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Football: Cajuns explode in 3rd quarter to win, 49-27

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, October 11, 2015



The Ragin’ Cajuns celebrate Saturday night during their game against the Texas State Bobcats. UL won 49-27.(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser)


PHOTO GALLERY: Pre-Game – UL vs. Texas State

PHOTO GALLERY: UL vs. Texas State


They were facing a defense ranked last in the country in points in allowed per game and second-to-last in yards per game permitted.

So running up 526 yards in a 49-27 win over 1-4 Texas State on Saturday night at Cajun Field arguably was expected for UL in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams.

But boy did the now 2-3 Ragin’ Cajuns savor it anyway. And why not, Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth seemed to figure.

“I thought we played a solid game, just about in all phases with the exception of (a) kickoff return we gave up,” Hudspeth said. “But other than that I thought it was a clean game.

“We had perfect ball security. We won the turnover battle (1-0). We were really good in the red zone. We played really good defense.

“We only gave up 21 points defensively to a team that’s been putting some points up,” Hudspeth added, “so really proud of that.”

UL’s defense and special teams sparked a high-octane offense sputtered, especially when it comes to early scoring, in back-to-back losses to Akron and Louisiana Tech.

“We were on a two-game losing streak, and guys were just down,” senior linebacker Dominique Tovell said. “But we knew that this was a fresh start, 0-0 (in conference action), and we wanted to come out there with high energy and play hard and get our offense the ball back.

“That’s really what pushed us for our performance tonight: We really wanted to get our offense the ball, so they could put up points for us.”

They did just that.

UL used 28 third-quarter points to pull away as starting quarterback Jalen Nixon completed a career-high 22 passes on 29 attempts for a career-high 238 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, with two going to Jamal Robinson and one on a flick to Al Riles.

Nixon also ran seven times for 45 yards and two TDs while running back Elijah McGuire ran a career-high 28 times for a season-high 170 yards and 1 TD, Riles had a career-high nine catches for a career-high 98 yards and Torrey Pierce ran 13 times for 56 yards and one TD.

“I thought Jalen Nixon had a stellar performance,” Hudspeth said.

“We have a lot of playmakers on the offense side of the ball,” Nixon added, “and when you get those guys the ball they can make big things happen, as you can see tonight.”

The two teams went into halftime tied 14-14, and only after UL went 59 yards in nine plays and one minute and four seconds to score with 35 seconds left before the break.

The Cajuns did it with a 17-yard Nixon pass to Robinson, who went up high in the back right corner of the end zone for his first touchdown reception since Oct. 4 of last season.

The catch by Robinson, who missed all but four games in 2014 because of knee and foot surgeries, stood up under video review.

The Cajun senior elevated over Bobcats cornerback David Mims II, tapped the ball with his right hand because his arm was struck and secured the catch before hitting his side on the grass.

“The ball was kind of behind the defender, so I tried to grab it behind him,” said Robinson, who moved out of a tie for fifth place with Javone Lawson on UL’s all-time receiving TDs leaders list with 16. “Then the defender hit my arm and it fell out, and I kept my eyes on the ball. I just grabbed it.

“I’ve been waiting to get a deep ball in the end zone and score, man,” he added. “That’s why I got all wild when I scored. Some much adrenaline.”

A second Nixon-to-Robinson TD pass, this one a 31-yard strike to the right side, helped to put UL up 21-14 early in the third quarter.

UL took a 28-14 lead when McGuire scored standing up from 3 yards out six plays after Cajuns cornerback Savion Brown recovered what was a ruled a lateral to Bobcats running back Robert Lowe and a fumble at the Texas State 36.

The Cajuns extended their lead to three TDs after Nixon scored on an 18-yard QB draw, and the two sides then traded kickoff returns for touchdowns – 95 yards by Texas State’s Brandon Smith, 100 yards by Jeryl Brazil – as UL went up 42-21.

Brazil’s kick return tied Darryl Surgent’s at Kansas State in 2013 for longest in UL history.

Texas State’s first drive went 68 yards in seven plays after UL’s initial drive ended with the Cajuns going for it on fourth-and-1 at the 32, only to have Nixon – standing under center – fumble the snap and recover for no gain, giving the Bobcats the ball on downs.

Lowe slipped out of the backfield and was wide open over the middle to catch a 37-yard scoring pass from Tyler Jones, and James Sherman hit the PAT to make it 7-0.

UL answered with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped when Riles, who had six catches for 70 yards in the first half alone, took a short flip from Nixon 22 yards down the right sideline.

Stevie Artigue’s PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 5:05 left in the opening quarter. It stayed that way until Jones ran in from 31 yards out with 12:27 to go in the first half.

The Cajuns and Bobcats traded fourth-quarter TDs, with Pierce running in 2 yards out with 6:39 remaining.

“We’ve been waiting for this game all season long,” Nixon said. “A game like this really helps, you know? It builds our confidence going into (an Oct. 20 game at Arkansas State). We know, yeah, we’re capable of putting up points, so that’s a big plus.”