LAFAYETTE — A brutal Louisiana-Lafayette football season came to a brutal end.
Troy came to Cajun Field on Saturday and shellacked the Ragin’ Cajuns 41-17, handing them their worst home loss to a Sun Belt Conference opponent since Western Kentucky beat the Cajuns 54-21 in 2010. The Cajuns closed the season on a four-game losing streak.
“I’m hoping it’s going to give us a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” coach Mark Hudspeth said. “We would’ve loved to win this last game going into the offseason with a little bit of momentum, but we’re going to be able to use it as a little bit of motivation to attack the offseason.”
It was clear from the start what kind of game it would be.
Chief among the reasons the Cajuns (4-8, 3-5) entered Saturday three games under .500 was their tendency to struggle early in games. They consistently put themselves in first-half holes and less frequently found a way to climb out of them.
Saturday’s game took those struggles and magnified them into something truly ugly. By the time the first quarter was over, the Cajuns were being outgained 197-26 and, more importantly, had been outscored 24-0.
“We’ve got to come out and play better defense early,” Hudspeth said. “I was disappointed with the way we played defensively early.”
Troy (4-8, 3-5) took the opening drive 76 yards on six plays, capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Silvers to running back Brandon Burks, who leaked into the open area of the Cajuns’ defensive zone and caught the ball with nobody in front of him.
The Trojans’ next scoring drive came courtesy of the Cajuns, who forced a Troy punt but handed the ball right back when freshman Gary Haynes muffed it at the Cajuns’ 24-yard line. Troy recovered and needed three plays to make it 14-0 on Silvers’ pass to Teddy Ruben, who got behind safety Tracy Walker on a play-action pass.
The Cajuns again gave Troy a short field to work with on their next possession, when Brooks Haack’s pass sailed high to Jamal Robinson, bouncing off his fingertips and into Troy defensive back Montres Kitchens’ hands, setting up a Trojans field goal.
The final indignity was delivered by Ruben, who hauled in his fifth pass out of the slot in the first quarter and outraced the Cajuns defense 62 yards for a score.
As they have at other times this season, the Cajuns showed some fight after falling behind by a huge margin.
Almost exclusively using redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Davis, they outscored Troy 10-0 in the second quarter and then took the opening drive of the second half 82 yards on 12 plays, capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass by Davis to Elijah McGuire on fourth-and-4 to cut the deficit to seven.
Davis completed 20 of his 34 attempts for 207 yards in his first extensive playing time, and for a moment it looked like he might guide a tremendous rally.
“I had a lot of fun, and to be able to get that experience going into next year, I have a taste of it now,” Davis said. “I’m hungry. I’m ready. I’m excited to start the offseason.”
But the comeback stopped there. Troy responded to the McGuire touchdown catch with a 67-yard score on a screen pass to Jarvis Bentley to push the lead back to 14, and the Cajuns promptly started shooting themselves in the foot.
The Cajuns’ next two drives ended in Davis fumbles; the first of which turned into a Troy field goal, and the latter was the dagger.
Davis lost control of the ball and, after a couple of his teammates whiffed on the recovery, Troy’s Demetrius Cain scooped it up and ran it in from 17 yards to provide the final score.
After the game, the Cajuns were focused on 2016, which they insisted they will begin preparation for Sunday.
“I came to a program that was winning,” Walker said. “We had won three bowl games; we were used to winning. This was kind of an eye-opener. This let us know that we kind of got complacent, so we need to get back to work.”