Needing a win to keep their bowl hopes alive, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns again failed to stop the run game in falling 37-34 to the New Mexico State Aggies Saturday night in Lafayette.
While there is still a possibility that Louisiana could get to six wins, that would include wins over both Appalachian State and Troy to end the season.
Going into the game, an expectation of a battle between two of the Sun Belt's best running backs was an exciting story. Neither back disappointed as Elijah McGuire rushed for 159 yards for the Cajuns and Larry Rose carried the ball 27 times for 191 yards for the Aggies.
The Cajuns got started early with a 20 yard drive that was stalled at the NMSU 21-yard line. Facing a fourth and four, Stevie Artigue attempted a 38-yard field goal. His kick was no good, giving the ball back to New Mexico State.
Midway through the first quarter, NMSU struck first in driving to the Louisiana 27-yard line. Facing a fourth down of their own, the Aggies brought on kicker Parker Davidson who drilled a 44-yard kick to give open the scoring at 3-0.
Quickly responding, the Cajuns rolled downfield on a four-play, 65-yard drive that started with a 27-yard pass to Jamal Robinson. Al Riles was the target of the scoring play, catching a 20-yard pass from Brooks Haack to give the Cajuns a 7-3 lead.
NMSU found their passing game early in the second quarter, with Andrew Allen hitting Tyrain Taylor for a 58-yard bomb to give New Mexico State the lead once again at 10-7. The Aggies forced a three and out and added to their lead another scoring drive. The drive was capped by a 33-yard field goal from Davidson to extend the lead to 13-7.
Again hitting the big play, Elijah McGuire gave the Cajuns the lead once again with a 64-yard touchdown run. But NMSU again moved downfield without issue, facing a third and 10 at the Louisiana 21-yard line. Andrews hit Gregory Hogan on a pass with Hogan scoring his third touchdown of the season to give the Aggies a 20-14 lead.
The Cajuns added a late field goal from 23 yards by Aaron Bird to cut the lead at halftime to 20-17.
Midway through the third quarter, Louisiana tied the game at 20 on a 31-yard field goal by Bird, before again letting NMSU roll downfield on offense. The Aggies took the ball and went 75 yard on ten plays, capped by a 23-yard touchdown catch from Teldrick Morgan to pull ahead once again at 27-20.
Leaning heavily upon McGuire, the Cajuns scored the next 14 points of the game. The first score was on a 27-yard touchdown run by McGuire, and the second score was set up by a 14-yard run by McGuire. Haack hit Jamal Robinson for a 31-yard touchdown pass, giving Louisiana a 34-27 lead.
Showing off their star running back, the Aggies came back with an eight-play, 53-yard drive that survived a fourth down conversion. Allen again found Hogan in the end zone, this time from 23 yards, to pull even at 34 with 3:59 left in the game.
In a surprise move, the Cajuns went away from the running game and instead went three and out. A punt from the Cajuns 29-yard line by Steven Coutts went a mere five yards, giving NMSU the ball on the 34.
The Aggies moved as close as the Louisiana two-yard line before settling for a 21-yard field goal by Davidson. It was good, giving New Mexico State a 37-34 lead with 89 seconds left.
Haack was unable to find his inner Joe Montana, instead getting picked off by Rodney Butler. Two kneel downs later, New Mexico State defeated Louisiana 37-34.
Louisiana is back in action Saturday with a trip to Appalachian State, while New Mexico State hosts Sun Belt leading Arkansas State.