Hunter Stover’s 27-yard field goal was the difference in Louisiana-Lafayette’s 24-21 wild victory over Tulane in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (9-4) got off to a great start and, for a while, looked like they were going to blow out the Green Wave (7-6). Quarterback Terrance Broadway and running backs Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris were sharp in the early going and, when Corey Trim turned a Nick Montana pass into an 82 yard interception for a touchdown early in the second quarter, ULL had a 21-0 lead.
But Tulane, playing in its first bowl game since 2002, didn’t give up.
Devin Powell relieved Montana and promptly led the Green Wave on two second-quarter touchdown drives (both finished off by short Orleans Darkwa scoring plunges) to cut the lead to seven. Tulane went into the half with momentum on its side.
Neither team got much going in the third quarter. Then Derrick Strozier picked off a Broadway pass and returned it to the ULL 17-yard line. After a false start, Darkwa went 22 yards for his third touchdown and the game was all tied up.
The game then turned into a field position battle. ULL gained the advantage by pinning Tulane on its own 3 yard line. Then Powell threw a horrible deep pass that was intercepted by Sean Thomas at the Green Wave 28 and returned to the 13-yard line. Tulane forced Stover’s field goal and the Rajin’ Cajuns regained the lead.
After the two teams traded punts, Tulane got the ball back on its own five-yard line with 1:35 to play. Powell made an extraordinary play on third down, avoiding the rush before hitting Justyn Shackleford for 34 yards and a first down on the Green Wave 39. A 27-yard pass to Ryan Grant set Tulane up at the ULL 34-yard line. With 2012 Groza Award winner Cairo Santos warming up, it looked like we’d be heading to overtime.
Santos lined up for a 48-yard field goal with 12 seconds to play. He reportedly made a 61-yarder in pre-game warmups, but he hooked this one slightly to the left and the Ragin’ Cajuns came away with the dramatic win.
It was a disappointing ending to Tulane’s season, but the Green Wave have to be excited about the direction of their program under first-year coach Curtis Johnson. A new on-campus stadium is in the works and, if they can keep Johnson around for a few years, bowls should become a regular occurrence.
The Rajin’ Cajuns now have three bowl victories in a row and their third-straight 9-4 season under coach Mark Hudspeth. With Broadway and the talented McGuire (48 rush yards, 91 receiving yards) coming back next season, this team is a candidate to finally hit that 10-win mark.
And so ends the first day of Bowl Season. If today is any indication, we’re in for a heckuva ride.