Football: Cajuns beat Georgia Southern at its own ground game
Donald Heath, Special to the Advertiser, Sept. 28, 2019
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STATESBORO, Ga. — It’s not easy to out-run a run-oriented team, but the Ragin’ Cajuns beat Georgia Southern at its own game Saturday night.
The Cajuns rarely took a step backward and continued its 2019 offensive onslaught by producing 440 yards — 275 on the ground — during a 37-24 victory over the Eagles at Paulson Stadium.
UL (4-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) won its Sun Belt Conference opener for the first time since 2016.
Georgia Southern (1-3, 0-1) went 0-for-Louisiana this year after losing its season-opener to LSU 55-3 on Aug. 31.
UL has won four in a row after dropping its opener to Mississippi State.
“I thought this was our best game by far,” UL coach Billy Napier said.
Led by the steady play of quarterback Levi Lewis, the Ragin’ Cajuns never trailed against the team that led the Sun Belt in rushing last year.
“We’re 17-0 if we out-run (the opponents),” Lewis said. “That was a little motivation. They have a good run game. That’s what they do.”
UL did it a little better. The Cajuns averaged 7.3 yards per run. Trey Ragas had 131 yards on 16 carries and scored on runs of 3 and 1 yards.
Elijah Mitchell added 82 yards and two scores.
Cajuns runningback Elijah Mitchell runs Saturday against Georgia Southern. (Photo: ragincajuns.com)
Lewis completed 11-of-18 passes for 165 yards and a key touchdown on a fourth-down strike to Ja’Marcus Bradley.
“It’s like going to war,” Lewis said. “We don’t know who they’ve got, but we know the type of men we’ve got. We’ve got foxhole guys.”
Georgia Southern finished with 215 rushing yards. Quarterback Shai Werts returned to the Eagles’ starting lineup after missing two games with a shoulder injury and had a team-high 93 yards.
But the Cajuns pulled away at the end.
“I thought fundamentally we really hung in there against a team that’s hard to prepare for,” Napier said. “It was obvious we had great plans on all three phases.”
UL dominated the first half and held a 250-90 edge in total yardage with scoring drives of 75, 75 and 67 yards but had only a 17-13 lead after 30 minutes.
UL’s two fumbled punts led to 10 Eagle points to keep the hosts within striking distance.
The Ragin’ Cajuns took little time denting the Georgia Southern defense. On the second play from scrimmage, a 51-yard pass from Lewis to Bam Jackson set up the visitors at the Eagle 16, and two plays later, Mitchell powered in from the 5 to make it 7-0.
Georgia Southern answered with a time-consuming, 15-play, 64-yard march that culminated with Tyler Bass’ 28-yard field goal.
Early in the second quarter, the Eagles took advantage of Eric Garror fumbled punt at the UL 43 and added another Bass field goal to make it 7-6. The 44-yarder set a school record with 23 career field goals of 40 or more yards.
But the potent UL offense lessened the mistake. The Cajuns used nine runs and a pass to drive 75 yards for their second touchdown. Ragas scored from the 3, and it was 14-6.
The defense forced Georgia Southern to punt on its next possession, but Garror fumbled again at the 7. Logan Wright cashed in the turnover from the 2 and the Eagles made it 14-13.
But just before halftime, the Cajuns sliced through the Eagles defense again. Stevie Artigue booted a 25-yard field goal on the final play of the half for UL’s 17-13 lead.
Lewis’ fourth-down TD pass to Bradley extended the advantage to 11, 24-13, with 8:04 to go in the third quarter.