No. 23 ULL beats Warhawks to go unbeaten in Sun Belt play

Nov 27, 2021, 2:59 AM | Updated: 5:49 pm
Louisiana-Lafayette wide receiver Kyren Lacy (2) celebrates a touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe in...

Louisiana-Lafayette wide receiver Kyren Lacy (2) celebrates a touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe in the first half an NCAA college football game in Lafayette, La., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Emani Bailey scored on a 2-yard run to give No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette a double-digit lead in the third quarter, and the Ragin’ Cajuns held off Louisiana-Monroe for a 21-16 victory Saturday.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (11-1, 8-0) won their school-record 11th straight game after a season-opening loss at Texas and went unbeaten in Sun Belt Conference play for the first time. ULL will host Appalachian State in the conference championship game next Saturday.

The Ragin’ Cajuns also extended their win streak against Sun Belt West Division opponents to 16 games under fourth-year coach Billy Napier, who said it was far from a perfect performance by his squad.

“It was not a very good day at all from a conversion down standpoint on offense, back to where we were earlier in the year,” he said. “We were 4 of 17 (on third and fourth downs) and that’s about as ugly as it can get. But our defense stepped up and made critical stops. I thought they were lights out.”

Other than a 46-yard second-quarter touchdown pass from ULM quarterback Rhett Rodriguez to Boogie Knight, the Warhawks (4-8, 2-6) did not have another offensive play longer than 24 yards.

“The difference is we don’t have explosive plays in our offense,” said Warhawks coach Terry Bowden. “We’ll drive the length of the field some, but if you don’t get those big plays, a lot of those 10- or 15-yarders, that’s a hard way to go.”

ULL jumped to an early 14-3 lead and was up 21-10 after Bailey’s touchdown ended a four-play, 85-yard drive with 5:01 left in the third.

But the Warhawks made it a one-score game with 1:35 left when Malik Jackson, who ran for 112 yards, broke up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown. But a two-point pass fell incomplete and ULL recovered the ensuing onside kick.

“We knew this was going to be tough,” said Napier, whose squad took a 70-20 win over ULM in last year’s regular-season finale. “They’re a lot better football team than last year. But we’ve got a confident group, and the big picture is we’ve kept the momentum going into next week. It wasn’t pretty at times today, no doubt about that.

The Ragin’ Cajuns scored on their first two possessions. Levi Lewis hit Neal Johnson for 55 yards one play after the opening kickoff and then scored on a 20-yard keeper. On their next series, running back Chris Smith connected with Kyren Lacy on a 37-yard scoring pass to make it 14-3.

“We put some good plays back-to-back,” Napier said of the quick start. “We went touchdown, touchdown and we were in a position to do it again and came up short on a fourth down.”

The Warhawks cut the margin to 14-10 early in the second quarter on Rodriguez’ 46-yard strike down the middle to Knight.

Both teams missed opportunities the rest of the way, with both coming up short on three fourth-down chances.

Lewis finished 13 of 22 for 163 yards along with his rushing touchdown. Rodriguez was 11 of 24 for 145 yards and he ran for 39 yards.

Montrell Johnson and Bailey had 62 and 61 rushing yards, respectively, for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

THE TAKEAWAY

Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks, who were 0-10 last season, improved their win total by four games under first-year coach Terry Bowden. But ULM, which was 4-3 in late October, ended the season on a five-game losing streak.

Louisiana-Lafayette: The Cajuns improved to 32-5 since the start of the 2019 season. ULL is also 15-1 in November games since Napier took over. The 11 wins also tied the school record for victories in a season with the Sun Belt championship game and a bowl game still to come.

NO DECISION

Napier’s name has been linked to several major coaching jobs over the past few weeks, but after the game he had little to say on the topic.

“No decision’s been made yet,” he said. “We’re certainly evaluating everything. The main thing is that our focus is on this team, this group, and the work that’s left to be done. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Ragin’ Cajuns figure to remain in the poll for a fifth straight week. ULL had been ranked No. 23 in the preseason but dropped out after its opening loss at Texas.

UP NEXT

Louisiana-Monroe: Completed season.

Louisiana-Lafayette: Hosts Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference championship game next Saturday.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ukraine basketball players find homes at Canadian college

The squeak of their shoes and the thump of the ball on the court feels blessedly normal for Vika Kovalevska and Vlada Hozalova. Basketball provides a brief sanctuary from the ceaseless undercurrent of tension they feel about what’s happening at home in Ukraine. The game also helps ground them in their new life in southern […]
23 hours ago
This photo provided by the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne shows Sophie Hernandez compet...
Associated Press

Olympic pentathlon eyes ‘Ninja Warrior’ courses for survival

The path to saving modern pentathlon from Olympic removal may just be filled with obstacles. As in, ring swings, rope mazes, balance beams and warped walls. Imagine an “American Ninja Warrior” style obstacle course set up in the middle of the Coliseum for the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Games. That sort of scene could rescue […]
23 hours ago
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias throws to the plate during the first inning of a b...
Associated Press

Rockies beat Dodgers 5-2 after Urias departs in last start

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Julio Urias made his final tune-up for the postseason and case for the Cy Young Award a solid one, though the Colorado Rockies went ahead after he left and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 on Tuesday night. Urias pitched five innings and allowed two runs — both on solo homers. […]
23 hours ago
Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani walks to the dugout after striking out against the Oakland Athlet...
Associated Press

Langeliers’ bases-loaded walk sends A’s past Angels, 2-1

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Shea Langeliers drew a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning, sending the Oakland Athletics past the Los Angeles Angels 2-1 on Tuesday night. “Those are the moments you practice for right there,” Langeliers said. “All the hard work you do goes in, and it shows up when you need it right […]
23 hours ago
San Diego Padres' Wil Myers celebrates after hitting a home run during the eighth inning of a baseb...
Associated Press

Padres wrap up 5th seed in NL playoffs, beating Giants 6-2

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Sean Manaea allowed only one hit in six shutout innings and the San Diego Padres wrapped up the fifth seed in the NL playoffs, beating the San Francisco Giants 6-2 on Tuesday night. “Fantastic — his pitch count, breaking ball, change-up, everything,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said about Manaea. “He had […]
23 hours ago
Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92's Victor Wembanyama, center, guards NBA G League Ignite's Scoot...
Associated Press

Analysis: Wembanyama showed the repertoire, as NBA watched

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Victor Wembanyama didn’t wait long to make an impression. The 7-foot-4 French phenomenon from the club Metropolitans 92 blocked shots at the rim and on the perimeter, got rebounds, ran the floor, set screens, scored on a nifty spin move, showed off his ability to dribble, dove for a loose ball […]
23 hours ago
No. 23 ULL beats Warhawks to go unbeaten in Sun Belt play