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Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football beats Arkansas State with school-record 99-yard TD run

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, October 21, 2021

JONESBORO, Ark. – Montrell Johnson Jr. had two touchdown runs including a 99-yarder in the second quarter and Chris Smith had two too, including a 74-yarder in the third quarter, as UL beat Arkansas State 28-27 on Thursday night at Centennial Bank Stadium.

UL (6-1, 4-0 Sun Belt) has won six straight since a season-opening loss at Texas. Arkansas State (1-6, 0-3) has lost six in a row since a season-opening win over Central Arkansas.

The Ragin’ Cajuns chewed up 10:26 on its final drive to seal the win, going 91 yards in 20 plays before taking a knee. UL finished with 424 rushing yards.

Arkansas State took a 17-14 lead behind a 76-yard pass from Layne Hatcher to Tre’Vailance Hunt in the first minute of the second half, but UL answered with a 2-yard TD run by Johnson to help make it 21-17 Cajuns.

The Red Wolves went back ahead after a 15-yard Emmanaul Stevenson run that followed a Smith fumble, then extended their lead to 27-21 with a 35-yard Blake Grupe field goal. The 74-yard run by Smith put UL back ahead 28-27 late in the third quarter.

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A-State took a 7-0 lead behind a 6-yard pass from Hatcher to Corey Rucker that capped a 13-play, 94-yard drive with 5:38 left in the first half.

But Johnson got UL going with his 99-yard run, and after an Arkansas State field goal Smith helped send the Cajuns into the break up 14-10 on a 6-yard TD with 28 seconds left before halftime.

Turnovers were a problem

For the first time this season, fumbles were a bit of a problem for the Cajuns.

Arkansas State capitalized off Smith’s miscue in the third quarter. But UL got away with two others, recovering its own fumbles after quarterback Levi Lewis coughed one up on a hard hit and Eric Garror let one go on a punt return.

Lewis also was intercepted on the UL that preceded Grupe’s 35-yard field goal.

Montrell Johnson sure can run

Johnson added further confirmation that he is the real deal.

With the Cajuns down 7-0, he burst through a hole in the middle, cut right and outraced two Red Wolves down the right sideline.

The TD run was the longest in school history. The previous longest, 92 yards, was by Raymond Calais Jr. against Georgia State in 2018.

Johnson’s score also was the sixth rushing TD of the season for the product of De La Salle High in New Orleans, marking the fifth-most for a Cajun freshman since 2000. Tyrell Fenroy had 12 in 2005, Trey Ragas nine 2017, Elijah McGuire eight in 2013 and Alonzo Harris in 2011.

Levi Lewis prolific

Lewis was not perfect, but he did continue with his prolific play.

Lewis moved into second place behind former NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme (9,216 from 1993-96) on UL’s career passing yards leaders list.

The super senior passed Terrence Broadway (7,556 from 2012-14) with a first-quarter completion to Kyren Lacy.

Zi’Yon Hill on a roll

UL defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill has been having a super season, and he kept it going Thursday.

The product of Catholic High in New Iberia entered the game with 27 tackles, fourth among Cajun leaders. He also had six tackles for loss including four sacks, and a forced fumble.

Hill added to his total with a key stop on fourth down in the first quarter.