Back Hot Read: Louisiana Wins Wild One

Hot Read: Louisiana Wins Wild One

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Louisiana holds on for a dramatic and unique 24-21 victory at Appalachian State.

1. That was truly something.

In a Friday night Sun Belt showcase between nationally-ranked Louisiana and Appalachian State, the Ragin' Cajuns, despite being outscored 11-0 in the fourth quarter, giving up two safeties over the game's final seven minutes and choosing to cut its own lead late from five points to three with a 35-yard run backwards into the endzone that ultimately gave the Mountaineers a corresponding chance at a game-tying 30-yard field goal, won. Though Louisiana had notably struggled with the wet football with three bad snaps on punts leading up to the unique decision, it was almost unbelievable to see a called play, in a close football game with just under two minutes remaining, for a quarterback to go that far in reverse to literally give the other team points. Billy Napier clearly did not want to punt again, though the choice made was certainly an interesting one given other potential options like simply attemping to punt once more, going for it on 4th-and-2 or even utilizing a quarterback kick-quick. Bottom line: it was weird, but it worked. The end result is a win over a quality team in tough conditions.     

2. The wild finish aside, Louisiana proved why it is very much deserving of prominent placing in the national polls. At 9-1, the Ragin' Cajuns have quite the resume, one that includes a 17-point win at top ten Iowa State, a victory at UAB and now a triumph at Appalachain State, the first win ever for Louisiana over the Mountaineers. The Ragin' Cajuns will next made their third straight appearance in the Sun Belt Championship Game as the lone all-time representative from the west. With it comes a chance to avenge their lone loss of the season, a defeat on a last second field goal to Coastal Carolina. This is a very good team and has the credentials, including two prominent road wins to open and close the regular season, to prove it. 

3. Louisiana's pass defense is one of the best in all of college football. Friday night was yet another example. Entering the weekend fourth in the country in opponent passer rating and ninth in yards per game allowed, the Ragin' Cajuns held Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas to just 92 yards and two interceptions on merely 10-of-21 attempts through the air. Mekhi Garner and Chauncey Manac each recorded picks for Louisiana. Overall, it was a great performance defensively. Ferrod Gardner and Manac sacked Thomas on a critical fourth down late in the game before the script was torn to bits. The  Ragin' Cajuns have now held four consecutive foes to 21 points or less.

4. What more can you say about the storied Louisiana running back tandem of Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas? While a lot happened Friday night beyond their plays and production, Mitchell ran for 95 more yards, bringing his career total to 3,132 yards, and Ragas scored three more touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving. He now has 42 career scores, with Mitchell at 45. Both seniors are clearly among the best Sun Belt running backs ever.

5. There just wasn't quite enough from Appalachain State. With the loss, the Mountaineers now have three on the season; each of those defeats have come to nationally-ranked teams, though none of them unfolded in the way the Louisiana loss just did. Kicker Chandler Staton is obviously disappointed with his misses, though he did become the Sun Belt's all-time leading scorer with 328 points.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports