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Football: Manhandled–Cajuns dominate Arkansas State

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, October 23, 2013

Louisiana-Lafayette's Alonzo Harris (46) looks for a running ruum against in Arkansas State during the first half  of an NCAA college football game Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, at Liberty Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Ark.(AP Photo/The Jonesboro Sun, Tami Wynn)

Louisiana-Lafayette’s Alonzo Harris (46) looks for a running ruum against in Arkansas State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, at Liberty Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Ark.(AP Photo/The Jonesboro Sun, Tami Wynn) / AP

JONESBORO, ARK. — Big stop on fourth down, control the ball for most of the third quarter.

Keep reading, even if you may have seen this before.

It was a different night, after all. Different opponent. Somewhat different circumstances too.

But the result was similar as UL claimed a 23-7 Sun Belt Conference victory over Arkansas State in an ESPN2-televised game Tuesday night at Liberty Bank Stadium here.

That leaves the 5-2 Ragin’ Cajuns – winners now of five straight – as the last remaining team without a loss in league play at 3-0.

And it’s not even November yet.

“Total team effort,” coach Mark Hudspeth said after the Cajuns held the Sun Belt’s team leader in total offense to just 168 yards, produced 470 yards of their own, ran 40 more plays than ASU and controlled the ball for 42 minutes and 18 seconds, including 13:26 in the third quarter.

“When the offense doesn’t let the other team’s offense come on the field,” he added, “that’s also playing defense.”

UL avenged back-to-back losses to two-time defending Sun Belt-champ ASU behind 105 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries from starting running back Alonzo Harris, 110 yards on 10 rushes from backup running back Elijah McGuire, 104 yards on seven catches from receiver Jamal Robinson, 205 yards on 18-of-28 passing from Terrance Broadway, three field goals and two PATs from Stephen Brauchle and an early interception from Sean Thomas.

“Just to have our defense give up 168 yards to a team that was leading the conference in total offense – that was real great,” Broadway said. “I knew it was bound to happen.

“It’s great to have a good defense on the other side of the ball,” he added. “It helps you relax and play the games better.”

One week prior to Tuesday, in another ESPN2 game, UL trailed Western Kentucky 10-0 before Al Riles’ 99-yard pick-six on fourth down with less than seven minutes to go in the second quarter turned things around. The Cajuns then had the ball for 11:44 seconds in the third, breaking open a 13-13 game to take a 23-13 lead into the final quarter of a 37-20 win.

This time, UL jumped to a 17-0 lead on a 36-yard Brauchle field and two 3-yard Harris touchdowns runs. And when the Red Wolves decided to go for it on fourth down late in the opening half, UL’s defense answered – leading to a second Brauchle field goal that made it 20-7 at the break.

“It definitely it starts up front,” Harris said after UL came up with 265 yards on the ground.

“We were just trying to go off of our past successes,” center Andre Huval added, “and we were having success running the ball (at WKU), so we kept running it.”

The Cajuns took a 23-7 lead into the fourth as Brauchle was responsible for the only second-half scoring, a 30-yard field goal with three seconds left in the third quarter.

UL got its first points off a 36-yard field goal from Brauchle. The eight-play, 31-yard scoring drive was set up by Thomas’ interception, his first of the season.

The Cajuns made it 10-0 with Harris’ first TD run and a Brauchle PAT that capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive which consumed 6:19.

It was the 25th career touchdown for the junior, and his 26th – coming with 10:44 left before halftime – put Harris in fourth place on the Cajuns’ all-time leaders list, passing longtime NFL receiver Brandon Stokley.

Harris’ second came after McGuire ran 70 yards through the line and up the left sideline – the longest UL rush so far this season. Brauchle’s PAT made it 17-0.

Arkansas State got back in it before the half was done, though, after Rocky Hayes picked off Broadway – the Cajun quarterback’s first interception in three games.

The Red Wolves turned that into a 3-yard TD run by quarterback Adam Kennedy that came, on the first play after a UL timeout, with 3:39 left before halftime.

Brian Davis’ PAT pulled ASU to within 10 at 17-7.

It could have been tighter than that, but the Cajuns caught a break late in the half.

After an uncharacteristic 9-yard shank by punter Daniel Cadona, Arkansas State had the ball on the UL 40 with 2:20 remaining before the break.

UL’s defense, however, came up big.

Facing fourth-and-2 from the UL 32, the Red Wolves decided to go for it with just more than a minute left prior to halftime.

But Cajun rushers closed in on Kennedy, sending him to the ground – he was shaken up on the play – and forcing him into an incomplete pass broken up by safety Thomas.

Linebackers Dominique Tovell, Justin Anderson and Tig Barksdale all were in on the key play with pressure on Kennedy.

UL took advantage, calling timeout with six seconds to go after a 19-yard pass from Broadway to Darryl Surgent and getting a 38-yard field goal from Brauchle – his longest so far this season – as time expired to make it 20-7.

“That’s a huge momentum swing, especially in their stadium,” Tovell said.

“I just (saw) him dangling around, and first mindset was go get it. That’s what I did. I just chased him. I (saw) Tig and them flying around, and I was like, ‘One of us has got to hit him.’

UL’s first drive of the third quarter lasted eight-plus minutes, and the Cajuns kept ASU scoreless after that.

“They gave us a break,” safety T.J. Worthy, who had a team-high 11 tackles, said of UL’s offense, “and once we went out there we did our job.”

As a result, UL is now the clear-cut favorite to win the Sun Belt – and its first outright conference title of any sort since 1970.

“That gives us a little bit of a leg up,” said Hudspeth, whose team plays its final non-conference game Nov. 2 vs. New Mexico State. “But no room for error. … We’ve got a lot of games left to play.”