Louisiana’s Defense Dominates Liberty In 42-14 Victory
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns defense dominated the Liberty Flames, and they won their 10th straight game with a 42-14 victory on the road in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The Cajuns are 10-1 this season now. The 10 consecutive wins has extended a school record. They finished with a 5-1 record on the road in 2021.
Louisiana's defense was the key in this one. The Cajuns forced six Liberty turnovers and the defensive front sacked Liberty's quarterback seven times.
Head coach Billy Napier credited defensive coordinator Patrick Toney and the Louisiana defense for playing an outstanding game in the win.
"You can't say enough about the defense," Napier said. "Coach Toney and the defensive staff had an airtight plan and the players executed at a high level."
Louisiana entered the contest as underdogs to the 7-3 Flames. Liberty had won 15 straight games at home.
Liberty won the coin toss and decided to take the opening kickoff to start the game. Trickery on the kickoff sparked a big return that set their starting field position at midfield. After driving to Louisiana's 30, Cajuns senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Andre Jones.
Louisiana's offense quickly went three-and-out, but, on the punt, the ball hit a Liberty player and Percy Butler jumped on it at Liberty's 14 yard-line.
The Cajuns did nothing with the turnover, and after gaining only two yards in three plays, they attempted a 29-yard field goal which kicker Nate Snyder missed. Two turnovers by the Flames in the first four minutes of game time were wasted.
Liberty punted after the missed field goal, and the Cajuns defense continued to do a good job early on. For the third straight time, Louisiana's offense went three-and-out. Through three possessions, the Cajuns only had seven total yards, but their defense forced another quick punt.
After starting a possession in Flames territory thanks to a poor punt, Louisiana's offense doubled their total yardage on a seven-yard run by running back Chris Smith, and, on fourth-and-three, quarterback Levi Lewis scrambled for four yards. On fourth-and-two at Liberty's 12, Lewis completed a ball for eight yards, setting up a first-and-goal.
This time, Louisiana finally broke the scoreless tie with a four-yard touchdown connection between Lewis and wide receiver John Stephens. Late in the first quarter, the Cajuns broke the scoreless tie and led 7-0.
A sack by linebacker Chauncey Manac helped ruin Liberty's next drive, and they quickly punted.
On the last play of the first quarter, Lewis threw a short pass to running back Emani Bailey, and Bailey took it 32 yards. Two plays later, Lewis hit freshman wide receiver Kyren Lacy for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Following the second touchdown, both teams traded three-and-out drives that ended in punts. Liberty finally got a drive going, getting into Louisiana territory, but the Cajuns responded with two of the biggest plays in the first half.
Manac got his second sack of the game on third down and Liberty was forced to punt. On the punt, a bad snap led to a fumble which Cajuns special teamer Dalen Cambre picked up and returned for another touchdown.
Finally, Liberty answered with their first scoring drive of the day, taking advantage of a miscommunication on the Cajuns defense to turn a third-and-18 into a 29-yard touchdown pass.
Lewis was sacked on third down during Louisiana's next possession. The Cajuns were 0/7 on third down at that point in the game.
Liberty felt the momentum shifting and drove deep into Louisiana territory. They scored a rushing touchdown, but it was taken back due to a holding penalty. Another holding penalty put the Flames in a terrible spot. It was made even worse by an incompletion and Manac's third sack of the first half. A first-and-goal at the two became a third-and-33, but Manac wasn't done terrorizing the Flames quarterback, picking up his fourth sack of the first half.
Liberty ended up punting and the Cajuns offense ran out the clock to enter halftime with a 21-7 lead.
Louisiana started with the ball in the third quarter, but for the eight straight time in the game, they were unable to convert a third down as Lewis was sacked. The Flames only needed three plays to score a touchdown on their first drive of the second half, cutting the lead to 21-14.
In response, the Cajuns ran four straight times with Montrell Johnson, gaining 22 yards before Lewis connected on a deep ball to wide receiver Peter Leblanc for 34 yards into the red zone. Johnson plunged in from two yards out for his first touchdown of the night to give the Cajuns a 28-14 lead.
On the first play of Liberty's next drive, defensive lineman Mason Narcisse intercepted a ball to set the Louisiana offense up at the Flames 12 yard-line.
On fourth-and-three at the five yard-line, Louisiana went for it. An incompletion wasted the interception, and the Cajuns turned the ball over on downs.
Liberty drove into Louisiana territory, but linebacker AJ Riley came away with the defense's second straight interception. It was their fifth turnover of the night.
The Cajuns were faced with a third-and-11, but a 23 yard completion from Lewis to wide receiver Jalen Williams kept the drive alive. Two chunk plays had Louisiana's offense set up at first-and-goal at the two. Lewis threw his third touchdown of the day, this time to tight end Neal Johnson. It stretched the lead back out to 21 points at 35-14 early in the fourth quarter.
With about 10 minutes left in the game, Liberty tried to go for it on fourth down in Cajuns territory, but Jones picked up his second sack of the day to force a turnover on downs. It was Louisiana's seventh sack.
Louisiana's rushing attack iced the game with a massive 12-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock. Bailey ran in from two yards out to put the game away at 42-14.
Liberty threw another interception and the Cajuns ran the clock out with a couple of kneel downs.
Up next, Louisiana hosts UL-Monroe on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 3:00 p.m. on senior day for the final game of the regular season. After that, they play at Cajun Field in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game against Appalachian State on Saturday, Dec. 4.