It has been a pretty good bowl season for schools form the state of Louisiana. Louisiana (11-3) knocked off Miami Ohio (8-6) in the 2020 Lendingtree Bowl Monday night, 27-17, for the program’s first bowl victory since 2014. It also improved schools from the state of Louisiana to a clean 4-0 in bowl games this bowl season.
Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis passed for 246 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 58 yards in the win. The Ragin’ Cajuns defense clamped down on Miami after halftime to help Louisiana reach the fourth quarter with a 24-10 lead. Miami had a chance to create a one-possession game in the fourth quarter, but the RedHawks imploded with a bad snap shortly after a 63-yard pass from Brett Gabbert to James Maye brought up a 1st & Goal from the Louisiana two-yard line.
Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, who just dismissed the idea he would leave the program to take the vacant job at Mississippi State, now owns his first bowl victory with Louisiana. Napier lost his bowl debut last season in the Cure Bowl, dropping the team to 7-7 on the season. The 11 wins this season is the most by Louisiana in a single season in program history.
Louisiana is the fourth school form the state to play in and win a bowl game this season. Prior to Louisiana’s win Monday night, Louisiana Tech defeated the Miami Hurricanes, Tulane defeated Southern Mississippi, and LSU scored a blowout victory over Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal). LSU will have a chance to put the cherry on top of a perfect 5-0 bowl season for the state next Monday when they face the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game in, appropriately enough, New Orleans.
Louisiana’s 2020 season opens up on Saturday, Sept. 5 with a home game against McNeese State. Miami will begin the next season on the same day with a road game at Pittsburgh.
It took a little time to get back in the swing of things after a month off, but Louisiana and Miami put some point son the board in the second quarter of the Lendingtree Bowl on Monday night. A late touchdown in the second quarter gave Louisiana its first lead of the game and the Ragin’ Cajuns lead Miami 10-7 at halftime.
Levi Lewis of Louisiana has completed 12 of 16 passes for 157 yards, and he has rushed for 20 yards on two carries against the RedHawks. Elijah Mitchell (24 yards) has the only touchdown of the game for Louisiana, which gave his team the lead just before halftime.
Miami’s offense has had to fight for yards, with just 132 yards at halftime with a fairly even distribution between run and pass. Jaylon Bester has the only score of the half for the MAC program with a five-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Louisiana scored the final 10 points of the half.
For the second consecutive season, No. 21 Appalachian State (12-1, 7-1 Sun Belt) managed to defeat Louisiana (10-3, 7-1 Sun Belt) in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game. And now, after holding on for a 45-38 victory on Saturday, the Mountaineers have a chance to sit back, watch the rest of the Group of Five race cross the finish line and wait to see if the College Football Playoff selection committee will reward them with a trip to the Cotton Bowl.
Appalachian State cruised its way to a big halftime lead on Louisiana (35-17) and then the offense lost some of its explosiveness in the second half. A handful of punts and a lost fumble by Zac Thomas allowed Louisiana to continue to hang around. The Appalachian State defense was the only way the Mountaineers reached the end zone after halftime with Josh Thomas returning a picked off Levi Lewis pass 15 yards for a score in the third quarter. But the damage in the first half was enough to help get the job done on this day even as Louisiana put together a strong second-half effort to pull within one score.
Lewis did his part to keep Louisiana in the game with 354 passing yards and four touchdowns. Appalachian State also gave up over 500 yards of offense to the Ragin’ Cajuns, with 31 first downs given up. It wasn’t quite the performance that solidified any last-second case for the selection committee to consider Appalachian State for the Cotton Bowl, but none of that ultimately takes away from the latest achievement in the school’s history since moving up from the FCS to FBS.
Appalachian State has now won 12 games for the first time since moving up to the FBS, and they will now have a chance to win their fifth consecutive bowl game (which would be a clean 5-0 all-time). the program, in its first year under Eli Drinkwitz after Scott Satterfield left for Louisville, is now 44-12 since the start of the 2015 season, its second at the FBS level and as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
A Cotton Bowl invite will likely not be in the cards for Appalachian State, although having a pair of victories over power conference competition (South Carolina of the SEC and UNC of the ACC) and just one loss and a double-digit victory in the conference championship game is nothing to quickly dismiss. But given the most recent College Football Playoff selection committee rankings, Appalachian State jumping ahead of the AAC champion (Memphis or Cincinnati) and potentially Boise State (if Boise State wins the Mountain West Conference) are not exactly odds that give Appalachian State too much of a chance to play in the biggest bowl game in program history.
A spot in the New Orleans Bowl is probably the most likely destination now for Appalachian State, although the New Orleans Bowl would not mind getting to host Louisiana if Appalachian State can get another bowl matchup that will make for an attractive TV matchup with another power conference opponent.