Louisiana Ragin ‘Cajuns football take Sun Belt victory over southern Alabama
MOBILE, Alabama – UL relied heavily on their running game in the rain before escaping with a 20-18 victory in South Alabama on Saturday night at Hancock Whitney Stadium.
UL only won after a failed 37-yard field goal attempt in southern Alabama with 59 seconds left.
Emani Bailey and Chris Smith made touchdowns in the first half for the Ragin ‘Cajuns, as did quarterback Levi Lewis.
UL (4-1, 2-0 Sun Belt) rushed for 158 of 198 total attacking yards in the first half. South Alabama (3-1, 0-1) was limited to 45 rushing yards in the first half on 18 attempts. Statistics were unofficial due to a malfunction in computer programming.
Down 20-6 at halftime, South Alabama made it a one-possession game with a 2-yard touchdown from Bryan Hill in the third quarter. The PAT did hit the amount though, making it 20-12. Jaguars quarterback Jake Bentley hit a 1-yard touchdown on the fourth and the goal early in the fourth, but Zi’Yon Hill sacked Bentley as Southern Alabama tried to match him.
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The Jaguars were threatening again with just over six minutes to go, and did so on the fourth and 1 from 1. A Bentley pass in the end zone, however, fell incomplete after a low snap. .
South Alabama got the ball back and led to the 19, but Diego Guajardo missed the wide on the right.
UL only needed 58 seconds for his first touchdown, a 10-yard rush from Smith. Lewis followed with a 22-yard touchdown run on the Cajuns’ second practice, and a 15-yard Bailey TD run made it 20-0. South Alabama got a 1-yard Hill TD run with 1:33 to go before halftime.
Chris Smith launched UL
UL needed to restart. Instead, Smith launched the Cajuns.
Three plays after returning the 87-yard opener, Smith scored on a 10-yard run, using a big hole on the left side to show he’s quite capable of interrupting the kind of races worthy of post n ° 1.
Smith stumbled at the end of his 87-yard return. If he had scored, it would have been his third kickoff for a touchdown since the start of last season.
Cajuns dominate the line
UL controlled the line of scrimmage from the start, especially on the left side.
Lewis also scored his first left touchdown in space, so tight end Pearse Migl couldn’t find anyone to block.
This is the same team that lost starting tackle Carlos Rubio to a season-ending knee injury in a Sun Belt opener at Georgia Southern. Much like when Rubio was out for the first two games of the season, and when he was injured a week earlier against the Eagles, starting left goalie Ken Marks moved in to tackle and AJ Gillie played goalie. .
The pair appear fairly comfortable together, showing concerns about an equally missing line, reserves Tyler Brown and Jax Harrington due to late-season injuries were unfounded for at least one night.
The UL kicking situation
Cajuns kicker Nate Snyder was 2 of 3 on the PATs in his first start since losing his job to Kenneth Almendares last season, something UL will want to clean up before facing Appalachian State on October 12.
Snyder, a transfer graduate from Indiana who handled kickoffs for UL this season and last, returned in the No.1 role after Almendares suffered a hip injury ending the season at Georgia Southern.
Snyder also missed a 43-yard field attempt early in the second quarter, but a high slam in the rain disrupted the timing.
Kendall Wilkerson blocked the Southern Alabama PAT in the first half.
That gave the Cajuns two blocked PATs and one blocked field goal in their last two games combined, credit to UL’s third special teams coordinator in three seasons, Chris Couch.
Zi’Yon Hill helps
The UL Hill defensive lineman has a long history of injury, including a missed game earlier this season.
But Hill is also used to making big games, like the 2-point conversion bag, and the Cajuns are much better up front when he’s playing.