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Football: Ragin’ Cajuns Drop Close Game At Troy, 26-16

TROY, Ala. –  Despite sophomore running back Trey Ragas rushing for 106 yards and scoring two second-half rushing touchdowns, Louisiana Football (4-5, 2-3 SBC) dropped its third Sun Belt Conference game of the season losing 26-16 to the Troy Trojans (7-2, 5-0 SBC) Saturday afternoon at Troy.

Louisiana scored two touchdowns in the second half but were unable to overcome a 23-3 halftime deficit.  The Cajuns scored 13 points in the third quarter to crawl back into the game, but could not complete the comeback, failing to score a point in the fourth quarter.

Senior quarterback Andre Nunez was 11-for-25 finishing with 126 yards passing but he also threw two interceptions.  Junior Ja’Marcus Bradley led the team in receiving yards finishing with 67 yards on four catches and junior Ferrod Gardner led the team in tackles finishing with a career-high nine tackles.

HOW IT HAPPENED (First Half): Troy began the game, after taking the opening kickoff, with a 10-play 63-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 29-yard field goal that put Troy up 3-0.  Louisiana responded on its opening drive, by going 27 yards on six plays that was capped off by a 32-yard field goal from senior Kyle Pfau, to even the score up at 3-3 with 7:22 to go in the first quarter.

Troy then struck fast on its next drive, needing only one play to go 75 yards on a touchdown pass from Sawyer Smith to Damion Willis to take the lead, 10-3, at the 6:38 point of the opening period.  But Louisiana did catch a big break near the end of the first quarter, when Sawyer’s pitch attempt resulted in a fumble that senior Koa Haynes recovered with just under two minutes to go in the first quarter.

The quarter finished shortly after Louisiana’s recovered fumble with Troy holding a seven-point lead.  The Ragin’ Cajuns could not capitalize on the turnover, with Pfau missing a 39-yard field goal, early in the second quarter, as the score remained 10-3.

The Trojans were able to add to their lead when Lewis fumbled the hand off with Ragas, at the Louisiana 23-yard line, to give Troy a short field.  The Trojans then went 23 yards in two plays, capping off the short drive with a 12-yard touchdown run from B.J. Smith, to push Troy’s lead to 17-3.

On the next drive, Louisiana stalled on the Troy 40-yard line and had to punt it away and on the ensuing drive the Trojans drove 64 yards and kicked a 42-yard field goal to extend their lead to 20-3.  The half closed out with Troy’s third-straight scoring drive when the Trojans went 57 yards in nine plays, kicking their second-straight field goal (20 yards) to put the halftime score at 23-3.

HOW IT HAPPENED (Second Half): Coming out of the locker room Louisiana quickly marched down the field, going 55 yards in eight plays to score a touchdown on a three-yard scoring run by Ragas.  The drive was spurred on by Bradley’s 21-yard pass to Jackson, midway through the drive to put Louisiana in the red-zone where they cashed in.

But for the fourth-straight time, going back to the first half, Troy went down the field and added to its lead, kicking a 49-yard field goal to go up 26-10 with 5:10 left in the quarter.  Louisiana’s response to Troy’s fourth-straight scoring drive was its own scoring drive, scoring its second-straight touchdown when Ragas capped off the nine-play 65-yard drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game, crashing in from five yards out.

The scoring drive was helped by an offsides call on Troy when Louisiana went for it on fourth down, at the Troy 12-yard line.  After the Cajuns attempted and failed the two-point conversion, the third quarter came to an end with Louisiana having cut into Troy’s lead and the score sat at 26-16.

Louisiana’s first drive in the fourth quarter fizzled out at the Troy 49-yard line, and they punted the ball away, but the Ragin’ Cajuns defense began to shut down Troy, snapping the Trojans’ stretch of four-straight scoring drives.  But the Ragin’ Cajuns could not score down the stretch, and a late interception from Nunez ended Louisiana’s attempt at a comeback, with the final score sitting at 26-16.

GAME NOTES:

– Game Captains:
Bennie Higgins (Jr., DE), Michael Jacquet III (Jr., DB), Ken Marks (Jr., OL), Raymond Calais (Jr., RB)

– Coin Flip Winner:
-Troy won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff.  It snaps a three-game streak where Louisiana had won the toss and a four-game streak where the Ragin’ Cajuns took the opening kickoff. 

– Field Goals Open It:
– Both Troy and Louisiana each opened up the game kicking field goals in the first drive.  It is the first time since Sept. 9, 2017 at Tulsa that Louisiana has played in a game where both teams kicked field goals to start the game.

– Gardner’s Busy First Half:
– Junior Ferrod Gardner finished the first half with eight tackles (three unassisted and five assisted).
– It’s the most tackles by a member of the Louisiana defense in the first half this season and the first time a Louisiana defender had at least eight tackles in the first half since Justin Middleton had nine and Tracy Walker had eight against Georgia Southern on Nov. 25, 2017.

– Bradley Has An Arm:
Ja’Marcus Bradley had his fourth career pass attempt during Louisiana’s first drive of the third quarter.  Bradley completed a 21-yard pass to Jarrod Jackson, which was Bradley’s first career completion.
– It was the first time that a Louisiana receiver has attempted a pass this season and the first time a Louisiana receiver completed a pass since Darius Hoggins completed a 19-yard pass at Texas A&M on Sept. 16, 2017.
– The 21-yard completion is the longest completion by a receiver since Al Riles completed a 48-yad pass at Georgia Southern on Nov. 10, 2016.

– Trey Rumbles For 100:
– Ragas rushed for 106 yards giving him his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season.
– That puts Ragas one 100-yard rushing game away from tying the school record of six 100-yard rushing games in a single season currently held by Tyrell Fenroy who did it twice in 2006 and 2007.

– Game Highs:
– Ragas rushed for 106 yards on 18 attempts and scored two touchdowns
– Nunez had 126 yards passing going 11-for-25
– Bradley caught four passes for 67 yards
– Gardner had a career-high nine tackles in the game

UP NEXT: Louisiana returns to Cajun Field on Saturday, Nov. 10, for the first of back-to-back home games, when Georgia State comes to Lafayette.  The game, which has a 4 p.m. kickoff time, will be broadcast on ESPN�.

FOLLOWING THE RAGIN’ CAJUNS: Follow the Ragin’ Cajuns on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@RaginCajunsFB) to stay up-to-date with Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Football.

– #GEAUXCAJUNS –