Big defensive plays help Cajuns pull away from Texas State
Stevie Artigue’s short field late in the third quarter and Andre Nunez’s 8-yard touchdown throw to Keenan Barnes with just more than 10 minutes remaining gave UL the separation it needed in a 24-7 ESPNU-televised win over Texas State on Thursday night at Cajun Field.
The Ragin’ Cajuns were boosted by their defense, which got a fourth-and-1 stop early, a Damar’ren Mitchell recovery off a Bennie Higgins-forced fumble, a touchdown-saving Tracy Walker interception late in the first half and a key Chaiziere Malbrue sack and fumble recovery in the third quarter.
UL led 14-0 at halftime behind two Trey Ragas touchdown runs, from 11 yards and 2, the first set up by a 50-yard pass from Nunez to Barnes and the second by a 20-yard pass from Nunez to Ryheem Malone, who cut left for a few extra yards.
Texas State trimmed the Cajun lead in half with 1-yard TD run from Anthony D. Taylor with 3:46 left in the third quarter. The seven-play, 89-yard drive featured a 49-yard throw from Willie Jones III to Thurman Morbley.
Artigue’s 27-yard field with five seconds left in the third made it 17-7 Cajuns, and Barnes’ TD catch followed by an Artigue PAT made it 24-7.
Malbrue’s sack and fumble recovery set up the Artigue field goal, which made it 17-7 and gave the Cajuns a two-score advantage Texas State could not overcome.
Nunez’s 50-yard pass to Barnes was his longest completion in his three games as a Cajun, and it matched Barnes’ season/career-high.
It came on just the second play of the game for UL, and it was through the air most of the way.
BY THE NUMBERS
Nunez finished 17-of-27 for 232 yards. … Barnes had a team-high five catches for 99 yards. … Ragas had 19 carries for 72 yards. … UL finished with 367 yards of total offense to Texas State’s 325. … The Cajuns had 173 yards at halftime compared to 223 for Texas State, but they still led 14-0. … When the Cajuns went up 14-0 in the first quarter, it marked their largest lead of the season at that point. … Temperature at kickoff was 86 degrees.
Cajun captains were safeties Walker and Corey Turner, and offensive linemen Kevin Dotson and Robert Hunt. … Carrying flags for the Cajuns on Thursday: Ashston Johnson (American), Jacques Boudreaux (Louisiana), Blake Trahan (Acadiana). … Cornerback Levarious Varnado carried the UL defense’s “takeaway hammer,” and Barnes was the Cajuns’ “strongest link.”
UL: 3-3 (2-1 Sun Belt). Texas State: 1-6 (0-3 Sun Belt).
UL visits Arkansas State at 6:30 p.m. (central) Thursday in another ESPNU-televised game. … Texas State is off until playing Oct. 28 at Idaho.