It has become an all too common theme for the Cajuns to come out hot with an early score and they did it yet again. The offense drove 44 yard on six plays, capped by an 18-yard touchdown run from Jalen Nixon to give the Cajuns a 6-0 lead. The PAT attempt was blocked, giving Louisiana a 6-0 lead.
The Jaguars responded with a 72-yard drive of their own. Facing a first and goal at the nine-yard line, Xavier Johnson cruised into the end zone for his first touchdown of the day. The PAT gave South Alabama a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter.
After a pair of punts, Louisiana again found some success on offense with Brooks Haack connecting with Jamal Robinson. The Cajuns drove to the South Alabama 18-yard line and proceeded to self-destruct. The Cajuns went from a second and five to a fourth and 21 on the 34-yard line. A 51-yard field goal was no good, keeping the Jaguars in the lead at 7-6.
South Alabama responded with an 11-play, 81-yard drive that stalled at the Louisiana eight-yard line. A 25-yard field goal by Aleem Sunanon extended the Jaguars lead to 10-6. South Alabama added another score before the half on an 89-yard drive, capped by a touchdown pass from tight end Gerald Everett to quarterback Cody Clements.
Looking better than they had all game long, the Cajuns marched downfield on the opening drive of the second half. Elijah McGuire finished off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run with 10:44 left in the third quarter to cut the Jaguars lead to 17-13.
After several punts, the Cajuns defense broke as Clements found Josh Magee on a 59-yard completion to the 10-yard line. Three plays later, Clements hit Everett for a seven-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 24-13 in favor of South Alabama.
Desperately needing a score to get back in the game, Louisiana found the end zone via the passing game. The touchdown was a result of a five-play, 85-yard drive that consisted of three completions to Robinson. The third was a 45-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion was no good, leaving the Cajuns down 24-19.
On the following possession, the Cajuns defense came up with their biggest play of the game. Savion Brown picked off Clements and took it 85 yards for a touchdown to give Louisiana a 25-24 lead, pending a PAT. The two-point conversion attempt was again no good, but Louisiana had their first lead since the opening quarter at 25-24.
With the defense again stopping South Alabama, Haack made his only true mistake of the night. His pass was picked off by E.J. May and returned to the Louisiana 16-yard line. Two plays later, the Jaguars were back in the lead at 30-25. Clements ran the ball in for a two-point conversion, extending the South Alabama lead to 32-25.
The Cajuns had one last shot to score, but failed to convert a fourth and six at their own 34-yard line. The Jaguars ran the clock out and escaped with a 32-25 win over Louisiana.
Let's take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of a seven point loss to South Alabama.
- Haack to Robinson: This combination was deadly versus the Jaguars with Robinson having a career night of 10 catches for 188 yards and a touchdown. He was dominant throughout the matchup.
- Late Defensive Touchdown: It may have been gift wrapped and lucky, but a defensive touchdown is still six points and the Cajuns needed points however they could get them.
- Inept Defense: The Jaguars offense looked impressive, but much of that was due to a defense that didn't look ready to play. The front seven was easily controlled by the South Alabama offensive line. As a result, the Cajuns defense allowed 495 total yards and 26 first downs. This was one of the worst defensive performances in a season full of bad defensive play.
- Penalties: Nine penalties for 73 yards is hard to overcome. Four false starts and an illegal formation penalty are indicative of a team not being mentally ready to play. This late in the season, a team cannot be battling issues like this and expect to be of any quality.
- Run Game: The struggle to run the football again reared its ugly head with the Cajuns managing a paltry 43 yards on 24 carries. No one was able to find any room to run the football with a poor South Alabama defense dominating the line of scrimmage.
- What seemed to be a lack of preparation and focus on the opponent. The Cajuns looked lost on offense on many occasions, the coaching staff looked lost when making adjustments, and the defense looked completely out of their league versus South Alabama.
Play of the Game
- The E.J. May interception of Haack. With a one-point lead and the ball, a long drive could have put the game away for the Cajuns, Instead, a poor interception by Haack gave South Alabama new life to win the game. The Jaguars took advantage of the interception with a game-winning touchdown two plays later.
- The Cajuns host New Mexico State and another talented running back, Larry Rose III. The Cajuns must win two of their final three games of the season to earn bowl eligibility.