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Football: Special Teams Help Carry Louisiana Past Georgia State, 23-21


ATLANTA   Freshman Stevie Artigue kicked three field goals, including a go-ahead 21-yard boot with 6:59 remaining as the Louisiana Ragin  Cajuns defeated Georgia State, 23-21, in a Sun Belt Conference battle Saturday afternoon at the Georgia Dome.

Brooks Haack completed 18-of-25 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown as Louisiana (4-4, 3-1 SBC) built a 17-7 lead after the first quarter and led 17-14 at halftime. Al Riles caught eight passes for a career-best 103 yards for the Ragin  Cajuns with Elijah McGuire gaining 73 yards on 21 carries.

Louisiana, which had scored only 31 points in the first quarter in the first seven games, raced out to a quick 10-0 lead before a Riles 4-yard TD pass from Haack gave the Ragin  Cajuns a 17-7 lead.

The Ragin  Cajuns took the opening possession and drove 52 yards in nine plays with Artigue s 40-yard field goal giving Louisiana a quick 3-0 lead. After Artigue s ensuing kickoff was touched by a Panther returner and rolled out at the GSU 6, the Ragin  Cajuns punt block team got into the action for the second straight week.

Travis Crawford blocked a Wil Lutz punt that Montrel Carter recovered in the end zone that gave Louisiana a 10-0 lead with 8:42 remaining in the first quarter.

 I don t know if you can have a better special teams day if you drew it up before the game started,  head coach Mark Hudspeth said.  The special teams units played their hearts out today and didn t made some great plays, like covering on kickoffs, but some huge plays like blocking a punt, getting a huge punt return (49-yards by Gary Haynes) and stopping a fake punt. That was the difference in the game.

GSU drove 67 yards in seven plays on its next possession as Nick Arbuckle found Keith Rucker on an 8-yard scoring pass at the 6:06 mark. Arbuckle, who finished 22-for-38 for 313 yards and three TDs, connected with Penny Hart on a 32-yard strike on third-and-2 before his 22-yard pass to Glenn Smith on third-and-13 gave the Panthers a first down at the UL 8.

Haack would answer for the Ragin  Cajuns as he directed Louisiana on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was highlighted by a 33-yard pass to Riles on first-and-10 to the GSU 29. McGuire kept the drive alive for the Ragin  Cajuns when he converted a fourth-and-1 situation with a 3-yard run to the GSU 17 and Haack connected with Riles in the right flat five plays later for his second TD throw of the season.

GSU cut the lead to 17-14 in the second quarter as Rucker hauled in an acrobatic one-handed grab from Arbuckle for a 3-yard TD before Arbuckle found Donovan Harden for a 3-yard scoring pass that gave the Panthers a 21-17 lead with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter.

Artigue, who converted on three field goals in a 30-24 win over ULM last week, cut the Panther lead to 21-20 when he booted a career-long 49-yard field goal with 1:30 remaining the third quarter.

GSU attempted a fake punt in the fourth quarter as Lutz rolled right and threw to Tevin Jones, but Ross Duhon made the stop and after a GSU penalty, the Ragin  Cajuns took over from the GSU 23 with 9:50 remaining.

Artigue booted his third field goal of the game   a 21-yarder   that put Louisiana ahead 23-21 with 6:59 remaining and the Ragin  Cajuns would eventually seal the win as Savion Brown picked off Arbuckle at the UL 42.

 I m proud of the way we came over here and overcome a lot of things to get the win,  Hudspeth said.  We had a lot of calls not go our way today and we kept overcoming that. Georgia State has got a good football team   they re a much improved team. But I m just proud of us for coming over here, get that fourth win and keep us right on track to where we want to be.

Dominique Tovell, Zachary DeGrange and Otha Peters each registered seven tackles to lead Louisiana with Tovell picking up a pair of sacks. Darzil Washington earned three stops, including a sack and three stops for loss, as the Ragin  Cajuns limited Georgia State to 78 yards on the ground and limited the Panthers to 28 yards of total offense in the final period.

Rucker caught six passes for 51 yards to lead GSU with Hart (97 yards) and Harden (42 yards) catching five passes each. Demarcus Smith led the Panthers with 85 yards on the ground in 14 carries with Bobby Baker and Kaleb Ringer each collecting 10 tackles.

Louisiana will return to action when it travels to Mobile, Ala., on Thursday to face South Alabama in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

Ragin’ Cajuns-