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Football: Lewis, Louisiana Defense Put Out Flames, 42-14
Louisiana wins 10th straight game; snaps Liberty's 15-game home win streak
LYNCHBURG, Va. – Three touchdown passes from Levi Lewis and a suffocating defense which produced six turnovers and seven sacks helped lead No. 22/21 Louisiana to a decisive 42-14 non-conference road victory over Liberty on Saturday before an announced crowd of 15,564 at Williams Stadium.
Chauncey Manac tied a single-game school-record with four sacks for Louisiana (10-1) while Montrell Johnson, Neal Johnson and Emani Bailey each scored second-half touchdowns after Liberty (7-4) cut the Ragin' Cajuns lead to 21-14 early in the third quarter.
AJ Riley, Mason Narcisse and Kam Pedescleaux each intercepted passes as Louisiana, which equaled its most turnovers forced since facing Northwestern State in 2005.
Lewis overcame a 1-for-8 start from the field to finish 14-for-25 for 166 yards for Louisiana. Bailey, making his return to the lineup, gained a game-high 60 yards on the ground in 13 carries as Louisiana controlled the football for 20 minutes in the second half and just under 32 for the game.
Louisiana, which produced its 15th game with 40-or-more points in the Billy Napier era, improved to 14-1 overall in the month of November under Napier while snapping Liberty's 15-game home win streak dating back to the 2019 season-opener against Syracuse.
Manac, who entered the game with 3.5 sacks on the season, tied Rodney Hardeway's school-record with four sacks against Middle Tennessee on Nov. 10, 2007. The senior was part of a defensive unit that held Liberty to 293 yards of total offense while harassing quarterback Malik Willis all night.
Liberty turned the football over twice in the first two minutes of the game after Andre Jones' forced fumble and recovery stopped the Flames' opening drive at the Louisiana 29 before Percy Butler recovered a muffed punt by Demario Douglas at the Liberty 14.
Louisiana took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Lewis connected with John Stephens, Jr., on a 4-yard TD reception to cap a 10-play, 41-yard drive.
Lewis, who went 4-for-5 through the air on the scoring drive, converted a pair of fourth-down opportunities when he gained four yards on fourth-and-3 to the Liberty 30 before finding Neal Johnson alone in the left flat for an 8-yard gain on fourth-and-2 to the Flames' 4.
After forcing Liberty to punt on its next possession, Louisiana drove 56 yards in three plays to take a 14-0 lead with Lewis connecting with Kyren Lacy on a 15-yard TD pass with 14:19 remaining in the second quarter.
Louisiana increased its lead to 21-0 in the second quarter after a botched snap on a Liberty punt was picked up by Dalen Cambre, who scooted 26 yards for a touchdown 9:06 left in the half.
The Flames cut the Ragin' Cajuns lead to 21-7 as Willis found Kevin Shaa on a 29-yard pass and drove to the Louisiana 2 before back-to-back holding penalties on Liberty and consecutive sacks by Manac pushing the ball back to the Louisiana 44.
Willis found Shaa again on a 30-yard scoring pass on Liberty's opening possession of the second half before Louisiana responded with an 8-play, 74-yard drive to take a 28-14 lead.
Montrell Johnson opened the drive with four straight runs before Lewis hit Peter LeBlanc on a 34-yard pass to the Liberty 18. Johnson would score his 11th rushing touchdown of the season two plays later when he scored on a 2-yard TD.
Louisiana missed an opportunity to increase its lead after Riley deflected a Willis pass and Narcisse collected it at the Liberty 12, but the Ragin' Cajuns missed on fourth-down at the Flames' 5 when Lewis' pass sailed wide of Pearse Migl in the end zone.
On the ensuing possession, Liberty drove to the Louisiana 36 before Willis was picked off by Riley for his first career interception.
Louisiana extended its lead to 35-14 with 14:11 remaining when Neal Johnson caught a 2-yard scoring pass from Lewis to cap a 6-play, 65-yard drive. Lewis kept the drive alive with a 23-yard pass to Jalen Williams on third-and-11 at the Louisiana 34 later finding Johnny Lumpkin wide open for 24 yards to the Liberty 2.
Bailey capped a 12-play, 66-yard drive for Louisiana in the fourth quarter as he scored on a 2-yard TD run with 2:26 remaining. Lewis found Migl for a 10-yard gain on fourth-and-1 at the Louisiana 43 before Bailey rushed eight straight times before finding the end zone for his fourth rushing TD of the season.
Manac and Lorenzo McCaskill each led Louisiana with six tackles while Jones, Jordan Quibodeaux, Garner and Sonny Hazard each credited with sacks.
Willis, who entered the game with 2,159 yards through the air with 21 TDs while adding 755 yards on the ground, was held to 14-for-34 for 162 yards through the air while gaining 28 yards on 20 carries.
Louisiana will wrap up the regular-season on Saturday, Nov. 27, when it plays host to ULM in a nationally-televised contest at Cajun Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
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