UL earns bowl eligibility with 28-27 win over Arkansas State

Cajun Nation

Press release provided by UL Athletics

JONESBORO, Ark. – Behind a pair of dazzling rushing displays from running backs Chris Smith and Montrell Johnson, Louisiana totaled 424 yards on the ground and powered past Arkansas State, 28-27, on Thursday night.
With the victory, the Ragin’ Cajuns clinched bowl eligibility for the fourth consecutive season under head coach Billy Napier.
Smith rushed for 238 yards against the Red Wolves, the fifth-most rushing yards in a single game in program history, and added two touchdowns, marking the second consecutive game he has rushed for two scores in the same game.
Johnson was equally effective, carrying the ball 17 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns, one of which went for 99 yards. The 99-yard score was the longest in program history and Sun Belt Conference history, while matching an NCAA record.
Louisiana’s (6-1, 4-0 Sun Belt) 424 rushing yards marked the third time in the Napier era that the team has rushed for more than 400 yards in a single game. The Ragin’ Cajuns racked up 546 total yards in the game, improving the program to 16-1 under Napier when producing more than 500 yards of offense.
Quarterback Levi Lewis also made a move in the record books, passing Terrance Broadway for second in career passing yards after throwing for 122 yards against the Red Wolves. Peter LeBlanc led the receiving corps with a season-high five receptions for 34 yards.
The Ragin’ Cajun defense came up big in big moments, paced linebacker Ferrod Gardner, who finished the night with seven tackles, 1.0 sack, 1.0 tackle-for-loss and a pass breakup.
After a scoreless first quarter, Arkansas State struck first when it capped off a 13-play, 94-yard drive with a six-yard pass from Layne Hatcher to Corey Rucker to put the Red Wolves ahead 7-0.
It did not take long for Louisiana to answer when Johnson took the next play from scrimmage 99-yards to the house to knot things up at seven points apiece.
The Ragin’ Cajuns took their first lead of the night after a Red Wolves field goal, marching the length of the field in 1:47 just before the half to set up a six-yard rushing score from Smith that gave the visitors a 14-10 lead headed into the break.
Thursday’s third quarter was a slugfest, with Louisiana finding the end zone courtesy of a three-yard rush from Johnson and a go-ahead 76-yard touchdown run from Smith which provided a slim 28-27 advantage heading into the fourth.
Linebacker Chauncey Manac came up with a huge sack late in the game, which gave the ball back to the Louisiana offense with 10:26 remaining. From there, the offense was clinical, draining the clock with a 20-play, 90-yard drive which was highlighted by a gutsy 4th-and-1 call that was converted by Johnson to clinch the thrilling win.
Louisiana returns home on Saturday, Oct. 30, when it welcomes Texas State to Cajun Field. Kickoff for the annual Homecoming game is slated for 11 a.m. and will be broadcast to a national audience on ESPNU.

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