The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns fell 34-31 in overtime to the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles at Cajun Field on Thursday night. It is the second straight game that the Ragin’ Cajuns failed to clinch bowl eligibility against a team with a non-winning record.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Louisiana began the game with three straight big plays on offense, with Chandler Fields finding Jacob Benard for nine yards and then tight end Neal Johnson for 11 yards. Jacob Kibodi then took the hand off for 17 yards which placed the ball down at the Southern Miss 38-yard line.
The drive stalled with three straight Kibodi runs for a total of three yards and then went for it on fourth down. Fields’ pass attempt to Bernard was short.
After forcing a punt, Louisiana produced a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive which featured a lot of Dre’lyn Washington. The Ragin’ Cajuns running back rushed for 61 yards on five carries on the drive and capped it with a six-yard touchdown run.
Southern Miss responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive and Frank Gore Jr. caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Billy Wiles. With 14:11 left in the second, the game was tied 7-7.
After forcing the Ragin’ Cajuns to punt, the Golden Eagles went 83 yards on only nine plays and scored a 28-yard touchdown run by Kenyon Clay.
The Ragin’ Cajuns tied it up in a blink of an eye with a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown by Zylan Perry.
After forcing Southern Miss to punt, Louisiana got the ball back with less than five minutes to go before the half.
The Ragin’ Cajuns marched down the field, including picking up a fourth and one at the Southern Miss 40-yard line, and appeared to have scored a touchdown twice.
The first time it appeared that Terrance Carter scored on a one-yard touchdown pass from Fields but the officials ruled that he went out of bounds short of the goal line. After a review, the play stands. The second time was the final play before halftime when Kibodi took the handoff and appeared to cross the plain but it too was ruled short. The play was reviewed and the call stood.
There was drama to start the third quarter.
Louisiana’s Antoine Baylis sacked and stripped the ball out of Wiles’ hands. K.C. Ossai recovered the fumble and tried to score but as he was crossing the goal line the ball was punched out by Gabe Cavazos Jr. and recovered in the end zone by Latreal Jones for a touchback.
After the two teams traded punts, Southern Miss put together a promising drive but it stalled. The Golden Eagles settled for a 44-yard field goal attempt by Andrew Stein but it was no good.
Southern Miss forced another punt by Louisiana and the Golden Eagles put together another short drive. It too stalled and they had to settle for a 44-yard attempt by Connor Gibbs which was no good.
The ensuing possession went terribly for the Ragin’ Cajuns. After picking up a quick first down with a pass to Carter for 10 yards and then a nine-yard run by Perry, the Cajuns were called for a false start.
That was followed by a bad snap which was recovered by Fields but a second bad snap wasn’t and Southern Miss’ Quentin Bivens scooped it up at the 28-yard line. A few moments later, Gore Jr. scored on a 17-yard touchdown run.
Louisiana went uptempo with its offense and found something to start the fourth quarter. Fields completed his first seven passes including three times to Bernard and two to Trayv’on Culbert. The Ragin’ Cajuns got the ball all the way down to the one-yard line. The drive ended at the goal line as Fields hit Carter in the hands but the ball fell through his hands.
With 7:22 left in the fourth, Louisiana tied the game with one throw as Fields hit former St. Martinville star Harvey Broussard for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
The Ragin’ Cajuns defense then forced a turnover as safety Jalen Clark punched the ball out of Gore’s hands and it was recovered by Glenn Brown III who returned it 21 yards. Fields then threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Culbert in the back corner of the end zone.
With 5:55 left in the fourth, Louisiana held a 28-21 lead.
Southern Miss responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Ethan Crawford hitting Jakarius Caston for a nine-yard touchdown pass.
Louisiana tried to drive to get into field goal range but the drive stalled and the Ragin’ Cajuns were forced to punt. Southern Miss ran out the clock to force overtime.
Louisiana got the ball first in overtime but a few penalties backed them up and the Ragin’ Cajuns settled for a 34-yard field goal by Kenneth Almendares.
Southern Miss got the ball and was stopped on first two plays but on third down Louisiana’s Keyon Martin was called for defensive pass interference. Two plays later, Gore powered his way into the end zone for the game-winning three-yard touchdown.
BIG NUMBER: 7
Louisiana had several opportunities to score near the goal line of Southern Miss but were unable to punch it in. The Ragin’ Cajuns had seven offensive plays inside the five-yard line but came away with zero points.
BIG NUMBER II: 11
Louisiana’s losing streak to Southern Miss continues for yet another year. With Thursday’s overtime defeat, the Ragin’ Cajuns have now lost 11 straight to the Golden Eagles. The last victory for Louisiana was a 13-7 win in Lafayette in 1993.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: CHANDLER FIELDS
After not having started a game in nearly a year, then having his starting center carter off the field and the backup snapping poorly, Fields still completed 24-of-36 passes for a career-high 260 yards, completed seven straight passes to start the fourth and threw two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter.
UP NEXT: Louisiana (6-4, 3-3) returns to action when it plays at Troy on Saturday, Nov. 18. Kickoff is set 2:30 p.m.