ULL downs North Texas for best start since ‘70
LAFAYETTE – With a 30-10 victory over North Texas Saturday evening at Cajun Field in the school’s 66th Homecoming game, Louisiana became bowl eligible and set the record for the best start by any team in Sun Belt Conference history improving to 6-1.
The crowd of 32,823 – the largest to witness a Sun Belt Conference contest – saw UL notch its first 6-1 start since 1970, which is the last season the Cajuns participated in a bowl game (1970 Grantland Rice Bowl).
Louisiana used its defense, which held North Texas (2-5, 1-2 Sun Belt) to 232 total yards for the contest, to preserve a halftime lead until the offense exploded for 17 points in the fourth quarter.
The Cajuns defense pitched a shutout in the second stanza by holding the Mean Green to four first downs and 108 yards (60 on the final drive) in the final 30 minutes of play.
Holding a 13-10 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, Blaine Gautier connected with a streaking Darryl Surgent for a 44-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the quarter to give the Cajuns a 20-10 edge with 14:53 remaining.
The defense finished off NT by forcing a pair of three-and-outs and nabbing an interception on the visitor’s next three possessions.
The Cajuns stretched their lead to 27-10 lead with 8:55 remaining on Gautier’s fourth TD pass of the game, a third-and-three, 24-yard strike to Javone Lawson. The drive was set up by a Lance Kelley interception at the NT 42.
Brett Baer capped off the scoring with a 31-yard field goal with 44 seconds remaining.
Gautier completed 14-of-20 passes for 238 yards and four touchdown passes. The four TD passes marked the ninth time in school history a Cajuns quarterback threw for as many scores (last was Michael Desormeaux on Dec. 3, 2008 vs. Middle Tennessee).
Surgent collected 109 yards on two catches, giving UL a 100-yard receiver for the third straight week. The bulk of his yards came on a 65-yard reception from Gautier in the first quarter which marked UL’s longest play from scrimmage for the season.
The Cajuns defense held an opponent below 100 yards rushing for the second straight week and fourth time this season. North Texas was limited to 88 rushing yards and leading rusher Lance Dunbar was held to 53 yards.
Louisiana defeated North Texas for the fifth straight meeting and evened the all-time series record at 8-all. The Cajuns defense held the Mean Green to its lowest point total in the series.
Saturday’s game marked the end of a three-game homestand that Louisiana finished 3-0 to improve their Cajun Field mark in Mark Hudspeth’s inaugural season to 4-0. The Cajuns will attempt to finish undefeated at home for the first time since 1987 when they host La.-Monroe on Saturday, Nov. 5.
Two big mistakes by the Cajuns on the opening drive gave North Texas the ball on the UL 31. The Mean Green grabbed a 3-0 lead at the 10:42 mark in the first quarter on a 24-yard field goal by Zach Olen.
On the ensuing Cajuns drive, Louisiana marched 76 yards on five plays capped by a five-yard touchdown pass from Gautier to Ladarius Green to put the Cajuns in front 7-3 with 8:34 left in the first quarter. The 65-yard completion to Surgent put the Cajuns in position for the tally.
With nine seconds left on the clock in the first quarter, the Mean Green went back in front on a two-yard TD run by Dunbar.
UL posted its second blocked field goal of the season at the 11:19 mark in the second quarter when Le’Marcus Gibson got a hand on a 37-yard field goal attempt by Olen.
The Cajuns then marched 66 yards on five plays to take a 13-10 advantage on a 25-yard TD strike from Gautier to Green.
Louisiana is on the road the next two weekends. First up is a trip to Bowling Green, Ky., to face Western Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m.