MANHATTAN, Kansas – It was too little, too late for the Ragin' Cajuns as Louisiana's attempted comeback from a 31-point, third-quarter deficit fell short in a 48-27 decision at Kansas State on Saturday in front of a crowd of 53,073 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on the KSU campus.
The Cajuns (0-2) fell for the fourth time in five meetings with Kansas State (1-1), which bounced back from a 24-21 loss last week to two-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State.
"Despite the loss, I saw a lot of good things out there tonight," Louisiana head coach Mark Hudspeth said. "We did not have a good first half of football, but we didn't give up and we made some nice plays in the second half.
"I really challenged our team at halftime because they were not doing the things that they were capable of. This should have been a game that went down to the wire, but because we gave up three touchdowns because of long returns and an interception, we couldn't complete the comeback.
"I'd be worried right now if the things that are hurting us weren't correctable, but they are," Hudspeth added. "We can fix our dropped passes, overthrown balls and missed assignments when we play next week. We just need to continue to work hard in practice and then take that over to the game."
After the Cajuns trailed 20-3 at half, Tramaine Thompson took the second half kickoff and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown to put the Wildcats ahead, 27-3. Thompson accounted for 234 all-purpose yards (46 receiving, 94 kickoff returns, 94 punt returns).
It was the first kickoff returned for a touchdown against Louisiana since Troy's Bryan Willis returned an on-side kick 38 yards for a TD in 2009.
After the ensuing Cajuns drive stalled near mid-field, Thompson struck again, returning a Daniel Cadona punt 61 yards to the Louisiana 3. Two plays later, Jake Waters found the end zone on a one-yard run to extend the KSU lead to 34-3 with 10:15 left in the third quarter.
But the Cajuns refused to let go of the rope.
Daryl Surgent answered for Louisiana, returning the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to make it a 34-10 game. Surgent, who also owns a 97-yard kickoff return for a score against Oklahoma State in 2010, broke the old school record of 99 yards set by Mike McDonald at Pensacola Navy in 1968.
The Cajuns would score again just 117 seconds later to make it a 34-17 contest when freshman Dominick Jones intercepted a Waters pass and returned it 20 yards to the KSU 17 to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Terrance Broadway with 8:07 left in the quarter. It was the 10th career touchdown, and first of the year, for the Cajun junior.
The Cajuns then forced Kansas State to punt, taking over on their own 22 and ready to continue their comeback. But on the first play from scrimmage, Broadway's short pass deflected off Surgent and into the arms of Ty Williams, who returned it 32 yards for a touchdown to give KSU a 41-17 lead.
"The play was the play that hurt us the most," Hudspeth said. "We were ready to go on another long drive to get even closer before the pass deflects right to their defender who has a clear path to the end zone."
Louisiana came right back as Broadway engineered a 12-play, 80-yard yard drive, throwing an 18-yard scoring strike to Jamal Robinson to make it a 41-24 game with 3:35 left in the third. The Cajuns converted three third-down chances on the drive. Robinson led the Cajun receivers with six catches for 83 yards.
Stephen Brauchle converted a 24-yard field goal at the 10:55 mark to pull Louisiana to within 41-27.
Torrey Pierce, who had not played in the first three quarters, keyed the drive by carrying four times for 43 yards.
That was as close as Louisiana would come as Daniel Sams led KSU on a 65-yard scoring drive with John Hubert scoring his second touchdown of the game, a two-yard run with 8:01 left to extended the Wildcat lead to 48-27.
"That was really the only touchdown that our defense gave up in the second half," Hudspeth said of the Louisiana defense that limited KSU to 130 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes. "We started to put things together on defense late in the half and it carried over to the second half."
Senior linebacker Justin Anderson turned in another career effort, making 10 of his career-high 15 tackles in the first half. Anderson, who recorded double-figure tackles for the eighth time in his career, previously set his career best with 14 stops last week at Arkansas.
"I can't say enough about Justin Anderson. He is quickly becoming one of the dominant defenders in the Sun Belt," Hudspeth said.
Broadway led the Cajuns offensively, completing 18-of-30 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown while also rushing 13 times for 42 yards.
The Louisiana ground game picked up 177 yards rushing, including 74 on 13 carries by Alonzo Harris and 42 on six carries by Pierce.
Kansas State rotated quarterbacks throughout the game. Waters completed 22-of-31 passes for 278 yards but was picked off twice. Sams completed just one pass for 27 yards, but picked up 63 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Tyle Lockett was the primary receiving threat, catching eight passes for 111 yards while Hubert keyed the Wildcat running game, carrying 18 times for 56 yards and a pair of scores.
Before a 42-point third quarter explosion, the first half featured just 23 points.
Kansas State opened the scoring when Jack Cantele kicked a 28-yard field goal at the 9:17 mark of the first quarter to cap a 60-yard drive on the Wildcats' first possession.
The Louisiana defense set up the first points for the Cajuns when Tig Barksdale intercepted a pass that deflected high into the air off the hands of a Wildcat receiver. Barksdale returned it eight yards to give Louisiana the ball at the KSU 21, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Brauchle with 6:33 left in the opening quarter.
Kansas State made it 10-3 when Hubert took a pitch from Waters on an option around the right side and ran it into the end zone from seven yards out with 59 seconds left in the quarter. The score capped a 12-play, 71-yard drive.
After the Cajuns failed to convert a fake punt on a fourth-and-3 near mid-field, Kansas State drove 51 yards in six plays with Sams scoring on a quarterback draw for a 13-yard touchdown run to make it a 17-3 game with 11:20 left in the half.
After Daniel Cadona expertly had a 45-yard punt downed at the KSU 3-yard line, the Wildcats drove 87 yards in 12 plays to take a 20-3 halftime lead on a 27-yard field goal by Cantele with 11 seconds remaining.
The Cajuns return home to open the 2013 home slate when they host Nicholls State at 6 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 14) in Cajun Field. The Colonels (1-1) are coming off a 27-23 win at Western Michigan.
"I want our fans to learn from Kansas State tonight," Hudspeth said. "Their fans weren't happy after they lost to North Dakota State last week, but they came back and packed the place tonight. We need our fans to fill Cajun Field next week and help us come through with a win."
Game captains for Louisiana were Terrance Broadway, Jacob Maxwell and Darryl Surgent from the offense and Justin Hamilton from the defense. . . game time temperature was 102 degrees on the field. . . the Cajuns lost the coin toss for the second straight week and after KSU deferred to the second half, Louisiana opted to receive to start the game. . . former Cajun softball standout Ashley Brignac, who recently moved to Kansas, was in attendance. . . Louisiana won the turnover battle, making two interceptions while committing just one. . . after making a career-high 13 tackles last week, Sean Thomas came back to make nine on Saturday. . . Trevence Patt started at cornerback, setting a personal best with seven tackles. . . the interceptions by Tig Barksdale and Dominick Jones were the first for each as a Cajun.
Louisiana Head Coach Mark Hudspeth
On how they played in the game…
"Well you look at the game, and there is a 21-point difference in the game. If you take away the interception return, the kickoff return, and basically the punt return, and you would have a tie football game. I thought defensively we played a really good game against a really good football team with two talented quarterbacks. Offensively, we have got to find some answers. We did get some things going in the second half, and some guys stepped up and made some plays. We just did not make some plays in the first half. We had a drop ball on the fake punt, which was perfectly executed, but you have got to make the catch. There were some other things that we have got to do a better job at executing. I thought defensively we played well enough for us to win. Offensively, we have got to carry the load a little bit. I think we only had half the snaps that the defense had in the first half. Like I told our team, we did not play two cupcakes like a lot of teams play in the first two games of the year. We played a SEC team that has had a lot of success in the last two years. We played the defending Big 12 champions, and we feel like crap right now because we are 0-2. We really felt like we could have competed with both of them, but we cannot make the mistakes that we made tonight to compete with a team like this. If we eliminate some of those mistakes, then we have a chance to be right there in that ballgame. That is exciting, and our kids and coaches feel that way that this is how far we have come to expect to beat the Big 12 defending champions."
On K-State's big plays being frustrating…
"You look at the first half and we did not get anything going offensively, and then the second half they had a big kick return that looked like they were getting ready to get control. Then our guys did not quit, came roaring back with the momentum, and were really right back in the game until the interception for the touchdown really broke that momentum. I thought defensively we played exceptionally well. We only gave up 27 points on defense, and I think if you hold the Big 12 defending champion to 27 points offensively then you have got to have a chance to win the game. The (interception) return for a touchdown, a kick return for a touchdown, and basically a punt return down to the one, that is another seven. That was the difference in the game. You take away those three plays and we have a tie ballgame. We have got to find some guys on our kickoff coverage units that are disciplined enough to make some plays. Give their guy some credit too though. That is why he is the number one guy in the nation. We knew that coming in, and he got us tonight pretty good. They have a good football team. You can tell they got it back on track as you might expect Coach Snyder might do that. Like I told our team, we played two really good teams to start this year. We did not open up with two bad teams. I told those guys that we are not going to hang our head. We are disappointed that we did not win one of the two or both, but there is a lot of football to be played."
On why they could not get big plays…
"We got to keep our feet. We ran a couple routes and fell down when we were wide open. We dropped a ball on a fake punt that we are wide open that will extend the drive. It will keep our defense off the field. We just have got to execute. I thought in the second half we opened things up a little bit. We gave our playmakers a chance by stretching that field a little bit. I thought we made some plays down the field that opened things up. We were a little conservative in the first half. In the second half we opened things up, got momentum, and got back in the game. I give our kids a lot of credit for that. We have got to start faster, and just find a way to eliminate some of the things we did that hurt ourselves. We can control those things. We need to stay in our lanes on kickoff. Those are the things that are most disappointing."
Cornerback Dominick Jones
On momentum changes…
"I thought we still played good ball today, we never got down on ourselves. We never let up until the game was over. We kept competing when everything happened against us, we just kept fighting."
On playing behind K-State…
"You just cannot let it get to you. You have to keep fighting and never give up."
On creating adversity…
"We prepared, we made plays we have to learn and to overcome adversity. We obviously know bad things will happen. We have to keep working."
Wide Receiver Jamal Robinson
On living up to coaches expectations…
"We need to stop making small mistakes and perfect everything we do."
On frustration level of playing from behind…
"Very frustrating, we were not going to give up and we were going to try and find a way to get back into the game."
On confidence from the second half…
"We got everything working in the second half. Everybody was getting their blocks and making plays. We just have to make it happen in the first half."
Wide Receiver Darryl Surgent
On his kick return…
"It is exciting and actually being out there and actually doing it. Just following my teammates and finding a hole. That is the greatest feeling seeing my teammates laying them out and making a way for me to run out."