HATTIESBURG, MISS. — The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns entered Thursday night’s game having only defeated Southern Mississippi one time in Hattiesburg — a 24-21 victory back in 1989.
That famed victory will remain the only win as the Ragin’ Cajuns fell 39-24 to the Golden Eagles at M.M. Roberts Stadium — better known as “The Rock.”
With the loss, Louisiana falls to 1-24 all time in Hattiesburg.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
The contest began with Louisiana linebacker Kris Moncrief intercepting Zach Wilcke’s first pass. That gave the Ragin’ Cajuns the ball at the Golden Eagles’ 37-yard line.
Louisiana was unable to take advantage as Chris Smith’s run the left on fourth-and-three was stuffed.
A few minutes later, Southern Miss’ defense stepped up again as Malik Shorts picked off Louisiana’s Ben Wooldridge and then returned it to the 19-yard line.
Five plays later, running back Janari Dean powered his way into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run. The extra point attempt was blocked and it was returned by Trey Amos for two points.
Louisiana’s third drive of the game resulted in a three-and-out and a punt. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ first three offensive possessions netted three yards, with one turnover on downs, one interception and a punt.
Southern Miss then caught Louisiana sleeping in the secondary as running back Frank Gore Jr. threw a 52-yard touchdown pass down the middle to Tiaquelin Mims.
Louisiana finally got on the board with a nine-play, 42-yard drive, which featured Wooldridge completing a 24-yard pass to Michael Jefferson and a 22-yard pass to Jacob Benard. The drive stalled and the Ragin’ Cajuns settled for a 50-yard field goal by Kenneth Almendares as times expired in the first quarter.
The second quarter started with another costly miscue for the Ragin’ Cajuns. After being pinned by a punt at the one-yard line, Wooldridge would be called for intentional grounding in the end zone which resulted in a safety.
Southern Miss took the ensuing the possession down the field and capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Wilcke to Jason Brownlee.
Louisiana finally found the end zone and did so in sensational fashion as Wooldridge found Jefferson down the left sideline for a 63-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked.
The Ragin’ Cajuns had another chance to score before halftime but Almendares missed a 40-yard field goal attempt.
At the break, Southern Miss held a 29-11 lead.
Louisiana’s first two drives of the second half ended with a Chris Smith fumble and then a turnover on downs inside Southern Miss’ 40-yard line.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would score on their third drive of the second half as Wooldridge threw a nine-yard touchdown to John Stephens Jr. The two-point pass was picked off but Louisiana had cut the lead down to 29-17.
After a Southern Miss field goal, Louisiana had another promising drive but it ended with Wooldridge being forced out of the pocket and throwing an incompletion on fourth and goal from the four-yard line.
Moments later, Zi’Yon Hill-Green dislodged the ball out of Frank Gore Jr.’s hands and Kam Pedescleaux recovered it. After a review, the play was upheld and the Cajuns got the ball at the seven-yard line.
Terrance Williams would score on a one-yard touchdown run and the extra point was good. With 3:12 left in the fourth, Louisiana had cut the lead down to eight points.
After forcing a punt, Louisiana had one final chance to tie the game but it ended with disappointment. Wooldridge’s fourth-down pass was picked off by Natrone Brooks who returned it for a 52-yard touchdown.
BIG NUMBER: 4
Louisiana entered the game with a turnover margin of plus-nine but that took a hit in Thursday’s contest. The Ragin’ Cajuns committed a season-high four turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble) while the Golden Eagles had two turnovers.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: MICHAEL JEFFERSON
The Louisiana wide receiver had a record-breaking performance as he set new career highs in receptions (6) and receiving yards (179). Jefferson’s 63-yard touchdown was also the longest play of the season for the Cajuns.
UP NEXT: Louisiana (4-4, 2-3 SBC) will return to action on November 4th when it hosts Troy. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.