setting their offense up at the Jaguars 31-yard line.
This time, freshman running back Emani Bailey plunged into the end zone for his first touchdown of the night. Even with a missed extra-point, Louisiana had their three-possession, 20-0 lead in the second quarter.
The two teams traded punts following Bailey's touchdown run. Finally, South Alabama's offense got an extended drive going, and, with 1:33 left in the first half, they ran in for their first touchdown of the day. Percy Butler blocked the extra point to keep it at 20-6.
The Cajuns got another good drive in the final minute of the half, but another missed field goal kept them at a 14-point lead going into the half.
On the opening drive of the second half, a third-down sack by Cajuns redshirt senior linebacker Chauncey Manac forced a punt, but Louisiana's offense went three-and-out on their first second-half possession.
After the Cajuns punt, South Alabama used their first big passing play of the day to set themselves up deep in Louisiana territory, and a two-yard touchdown run made it a one-possession game at 20-12. The extra-point was no good, but the Jaguars had taken momentum late in the third quarter.
Instead of answering the second score of the night by South Alabama, a fumble by freshman running back Montrell Johnson became the first turnover of the night and gave the Jaguars offense the ball back.
Louisiana's defense stepped up to force a three-and-out, but South Alabama attempted their second fake punt of the night. This time it worked, and the Jaguars gained 38 yards and got all the way down to the Cajuns 19-yard line.
On fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line, South Alabama ran it in for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, so the Cajuns still held a 20-18 lead, but the offense needed to respond on their next drive.
Louisiana's offense only managed one first down, as their passing game continued to struggle. They were forced to punt.
Another deep ball connection, this time for 61 yards, got South Alabama back into the red zone with less than nine minutes left in regulation. On fourth-and-one, instead of attempting a field goal to take the lead, an incomplete pass allowed Louisiana to take over on downs.
The Cajuns offense got a pair of first downs, but instead of running the ball to burn clock with less than four minutes left and a slight lead, two straight incompletions and a scramble that lost yardage forced another punt.
Another long 34-yard completion by the Jaguars against a tired Louisiana defense put them in field goal position with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
The Jaguars missed a 36-yard field goal attempt with 1:06 left to go and Louisiana kneeled out the clock to escape Mobile with a 20-18 win.
With the win, Louisiana improved to 4-1 this season and 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference play.
Next up, the Cajuns have a Sun Belt showdown at home against Appalachian State on Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m.