LAS CRUCES, N.M. — UL-Lafayette knew it would have a couple opportunities to make defensive plays against New Mexico State. It was all just a matter of taking advantage of them when they came.
Consider that feat accomplished.
The Cajuns forced a season-high four turnovers against the Aggies, who entered the game having turned the ball over 26 times — three more than anybody else in the FBS.
“Anytime you cause four turnovers and you hold a team that has had a lot of success offensively this year the way we did, you’ve got to really give them credit,” coach Mark Hudspeth said.
Redshirt freshman safety Tracy Walker, making just his fourth career start, intercepted his first career pass in the third quarter when quarterback Tyler Rogers tried to look him toward the sideline before throwing behind him in the seam.
Walker used his athleticism to jump back in the passing lane and pluck the ball out of the air, returning the ball deep inside New Mexico Territory and setting up a Cajuns touchdown.
“How about that?” Hudspeth said. “A big interception tonight. The guy was where he needed to be.”
It was the first of two interceptions for Walker and three for the Cajuns, who doubled their previous season total in one night.
Big game James
Where have you been, James Butler?
The senior wide receiver entered last week’s game against South Alabama with just 11 catches for 119 yards on the season, but he’s exploded in the last two games as Terrance Broadway looked his way more.
Butler hauled in five catches for a career-high 95 yards, which came on the heels of his four-catch, 91-yard performance last week.
“Like I said last week, that was a good game for him to build on, and he had a real impressive game tonight,” Broadway said.
Butler’s 37-yard catch in the third quarter, a season-long, set up a short touchdown that gave the Cajuns a 28-3 lead.
Running backs out
Senior running back Alonzo Harris, who sat out the second half last week after lingering soreness made him ineffective, did not play Saturday against the Aggies.
It snapped a string of 23 consecutive games for the Alabama native. Sophomore Elijah McGuire earned the start in Harris’ place.
After being limited all week in practice, Harris was a gametime decision. Harris warmed up with the team but was not deemed ready to play.
Harris scored a career-high five touchdowns against the Aggies last season.
But at least the Cajuns could prepare for it. That wasn’t the case for the Aggies, who lost star freshman running back Larry Rose III to a game-ending injury in the first quarter.
Rose ran for 336 yards in his previous two games. He picked up 25 yards on his first six carries.
Junior defensive end Chris Prater, sophomore linebacker Tre’maine Lightfoot and freshman safety Travis Crawford each earned their second consecutive start.
Prater’s status was up in the air. Hudspeth thought he’d be healthy enough to play, but wasn’t quite sure if he’d be able to contribute in a starter’s role.
The book on Eli
With his 136-yard performance, McGuire now has three straight 100-yard performances on the ground.
McGuire also scored a pair of touchdowns on the day — one on the ground, one through the air — to give him a touchdown in each of his last six games. McGuire has now scored 12 touchdowns this season, and is 90 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard rushing season.