Louisiana Escapes Jonesboro With a 28-27 Victory Over Arkansas St
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns rushing attack propelled them to a close 28-27 victory against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
The Cajuns are now 6-1 this season and have won six straight after dropping their season opener. They are 4-0 in Sun Belt Conference play.
Louisiana lost the coin toss and got the ball to start the game. However, it only took three plays before the Cajuns were forced to punt. On the Red Wolves first possession, they attempted a fourth-and-one near midfield, but the Louisiana defense came up with a big stop.
With a short field, the Cajuns elected to get their rushing attack rolling. Freshman running back Emani Bailey ran for 27 yards on four carries to help get Louisiana into the red zone.
However, on fourth-and-goal at the two-yard line, an incompletion forced a turnover-on-downs.
The Cajuns defense gave up a pair of long passes that got Arkansas State into Louisiana territory, but they held on a third-and-14 to force a punt. Through one quarter, the two teams were tied 0-0. It was the first time this season that the Red Wolves held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter.
After getting a couple of first downs, a sack doomed Louisiana's third drive of the game. On third-and-12, a rushing attempt only gained three yards and the Cajuns punted again.
Arkansas State was pinned at their own six due to the punt, but they slowly went down the field against the Cajuns defense on their third drive. A 13-play, 94-yard touchdown drive scored the first points of the game, making it 7-0 with about five minutes left to go in the first half.
A disaster on the kickoff had Louisiana starting their fourth offensive drive of the game at their own one-yard line.
However, a 99-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Montrell Johnson finally woke up the Cajuns and tied the game in one play.
Assisted by defensive penalties, the Arkansas State offense answered with a 10-play, 66-yard field goal drive to regain the lead 10-7.
The two-minute drill for the Cajuns was led by Chris Smith. Smith ran 36 yards on the first play of the drive to get the Cajuns into Arkansas State's territory. On third-and-10 at the Red Wolves 30, Smith gained 15 yards. He capped off the drive with a six-yard touchdown run, and Louisiana took their first lead at 14-10 with 28 seconds before the break.
Arkansas State attempted a Hail Mary play before halftime, but the Cajuns defense held strong to go into the break leading by four points. Louisiana had 220 rushing yards in the first half.
Two plays into the second half, Arkansas State took advantage of missed tackles by Louisiana's defense to break open a 76-yard touchdown pass and make it 17-14.
After only having 46 passing yards in the first half, quarterback Levi Lewis completed all three of his attempts for 68 yards, including a 39-yard gain to freshman wide receiver Dontae Fleming. On the fifth play of the drive, Johnson ran in from two yards out for his second touchdown of the night. The quick drive answered the Red Wolves' score, and the Cajuns took a 21-17 lead.
On third-and-nine on Arkansas State's next possession, a sack by senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner forced a three-and-out.
A fumble by Smith near midfield prevented the Cajuns from stretching their lead and taking control of the game. The Red Wolves took advantage of the first turnover of the contest, scoring on a 15-yard touchdown for the third lead change in six minutes of third quarter play.
Lewis threw an interception on Louisiana's next drive, giving Arkansas State's defense their second consecutive turnover. The Cajuns defense held the Red Wolves to a 35-yard field goal to keep it a one-possession game at 27-21.
On the second play of Louisiana's next drive, Smith broke open a 74-yard touchdown run. The Cajuns second big run of the night gave them a slight 28-27 edge.
Louisiana's defense held strong to force a punt and give the ball back to the offense at the end of the third quarter, but the offense went three-and-out to start the fourth.
A sack on third and long that would have forced a three-and-out was negated by a defensive penalty to give the Red Wolves offense another chance. However, a big sack on third-and-12 by senior linebacker Chauncey Manac forced the Arkansas State punt.
Louisiana's next drive started at their own six-yard line, and, in the biggest drive of the game, they started marching with their rushing attack, using big runs by Smith and Johnson to get deep into Red Wolves territory.
On fourth-and-one at the Arkansas State seven with two minutes left in the game, head coach Billy Napier elected to go for it. Johnson took a pitch for 5 yards to get the first down and seal the win.
The final drive by the Cajuns was 20 plays for 90 yards. It took the final 10:26 off the clock, and Louisiana was able to kneel out the clock to escape with a victory.
The Cajuns offense finished with 424 rushing yards. Smith had 238 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries and Johnson ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 17 attempts.
Up next, the Cajuns come home to Lafayette for their homecoming game against Texas State on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 11:00 a.m.