LAFAYETTE — There were 1,116 yards and 95 points accounted for in the nearly four-hour extreme pinball match between the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Arkansas State.
The game featured an ejection, two missed extra points, a couple of de-cleaters from a missile kicker, a failed fake punt from inside the kicking team’s own 10-yard line, and four touchdowns that went at least 60 yards.
This must be why it’s called the Fun Belt.
But it was the Cajuns (4-3, 3-0) who had the most fun.
They moved over the .500 mark for the first time since they beat Southern in the season opener in a 55-40 win against their Sun Belt Conference rival Arkansas State.
For the most part, the Cajuns were in control.
But Arkansas State was determined to prove that no lead was ever safe.
Even after the Cajuns built up leads of 25 and 18 points, Arkansas State continually fought back.
The Red Wolves scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, and the Cajuns had to recover a pair of onside kicks to keep State from tying the game up.
But each time the Red Wolves sniffed a tie game, they lost the scent when Elijah McGuire touched the ball.
And it was McGuire who finally ended Arkansas State’s hopes near the end of the game.
Red Wolves quarterback Fredi Knighten completed a touchdown pass and two-point conversion with 1:12 remaining in the game to bring Arkansas State within a score of the Cajuns.
The onside kick attempt sailed out of bounds, but with two timeouts remaining, the Red Wolves had a chance to get the ball back.
After two quick running plays were snuffed out for little to no gain, the Cajuns were facing a third-and-10 with more than a minute remaining in the game.
A stop would have given Arkansas State the ball back with a chance at a miracle.
But McGuire ensured no miracles would be happening Tuesday night.
Like he had done so many times earlier in the game, McGuire gashed the Red Wolves defense wide open.
He split the middle and outran everybody to the end zone, racing 54 yards for a touchdown to put the game truly out of reach.
It was a familiar site for the Red Wolves, who allowed McGuire to gut them for a 43-yard touchdown run two and a half minutes earlier to turn a nine-point game into a 16-point game.
McGuire finished the night with a career-high 265 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The Cajuns looked like they were going to run away with the game early.
They stormed out to a 34-9 lead by the time the second quarter wasn’t even halfway over thanks to a big-play rushing game that the Red Wolves defense simply wasn’t able to figure out.
The Cajuns hit the Red Wolves on the perimeter with McGuire, then hammered them inside with Alonzo Harris, who had four touchdowns of his own.
The ground game was going so well early that Harris had already scored his third touchdown of the game by the time the second quarter was a minute old.
But the Red Wolves used the big play of their own to get back into the game.
Running back Michael Gordon, who was coming off back-to-back games in which he ran for at least 160 yards, scored on a 70-yard play to ignite the Arkansas State comeback.
It was one of those peculiar plays where Gordon landed on top of his offensive lineman, but never truly touched the ground. The officials never blew the whistle, and Gordon left the Cajuns defense in the dust.
On the Red Wolves next play from scrimmage, Knighten found Dijon Paschal on a slant route, and Paschal did the rest, out-running the Cajuns defense for an 87-yard score to cut the Cajuns halftime lead to 11 points.
As bad as the Cajuns defense performed on paper, all it needed was a couple of stops to let the offense get to work.
The Cajuns harassed Knighten, sacking him five times and intercepting him once to lead to a short Harris touchdown run. They also forced four three and outs and caused the Red Wolves to go 4-for-17 on third down.