LAFAYETTE — As South Alabama drove deep into the Louisiana-Lafayette red zone Saturday, Ragin’ Cajuns linebacker Tremaine Lightfoot popped running back Kendall Houston on the ball exchange from the quarterback.

Christian Ringo said he tried everything to recover the football, and his senses may have left him in the process.

“I didn’t have any sense at all,” Ringo said. “It was bouncing everywhere, and I had to fight for it. Thank God it bounced my way.”

Ringo’s fumble recovery killed what could have been at least a game-tying drive and kept the Cajuns up 12-9. From there, the offense scored to make it 19-9, and the defense again came up with a big stop on fourth-and-4 on the ensuing Jaguars possession.

“When you play assignment football, you’ve got a chance to create some turnovers,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “Our defense came up time and time again, and that was a big play at a critical part of the game.”

Early in the game, the Cajuns called a punt block perfectly, and a bad snap forced the punter to pick the ball up off the turf and get it away. But the near-block resulted in a roughing-the-kicker penalty and gave South Alabama a first down.

Hudspeth said the defensive game plan was spot-on Saturday night, and he was impressed by the effort — even though the offense sometimes putting the defense behind the 8-ball.

“Even though we put them in some bad situations early — especially on the punt where we got the roughing penalty — they made big plays time and time again,” Hudspeth said. “We made them earn stuff tonight. They had to fight for every play. That was strong to see our guys rise up.”

Quarterback Terrance Broadway and the offense struggled to get going against a tough South Alabama defense and Broadway credited the defensive effort with the reason the Cajuns came out on to Saturday.

“(Defensive coordinator James) Willis challenged those guys in the meeting room, and everybody rose to the occasion,” Broadway said. “They played a real good game tonight, holding those guys to nine points against a real good quarterback. We want to build on those performances.”

Ringo said the defense carrying the team Saturday was critical, and he said one unit carrying a game has happened in the reverse way before.

“That is what a team is,” Ringo said. “When our offense gets going, they’re hard to stop. We have to pick up their slack like just they picked up ours last week (against Arkansas State).”

Hudpseth said the defensive plan was to bring more pressure than the Cajuns have in the previous two games. He said he thought the players did a good job disguising the scheme and getting pressure on the quarterback. The Cajuns ended the night with three sacks, two by Ringo.

“We felt like they had one of the better offensive lines we’d seen and we would have to bring a little more,” Hudspeth said. “We flushed him out of the pocket and he had to throw off balance on the run.”