LAFAYETTE – Led by junior wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley’s three touchdown receptions, Louisiana Football (6-5, 4-3 SBC) became bowl eligible with a 48-38 win over South Alabama (2-9, 1-6 SBC) Saturday night on Senior Day at Cajun Field.
The win means that Louisiana, with a win next weekend at ULM, can clinch a Sun Belt Conference Western Division title and a trip to the inaugural Sun Belt Conference Championship Game on Dec. 1.
Bradley’s three touchdown receptions, he finished with 62 yards on three receptions, ties a school record for most touchdown receptions in a single game and it ties Bradley for the second most touchdown receptions in a single in the FBS this season and it is the most touchdown receptions in a single game in the Sun Belt Conference this season.
Sophomore running back Elijah Mitchell ran for 104 yards on 12 carries scoring three touchdowns on the ground for the third time this season, while defensively senior linebacker Justin Middleton and junior linebacker Jacques Boudreaux each finished with a team-high nine tackles.
HOW IT HAPPENED (First Half): South Alabama won the toss and deferred to the second half, giving Louisiana the opportunity to open the game with a scoring drive. The Ragin’ Cajuns did just that, going 69 yards in 10 plays to capped off with a 23-yard field goal from senior kicker Kyle Pfau. It was on South Alabama’s first possession where Louisiana’s defense reared its head, with a one-play stand.
Senior Deuce Wallace snagged his first career interception on South Alabama’s first play of the game, grabbing the pick at the South Alabama 28-yard line. It set up a three-play 28-yard scoring drive, with senior quarterback Andre Nunez connecting with Bradley for 17 yards to quickly put Louisiana 10-0 just over five minutes into the game.
For the remainder of the quarter, South Alabama would hold on to the ball, beginning a drive that started with 9:15 left in the quarter and took the game into the second quarter. The drive, ending in a Kawaan Baker 8-yard touchdown run, would go 20 plays for 80 yards, both are school records for South Alabama and it put the score at 10-7.
The Jaguars, on their next drive, tied the game at 10-10 with a 15-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a Gavin Patterson 31-yard field goal. Louisiana answered quickly, and for the third time this season, sophomore Levi Lewis took the field and led a one-play scoring drive tossing a 44-yard pass to Bradley for a touchdown to put Louisiana up 17-10.
On the ensuing kickoff, Pfau tipped the ball just right, and followed the ball 10 yards before pouncing on it to give Louisiana the ball back with 4:20 left in the half. Powered by back-to-back 20-plus yard passes by Nunez, Louisiana took advantage of the short field going 54 yards in five plays, capped off by Bradley’s third touchdown reception of the game (1-yard pass from Nunez) to put Louisiana up 24-10.
Much like the previous scoring drive for South Alabama, the Jaguars put together a long drive, this time with a sense of urgency, going 75 yards in 13 plays, to score on a 18-yard touchdown pass from Cole Garvin to Jamarius Way, eating up the final two minutes of the half to put the halftime score at 24-17, with the Ragin’ Cajuns taking the lead into locker room.
South Alabama opened the third quarter with a nine-play 65-yard scoring drive, to tie things at 24-24, when Tra Minter ran it in from the five-yard line. Louisiana responded quickly, going 53 yards in three plays, finished off by a 45-yard touchdown run by Mitchell, to put Louisiana back up 31-24.
Louisiana’s first scoring drive of the second-half, sparked Louisiana’s defense and on the next two South Alabama drives the Ragin’ Cajuns recovered two fumbles, with junior Tra’Vontae Booker forcing the first fumble, and redshirt-freshman Zi’Yon Hill recovering it.
On the Jaguars next drive, a mishandled handoff was recovered by redshirt-freshman Andre Landry, allowing the Ragin’ Cajuns to continue a stretch where they scored 17 unanswered points to pull ahead 41-24. Pfau nailed a 41-yard field goal, and Mitchell capped off a nine-play 70-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to finish off the third quarter with Louisiana holding the 17-point lead.
South Alabama put together another long drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter, going 87 yards in 10 plays, to move within 10 points of the Ragin’ Cajuns after Baker ran it in from 13 yards out. Louisiana then turned to its running game, and went on a eight-play 69-yard drive, all on the ground, which was capped off with Mitchell’s third rushing touchdown of the game, when he crashed in from three yards out.
Louisiana led 48-31 after Mitchell’s touchdown run, and the previous scoring drive ate up over five minutes of clock (5:13) and it meant that South Alabama only had 2:12 left to work with. Although the Jaguars would move down the field and score again, the drive which went six plays for 79 yards, took care of the remainder of the time left in the game. Louisiana then lined up in victory formation and with 15 seconds left, secured the 48-38 win and bowl eligibility.
– Coin Flip Winner:
– South Alabama won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. It is the third straight game that Louisiana lost the coin toss and the second straight game that the Ragin’ Cajuns will receive the opening kickoff. Louisiana is 5-6 on coin tosses this season.
– Party Like Its 2016:
– Louisiana’s win makes the Ragin’ Cajuns bowl eligible for the first time since 2016, when Louisiana went to the 2016 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
– No Place Like Home:
– Louisiana won its final four home games to finish the season, and that is the best in-season home winning streak since 1995.
– Louisiana’s 5-1 record at home is the best record at home and the most wins at home since Louisiana went 5-0 during the 1987 season.
– 17 Unanswered:
– Louisiana had 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to extend its lead.
– Another Three On The Ground:
– Sophomore running back Elijah Mitchell had another strong game on the ground, rushing for three touchdowns and 104 yards. That is Mitchell’s fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season and the third time this season he has run for at least three touchdowns.
– Bradley Keeps Catching:
– Bradley’s three touchdown receptions in the first half, was a career-high, and it tied a school record for most TD receptions in a single game.
– It is the most touchdown receptions by a Sun Belt Conference receiver in a single game this season and it ties Bradley for second most in the country in a single game this season.
– One Play, One Interception:
– Senior defensive back Deuce Wallace intercepted South Alabama’s first pass of the game, and that was the first time since Dec. 3, 2016 at ULM that Louisiana got an interception on the first possession of the game and first defensive play of a game.
– Sneak On-Side Attack:
– Louisiana’s Pfau snuck in a quick on-side kick in the second quarter and it was the second time (the other being at Appalachian State on Oct. 20) that Louisiana has attempted and recovered an on-side kick this season.
– Opening With A Kick:
– Louisiana opened the game with a 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 23-yard field goal from senior Kyle Pfau. That is the third time this season that Louisiana has opened the game with a field goal.
– Career/Game Highs:
– Wallace’s interception in the first quarter was the first of his career.
– Bradley caught a career-high three touchdowns in the game.
– Bradley led the team in receiving with 62 yards on three reception.
– Mitchell finished with a team-high 104 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
– Nunez went 12-for-18 finishing with 153 yards and two touchdown passes.
– Boudreaux and Middleton led the defense with nine tackles.
– Higgins had a career-high seven stops.
– Pfau’s 41-yard field goal was the third longest field goal this season.