LAFAYETTE — Senior Night at Cajun Field contained a farewell victory with a surprise ending for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette accepted an invitation from the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 22 at midfield immediately after the Cajuns defeated South Alabama 52-30 in a Sun Belt Conference contest played before a crowd of 20,333 on Saturday.
ULL’s acceptance of the bid marked the second straight year the Cajuns are going to play at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Cajuns defeated San Diego State 32-30 on that game’s last play.
Bowl officials said ULL’s opponent which is scheduled to be announced. The New Orleans bowl had an automatic tie in with the Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA.
Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said he found out early Saturday morning about the willingness of bowl officials to offer the bid to ULL if the Cajuns (7-4, 5-2) defeated South Alabama.
“I talked to (ULL athletic director) Scott Farmer, and he told at the team hotel at 8 a.m. that if we won the game, that we were going to get the offer of the bowl bid,” Hudspeth said. “At that point, I decided not relay that to the team, because I did not want to put undue pressure on them.”
Hudspeth said the bowl invitation was a fitting climax for the final home game in which 18 ULL seniors made their last appearances at Cajun Field.
“This senior class has kept this team together,” Hudspeth said. “This team has worked awfully hard and endured a season of adversity. This senior class will now play in two bowl games and they also finished with a two-year home record of 10-1.”
ULL and USA (2-10, 1-7) combined for 952 total yards.
The Cajuns led 24-16 at halftime and pulled away in the third quarter, 38-23.
Cajuns quarterback Terrance Broadway, a former Captiol standout, threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Harry Peoples caught five passes for 166 yards.
Senior Javone Lawson, out for the past several games with a shoulder injury, had three receptions for 113 yards.
ULL began to seize momentum early in the third quarter when the Cajuns took the second-half kickoff and drove 82 yards in four plays. The march ended with a 1-yard run by Effrem Reed, a redshirt freshman from Dutchtown. The score was Reed’s second of the game. He finished with 81 yards on 17 carries.
ULL scored again when Broadway ran into the end zone on an option play from 6 yards out.
“I thought offensively that we played pretty good,” Hudspeth said. “Defensively, we played well too. I think defensively we were able to get some crucial turnovers. Those turned out to be a big plus for us.”
USA still rolled up 538 total yards. Jaguars quarterback Ross Metheny threw for 360 yards, completing 27-of-44 passes.
The Cajuns claimed the tenuous intermission advantage following a second quarter in which USA kicked three consecutive field goals before ULL scored a third touchdown in final 16 seconds.
During the first two quarters, USA ran 43 offensive plays, while the Cajuns took 24 snaps.
ULL led 17-7 at the end of the first quarter after scoring two straight touchdowns.
The Jaguars scored first in the game, taking the opening kickoff 75 yards. Metheny was flawless on four passes, but USA scored the TD on Jlian Valentin’s 1-yard run.
Brett Baer kicked a 40-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 before the Cajuns scored touchdowns on two drives, sparked by defensive plays.
Jamal Robinson blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt by Michel Chapuseaux, and the Cajuns turned that play into a 32-second TD drive that ended when Broadway completed a 75-yard pass to Peoples.
ULL safety T.J. Worthy recovered a ball stripped by cornerback Jermalous Moten on the next USA series, and the Cajuns used the turnover to launch a 61-yard march that ended 25 seconds later when Reed scored on a 19-yard run.
Chapuseaux then made the first of three straight field goals of 45, 33 and 50 yards to cut the Cajuns’ lead to 17-16 with 6:13 left in the second period.
The Cajuns got the final TD of the half when Broadway completed a 27-yard pass to Javone Lawson with 16 seconds to play to end a 98-yard drive.
Officials ruled the play a touchdown after concluding that Lawson came back inbounds to make the catch after he was apparently pushed out of bounds by USA cornerback Tyrell Pearson.