Louisiana Wins Battle On the Bayou, Beats ULM 21-16 On Senior Day
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns won the Battle on the Bayou against the UL Monroe Warhawks 21-16 to complete their regular season sweep of the Sun Belt Conference on senior day at Cajun Field.
With the win, Louisiana improved to 11-1 overall and 8-0 in Sun Belt play. It's the Cajuns 11th straight victory and the first time in school history that they've gone undefeated in the Sun Belt Conference.
Head coach Billy Napier credited his defense for the victory and gave love to his seniors on their day.
"I thought our defense did an awesome job of stepping up and answering," Napier said. "It was an emotional day. This is a special group of seniors. We are all looking ahead to next week, but we found a way to win."
Louisiana gained 55 yards on the very first play of the game when quarterback Levi Lewis connected with tight end Neal Johnson down the seam. On the next play, Lewis ran in from 20 yards out for a touchdown. It took 40 seconds for the Cajuns to jump in front 7-0.
The Warhawks drove into Louisiana territory, converting a third and fourth down on their opening drive. They got down to the Cajuns 10 for first-and-goal. On fourth-and-goal, they kicked a field goal. The 15-play, 66-yard drive ended in three points for UL-Monroe.
Louisiana answered with a nice drive into Warhawks territory, and, on fourth-and-two at the ULM 37, running back Chris Smith threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Kyren Lacy. The trickery on fourth down gave the Cajuns their second touchdown in as many drives.
After being out on the field for 15 plays on the first possession, the Cajuns defense forced a three-and-out. The Warhawks punted, and Louisiana had an excellent opportunity to start opening the game up.
On fourth-and-six at ULM's 38, Napier decided to go for it, but a Lewis scramble was stuffed and the Cajuns turned the ball over on downs. The Warhawks offense took advantage and gained some momentum with a 46-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-10. The quick response got them right back into the game.
Lewis was sacked on the first play of Louisiana's next offensive drive. After failing to convert a third down, the Cajuns punted, and UL-Monroe had a chance to take their first lead of the day.
Instead, linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill intercepted a ball from the Warhawks quarterback. However, it was overturned due to a roughing the passer flag. Following the penalty, ULM attempted a fourth-and-nine, but an incompletion forced a turnover on downs.
Louisiana's offense had another opportunity to begin swinging momentum. Instead, they went three-and-out and punted again, but the defense forced another Warhawks punt. The Cajuns offense remained cold and punted.
With 11 seconds remaining, Louisiana defensive lineman Zi'Yon Hill and linebacker Chauncey Manac forced a fumble at UL-Monroe's 22 yard-line that defensive lineman Andre Jones recovered.
Lewis couldn't complete a potential touchdown throw to wide receiver Peter Leblanc. With two seconds left, Napier decided to attempt a 39-yard field goal which kicker Nate Snyder missed.
The Cajuns defense forced a three-and-out to start the second half. On offense, the first drive of the third quarter was running back Emani Bailey's show. They went to him on each of the first five plays and he gained 36 total yards. However, two incompletions had the Cajuns at fourth-and-three from the ULM 28. They went for it, and, on a high snap, Smith picked up the ball and made it back to the line of scrimmage. He couldn't make the first down marker and Louisiana turned the ball over on downs.
The Warhawks drove to midfield, but a sack by Jones and defensive lineman Sonny Hazard on third down wrecked the drive and UL-Monroe punted.
On the first play of Louisiana's next drive, running back Montrell Johnson rumbled for 42 yards.
Right after that, Lewis connected with Leblanc for 27 yards and Johnson ran 12 yards to the Warhawks four yard-line. Emani Bailey capped off a four-play, 85-yard drive with a touchdown to make it 21-10 late in the third quarter.
A sack by Manac helped ruin UL-Monroe's next drive and the Warhawks were faced with a fourth down. They attempted a fake punt, and it fell incomplete for a turnover on downs. It was the first of four straight possessions where the two teams failed a fourth down conversion.
With their next possession starting at the Warhawks 38, the Cajuns were in a great position to start pulling away. They went 26 yards in five plays, including a 16-yard run by Smith before the third quarter came to a close.
On fourth-and-one at the ULM three yard-line, an incompletion by Lewis prevented the Cajuns from taking advantage of the failed fake punt. They couldn't stretch the lead to three possessions.
ULM gained 57 yards in 10 plays and used a horse-collar tackle penalty on third down to continue driving. However, they were faced with a fourth-and-five at the Cajuns 40, and pressure forced an incompletion for their second straight turnover on downs.
Louisiana attempted their fifth fourth down conversion with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter at the ULM 28, and, for the fourth time, they turned it over when a sneak by Lewis came up one yard short.
Finally, the Warhawks offense broke up Louisiana's second-half defensive shutout. They used 11 plays to go 71 yards and score a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed and the score was 21-16 with 1:35 left on the clock.
ULM attempted the onside kick, but Leblanc recovered the try. Louisiana ran out the clock and won 21-16 to secure their 11th straight victory this season.
Up next, the 11-1 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns face off in a showdown against the 10-2 Appalachian State Mountaineers in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game at Cajun Field on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 2:30 p.m.