LAFAYETTE — Forget those gaudy offensive numbers, the 30-yard runs, the 40-yard passes, all those first downs.
One defensive play determined this game. And Louisiana-Lafayette made it.
Cornerback Trevence Patt broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone in the final seconds, the sparse crowd on this chilly night roared and the Ragin’ Cajuns took one giant step to their first outright Sun Belt championship.
ULL beat Troy 41-36 on Thursday night at Cajun Field, avoiding a collapse with a late defensive stand in a shootout televised on ESPNU to a national audience.
“Pretty, pretty exhausted,” ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said afterward.
Patt deflected Troy quarterback Corey Robinson’s fade pass in the corner of the end zone on fourth and goal from the 4-yard line in the wanning seconds, and the Ragin’ Cajuns then ran out the clock — barely — to win a seventh straight game.
ULL (7-2, 4-0 Sun Belt) remains in sole possession of the Sun Belt lead, a game ahead of Louisiana-Monroe, with three games left in the regular season.
Two come against a pair of squads — South Alabama and Georgia State — that are a combined 1-7 in the Sun Belt.
The other game? That’s against UL-Monroe at Cajun Field on Nov. 30, a match that could determine the Sun Belt champ.
“It’s just the next step,” Hudspeth said. “Still a lot of football left to be played.”
Lafayette has never won the conference title out-right. The Cajuns shared the crown in 2005 and, controversially, didn’t get invited to a bowl game that season. They finished second last season.
The title is in their grasp down the home stretch in Hudspeth’s third year.
It wouldn’t have been without Thursday’s night’s wild defensive stand — despite those offensive fireworks.
Quarterback Terrance Broadway passed for 185 yards, tossed two scores and ran for 63 more.
Running back Elijah McGuire had 82 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and the two teams combined for nearly 900 yards of offense.
ULL three times had leads of 12 or more, and it scored 28 points in the first 20 minutes of the game. The Ragin’ Cajuns led 21-6, 28-13 and then 41-29 with 7 minutes left.
In the end, though, Troy had a chance to win against a ULL squad that mustered just one touchdown in the second half. The Trojans (5-5, 3-3) took over at the ULL 15-yard line with 5 minutes, 40 seconds left.
A 32-yard pass and 16-yard run later and Troy had a first and goal. Three plays later, Robinson turned to his leading receiver, Eric Thomas, in the corner of the end zone. Patt, a Lafayette native, was there and so was Dominique Tovell.
ULL called timeout just before the play to discuss it. They thought, Hudspeth said, the Trojans would turn to their top wideout.
“We had double coverage on him,” the coach said. “One of the best goal line stands I’ve seen in a while.”
Said Broadway: “For the defense to hold those guys, against a very powerful offense, it was big for us.”
They all did it with a virus, too.
Hudspeth said 10 players had some kind of virus over the last two days, including Broadway. The QB “didn’t sleep a wink” Wednesday night, the coach said.
As Broadway walked out of the media room, Hudspeth hugged his QB and asked if he was OK.
Said Broadway: “I’ll sleep a lot better with the win.”