No. 24 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football rallies for win over upset-minded Georgia State + photos
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Nov. 4, 2021
The win was the eighth straight for No. 24 UL (8-1, 6-0 Sun Belt Conference), which clinched its fourth straight Sun Belt West Division title under coach Billy Napier. UL hasn't lost since a season-opening 38-18 defeat at Texas.
Georgia State (4-5, 3-2) had its three-game win streak come to a close.
The Panthers are now 0-6 all-time against the Cajuns, all since 2013.
With UL up 14-10, Georgia State went ahead 17-14 behind Tucker Gregg's 1-yard touchdown run with five minutes and 25 seconds remaining. But with 2:32 to go the Cajuns answered with 13-yard TD run from freshman Johnson, and cornerback Eric Garror broke up a fourth-down pass with 1:25 left to help seal it.
Georgia State took a 3-0 lead with a 39-yard Noel Ruiz field goal on its opening drive, and it stayed that way throughout the rest of the first half.
The Panthers extended their lead to 10-0 behind a 37-yard pass from Darren Grainger to tight end Roger Carter that came three plays after Antavious Lane intercepted Levi Lewis with just less than 10 minutes to go in the third quarter. It was the first takeaway of the game for either team.
UL cut the lead to 10-7 after Lewis hit Peter LeBlanc for a 13-yard TD pass late in the third quarter, then, after a couple Cajun sacks forced Georgia State to punt, went up 14-10 on a 3-yard Johnson TD run with 13:11 left.
Napier continued with his go-for-broke approach, and it did not exactly pay off for UL in the first half. But it did in the third quarter.
UL made it to the Georgia State 8 from its own 25 on its opening drive, then went for it on fourth-and-4. Lewis inexplicably threw the ball away, and the Panthers got their first-quarter field goal out of the ensuing drive.
The Cajuns – whose kicker, Nate Snyder, has been inconsistent on field goals since replacing the injured Kenneth Almendares – also went for it on fourth-and-2 from their own 6 with 23 seconds left before halftime, but Lewis was sacked for a 7-yard loss.
Lewis, though, threw his third-quarter TD pass to LeBlanc on fourth-and-4 from the 13 as Napier again eschewed another field goal try.
UL had been 13-of-16 going for it on fourth downs going into the night, an 81.2% conversion rate that was fourth-best in the country.
UL had issues running in the opening half on Georgia State’s defense, which had allowed 21 points or fewer in its prior three outings.
The Cajuns had only 38 yards on the ground on 16 carries before the break, including 21 yards from Johnson on five rushes and 19 from Chris Smith on six.
The Panthers seemed to be winning battles on the line of scrimmage, and it was a big reason UL was shut out in the first half for the first since a 27-20 win over Arkansas State last November.
Fifteen different UL receivers or tight ends caught passes through eight games, but Lewis has not had one obvious go-to receiver throughout the season.
That changed Thursday.
LeBlanc had a career-high nine catches for 118 yards and the TD through three quarters. He came into the season with 17 catches for 158 yards and no touchdowns, tied with Kyren Lacy for most receptions and third behind Dontae Fleming and Lacy in receiving yards.
Costly questionable call
It appeared the Cajuns were going to take the lead early in the second half, when Georgia State punted after the game’s first three-and-out.
Compounding matters for the Cajuns, a UL coaching staff member on the sideline was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the punt return was brought back.