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Louisiana football rallies behind Levi Lewis as Cajuns top Marshall, win New Orleans Bowl + vidoe HL

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Dec. 19, 2021

Click here for game photo gallery.

Click here for video highlights by Erik Hall.

NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana football rallied behind quarterback Levi Lewis in the fourth quarter to win the New Orleans Bowl 36-21 in the Ragin’ Cajuns coaching debut for Michael Desormeaux on Saturday night at the Superdome.

Emani Bailey had two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter and freshman Montrell Johnson Jr. one as No. 17 UL (13-1) rallied and won its 13th straight since a season-opening loss to Texas.

The 13 victories are a school record.

Lewis threw for 270 yards, leaving him 26 shy of passing Jake Delhomme and becoming the all-time UL passing yards leader, and Bailey rushed for a team-high 94 yards.

Up 16-14 at halftime, UL allowed Rasheen Ali a 9-yard touchdown run with just more than a minute left in the third quarter that helped give Marshall (7-6) a 21-16 lead. Al finished with three rushing TDs.

But UL went back ahead, 22-21, behind a 4-yard Bailey TD run with 8:20 remaining. The Cajuns went for 2, but Lewis’ overthrew Dalen Cambre. Johnson added a 3-yard TD run with 3:54 left, and Bailey scored from 2 yards out with 1:41 to go.

UL football recruiting:A look at Michael Desormeaux’s Ragin’ Cajuns signees

The first touchdown of the Desormeaux coaching era was a 9-yard pass from Lewis, who was playing his final game as a Cajun, to Kyren Lacy that came as UL drove 81 yards on 13 plays.

Nate Snyder extended the Cajun lead with a 42-yard field goal, but Ali reeled off a 63-yard touchdown run to help cut it to 10-7 before the first quarter was done.

Ali had a 14-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to help put the Thundering Herd up 14-10, but a 25-yard Snyder field goal made it 14-13 with 1:28 left before the break. Snyder added a 24-yarder going into halftime, converting after a Bralen Trahan interception and two Marshall timeouts called to ice him.

Bailey, Johnson respond with Smith out

UL’s plan going into the night was for Bailey and Johnson to share the load at running back with Cajuns starter Chris Smith (knee) injured and out.

The Cajun offense also was without leading receiver Peter LeBlanc, who recently underwent knee surgery, and starting right tackle Max Mitchell, who also is preparing for the NFL draft while nursing a lingering hand injury.

Johnson took 10 of the first-half rushing attempts and Bailey six.

Being without Mitchell hurt UL, but the Cajuns overcame his absence as Ken Marks moved from left tackle to the right tackle and Nathan Thomas started at left tackle.

Cajun backs did struggled before the break, with none having more than 30 yards total and none having more than an 8-yard gain. UL’s longest gain of the half was a 55-yard Lewis run that was his second-longest this season, but Bailey and Johnson both got going after halftime.

UL absences felt

With slowed-by-injury Tayland Humphrey opting to leave the team before the bowl to prepare for the NFL draft, nose tackle Ja-Quane Nelson started for UL. Nelson is a quite capable backup, but Humphrey takes up space and often attracts double-teams.

Usual starting inside linebacker and No. 2 tackler Ferrod Gardner also was out for UL due to a lingering injury and so he, too, can prepare for the draft.

Marshall attacked the Cajun defense up the middle with perhaps that in mind, and it paid when Ali – who went into the night with 1,241 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns – popped his 63-yarder. Ali also hit the middle for a 32-yard gain that set up his 14-yard TD.


Nate Snyder did his job

Snyder struggled with field attempts for much of the year after replacing Kenneth Almendares, who sustained a season-ending hip injury. He was 4-of-9 before the bowl.

But Snyder nailed his three first-half attempts, making him 4-of-4 in December to that point including one in UL’s Sun Belt Conference championship win over Appalachian State. It also put him in the company of Brett Baer and Hunter Stover among Cajun kickers making three field goals in a New Orleans Bowl game.

The last time Snyder, an outgoing senior, made more than two field goals in a game was Oct. 30, when he went 3-of-4 against Texas State. Since then, he was 1-of-3 in his last six games combined prior to Saturday.