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Football: Nixon’s Career Night Not Enough For Cajuns Against A-State

 JONESBORO, Ark. – Junior Jalen Nixon became the second quarterback in school history to record both 200 yards rushing and passing in a single game, but Arkansas State built a 34-7 lead in the second quarter and held on for a 37-27 victory over the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in a nationally-televised game on Tuesday at Centennial Bank Stadium.

Freddie Knighten tossed second-quarter touchdown passes of 2 yards to Darion Griswold and 46 yards to Chris Murray as Arkansas State (4-3, 3-0 SBC) gained 435 yards of total offense, including 306 on the ground. Freshman Warren Wand led the Red Wolves with 96 yards on the ground while Michael Gordon added 73 yards with a touchdown.

"It was a hard fought football game, but we’re not starting out fast enough in the first half," Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth said. "We haven’t been a first-half team all year. If you go back and look back at the way we played at Kentucky and look at the way we stormed back in the second half. If you look at the way we played tonight … we didn’t really hit on either thing, offensively or defensively.

"But in the second half, we caught fire on both sides of the ball and climbed right back into the game. The kids had a lot of fight in them. That’s one thing we’ve got … we’ve got some kids that never quit. We’ve got to eliminate turnovers … they’re still being a crutch for us. The points we gave them on the turnovers was a big difference in the game along with the missed field goal. Give credit to Arkansas State. They’ve got a good team and you can tell they were ready for us. They did a nice job stopping the run in the first half and we didn’t get going in time offensively."

Nixon completed 17 of 44 passes for a career-high 253 yards and two TDs while rushing for 201 yards on 19 carries. The Carencro native joined Brian Mitchell, who rushed for 271 yards and passed for 205 yards against Colorado State in 1987, as the lone players in Ragin’ Cajuns to record 200 yards rushing and passing in the same game.

Elijah McGuire tied a career-high with 10 receptions for Louisiana (2-4, 1-1 SBC) while setting a career-best with 134 yards receiving. The junior, who entered the game with 999 yards receiving in his career, took a swing pass from Nixon and gained 21 yards to become the first player in school history to record 2,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a career.

McGuire became the third player in school history to record 4,000 all-purpose yards in his career following Tyrell Fenroy (5,231 yards from 2005-08) and Darryl Surgent (4,945 from 2010-13).

Louisiana took the opening kickoff and drove 51 yards to the A-State 24 before the drive would eventually stall. Nixon gained 41 yards on the second play from scrimmage for the Ragin’ Cajuns to the A-State 35, but the Red Wolves defense would hold and Stevie Artigue‘s 41-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.

The Red Wolves would drive 76 yards in seven plays to take a 6-0 lead when Gordon capped the drive with a 7-yard run. Knighten, who finished 8-for-19 for 105 yards and added 72 yards on the ground, helped keep the drive alive as he connected with Griswold on an 11-yard pass and later added a 19-yard run for a first down to the UL 7.

Johnston White’s 21-yard TD run down the right sideline gave A-State a 13-0 lead with 1:15 remaining in the first quarter before Knighten hit Griswold for a 2-yard score with 13:24 remaining in the first half for a 20-0 advantage.

After Cody Brown gave the Red Wolves a 27-0 lead with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, Nixon put the Ragin’ Cajuns on the board when he raced 75 yards for a touchdown with 11:16 remaining in the first half.

The Ragin’ Cajuns added a second touchdown late in the second quarter to cut the lead to 34-14 when Nixon engineered a 10-play, 75-yard drive. The junior connected with McGuire on a 21-yard pass to the A-State 40 before gaining 19 yards on third-and-8 to the A-State 19. McGuire capped the drive four plays later when he took a handoff from Nixon and raced around left end for an 8-yard TD run with 25 seconds remaining in the half.

Otha Peters recorded a career-high 11 tackles to lead Louisiana while Savion Brown recorded his first interception of the season. Steven Coutts averaged 51.2 yards on six punts for the Ragin’ Cajuns, including three punts of over 50 yards with a long of 64.

Louisiana will return to action on Saturday, Oct. 31, when it plays host to ULM in the 70th annual Homecoming game at Cajun Field. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3.