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Football: Big Second Half Pushes Louisiana Past Arkansas State, 27-20
Elijah Mitchell scores go-ahead touchdown with 1:13 to play to improve Ragin’ Cajuns to 6-1
LAFAYETTE – Senior running back Elijah Mitchell's go-ahead touchdown run with 1:13 remaining in the game proved to be the difference as Louisiana picked up a 27-20 Homecoming victory over Arkansas State on Saturday afternoon.
Mitchell's score secured six of the Ragin' Cajuns' 27 second-half points, its highest point total in the final two quarters of any game this season. Additionally, the 27 points were the most by the team in a second half since recording 35 at Ohio on Sept. 21, 2019.
Louisiana (6-1, 4-1 Sun Belt) finished the ballgame with a 440-423 edge in total offense, 332 of those yards coming in the final 30 minutes.
Ninety of those yards were produced by Mitchell, who toted the ball 16 times and added a score. With his production, he moved into sixth all-time in career rushing with 2,891 yards, surpassing former Ragin' Cajun great and current tight ends coach Michael Desormeaux. Fellow back Trey Ragas carried the ball 12 times for 75 yards.
Senior quarterback Levi Lewis had another big day through the air, going 17-for-29 for 244 yards and a score. Lewis also made moves in the career rankings, passing Brian Mitchell for fourth all-time in career passing with 5,640 yards.
Lewis' go-to target was sophomore Neal Johnson, who notched a career-high five receptions, three of which came on the team's final drive, for a career-high 68 yards. He became the first tight end with at least five receptions in a game since Jacob Maxwell recorded six catches at Arkansas on Aug. 31, 2013.
Louisiana's defense had another strong performance, led by a career-high 13-tackle performance by linebacker Ferrod Gardner. Zi'Yon Hill and Andre Jones each added a sack in the contest and combined for eight tackles.
Eric Garror recorded another interception in the contest, his third in the last two games, while Mekhi Garner sealed the victory with another big interception, his second of the season.
After a first half that saw just two Arkansas State (3-5, 1-4 Sun Belt) field goals, Lewis got the offense going in the early part of the second half by avoiding the rush, breaking through the line and scampering 33 yards to the end zone to put Louisiana ahead 7-6 just 1:22 into the third quarter.
Fleming extended the Ragin' Cajuns' lead to 14-6 at the 5:56 mark of the third period, taking a pass from Lewis 52 yards down the sideline and into the end zone.
Arkansas State scored its first touchdown of the contest with 10:37 to play when Jamal Jones plunged across the goal line from four-yards out, but the two-point conversion attempt was picked off by Percy Butler to preserve the Louisiana lead at 14-12.
Redshirt freshman Kenneth Almendares, who had never made a field goal in his career entering the contest, extended Louisiana's lead to 20-12 in the fourth quarter with makes of 35 yards and 43 yards on back-to-back drives.
A-State took advantage of two big pass plays on its next drive, one of which a 47-yard touchdown strike from Layne Hatcher to Brandon Bowling, to tie the game up at 20-20 following a successful two-point conversion.
On the ensuing drive, the Ragin' Cajuns went back in front, 27-20, when Mitchell scored from one-yard out to cap off an impressive six-play, 61-yard drive that shaved off 67 seconds of game play.
The visitors were able to take the ball to their own 43 yard line in the final minute, but Logan Bonner's pass on fourth down was picked off by Garner to secure the win.
Louisiana continues its three-game home stand on Saturday, Nov. 14, when it welcomes South Alabama to Cajun Field for the annual Louisiana Salutes game. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CST and will be broadcast on ESPN.
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