Minnesota welcomed the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns to Huntington Bank Stadium for homecoming. After a 17-14 halftime lead, Minnesota outscored the Cajuns 21-7 in the second half to win 35-24 and get back on the winning track after losing their last two.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Louisiana opened the contest with the football and the offense went to work right away. The Cajuns opened with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a touchdown pass from Zeon Chriss to Peter Leblanc that put Louisiana up 7-0 at the 10:36 mark of the opening quarter.
Louisiana’s defense then stood up early, forcing a three-and-out on Minnesota’s first possession. However, the Cajuns offense couldn’t respond and put more points on the board as the Gophers held them to a three-and-out as well. After that Louisiana punt, Minnesota got on the board with a nine-play, 86-yard scoring drive that ended with a 10-yard pass from Athan Kaliakmais to Daniel Jackson that tied the game at 7-7 with 2:30 left in the quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Louisiana moved the football down the field again. Still, a goal-line stand from the Gophers’ defense kept the Cajuns to a 28-yard field goal from Kenneth Almendares, his 18th consecutive make, to put the Cajuns ahead again at 10-7. At 18 straight field goals, Almendares has tied the program record for the longest streak, previously set by Brett Baer.
Minnesota answered and regained the lead six minutes later with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard Kaliakmanis touchdown run that made it a 14-10 game with 7:21 left in the first half.
Louisiana had another impressive scoring drive right before the end of the half. The Cajuns had an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Zeon Chriss to Robert Williams that made it 17-14 with 1:47 remaining in the second quarter. Louisiana was able to get an interception on the next Minnesota possession, but they were too deep to make another drive before the end of the half.
Minnesota started the second half with a big scoring drive with another 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown run from Zach Evans that put the Gophers back ahead at 21-17.
Then, the Gophers stood out again on defense, forcing a turnover on downs after a good first-down play from Louisiana. After the fourth-down stop. Minnesota started their next drive in Louisiana territory. However, the Cajuns’ defense got their FBS-leading 19th sack of the season on third down to force a Minnesota punt.
On the next Louisiana possession, Zeon Chriss placed a place to an open Neal Johnson Jr., but the ball was intercepted by Tyler Nubin as he broke from his free safety position.
After a controversial defensive pass interference call, Minnesota put seven more points on the board early in the fourth quarter with a two-yard run from Bryce Williams made it 28-17 with 13:45 remaining in the game.
Minessota added to their lead with a 37-yard touchdown from Kaliakmanis to Jackson on fourth down to increase the score to 35-17 with 5:21 to go.
Louisiana showed some life late with a 52-yard touchdown run from Jacob Kibodi on fourth down to make it 35-24 with three minutes remaining. But it wouldn’t be enough as Minnesota ran out the clock to win by 11 at Homecoming.
BIG NUMBER: 2
A pair of interceptions thrown by Zeon Chriss proved to be costly for the Cajuns, as the Golden Gophers were able to score off both turnovers.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jack Henderson
The Mandeville native had a great game defensively for the Golden Gophers, racking up seven tackles and a key interception in the fourth quarter.
UP NEXT: Louisiana will return home next week to host Sun Belt West foe Texas State in a nationally televised contest for Louisiana Salutes. Kickoff is set for either 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. and can be seen on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.