Haack Tricks Warhawks, Cajuns Comeback Thwarts ULM
Throughout the first half on a spooky afternoon in a driving rain, UL Monroe drooled over the thought of a Halloween win at Cajun Field.
But, when all was said and done, Brooks Haack and the Cajuns took their lunch money and their candy and ended any hopes of a sweet win.
Haack hit Jamal Robinson with a 64 yard touchdown pass with 3:10 to play to cap a second half comeback, giving Louisiana a 30-24 win before a paid attendance of 17.410 at soggy Cajun Field Saturday evening.
Haack, who replace starter Jalen Nixon late in the first half, had only completed 5-12 passes for 21 yards prior to the game winner, found Robinson on the first play after a Warhawks' punt put the Cajuns at their own 34 yard line. The junior from Katy, Tx dropped back and hit Robinson in stride on a deep slant, and the Cajuns' senior receiver shed a tackler and raced into the end zone for a 28-24 lead. Elijah McGuire scored on a two point conversion for the final margin.
The Cajuns' defense, which held ULM to just 106 yards total offense after intermission, then made the lead stand up. The Warhawks drove from their own 25 to the 48, but Mario Osborne hit quarterback Garrett Smith, forcing a fumble that was recovered by LaDarrius Kidd at the ULM 49. Elijah McGuire carried the football three times for ten yards as ULM used its timeouts, and the Cajuns ran out the clock.
ULM (1-7, 0-4 Sun Belt) turned the ball over on their first offensive play when Tracy Walker jarred the ball loose from Kaylon Watson and Dominique Tovell recovered for Louisiana. The Cajuns settled for a 40 yard field goal from Stevie Artigue, the first of three field goals for the freshman and the Cajuns had a 3-0 lead.
That didn't last long.
ULM drove 75 yards in 12 plays as Smith completed six passes, including a 27 yarder to Marcus Green for the score, giving the Warhawks a 7-3 lead with 8:03 to go in the first quarter.
Jerryl Brazil muffed the ensuing kickoff, forcing the Cajuns (3-4, 2-1) to start at their three yard line. Steven Coutts fumbled the snap from center on fourth down and his hurried 26 yard punt set up ULM at the Cajuns' 29. ULM couldn't gain any yards on its next three plays, but on fourth down, ULM's redshirt freshman quarterback found Ajalen Holley for a 29 yard strike to give ULM a 14-3 lead.
Starting quarterback Jalen Nixon led the Cajuns on a ten-play 51 yard drive that resulted in Artigue's 41 yard field goal which cut the lead to 14-6 early in the second quarter. The Cajuns' defense held on the ensuing possession, giving Louisiana good field position at their 49 and McGuire's 22 yard run, followed by a Nixon ten yard scamper got the Cajuns into the red zone. But UL was called for holding on a third down play at the ULM 7 and Artigue was called on again for his third field goal, this one from 33 yards to get the Cajuns within five points, 14-9.
But it took just two plays for ULM to answer as Smith found running back Kaylon Watson on a 53 yard pass to boost the score to 21-9 with 6:14 to go until halftime. After a Cajun punt, Smith engineered another drive from the ULM 26 to the Louisiana 11 and Craig Ford converted on a 27 yard field goal with under a minute to play to give ULM a 24-9 lead at halftime.
Smith completed 10-17 for 189 yards and three first half touchdowns as ULM outgained the Cajuns 235 yards to 90. The ULM defense meanwhile, held McGuire to 31 yards on ten carries. Nixon gained 35 yards on five carries, but completed just 3-8 passes for 24 yards, prompting UL head coach Mark Hudspeth to look to Haack to try to spark a Cajuns' comeback.
The Cajuns' captain didn't disappoint.
Louisiana drove 65 yards, 57 on the ground, on nine plays for their first touchdown of the night. Haack had one completion and a 15 yard run on the drive, capped by McGuire's five yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 24-16 with 10:50 to go in the third quarter. Following an exchange of punts, the Warhawks put together their only drive of the second half, moving from their 35 to the UL 17. But Ford misfired on a 35 yard attempt.
After the Cajuns couldn't generate any offense in the next two drives, Louisiana's special teams got involved as C. J. Malbrue blocked a Chad Qualls punt and Marcus Carter recovered for the Cajuns at the ULM 16. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back to the 31. The Cajuns lost yardage to the 40, taking them out of field goal range. But the Cajuns got a huge break when Colton Moorehead was called for roughing the kicker on a Steven Coutts punt to give the Cajuns new life at the ULM 25. Two McGuire carries moved the ball to the 13 and Haack scored on a run to the left side two plays later. The Cajuns misfired on the two point conversion, however, and still trailed 24-22 with 7:21 to go.
After the Cajuns forced a three and out, McGuire returned Qualls' punt 37 yards to the ULM 27. The Cajuns got as far as the 20, but Artigue missed a 37 yard field goal that would have given the Cajuns the lead with 4:51 left. Again the Cajuns' defense held and forced a Qualls punt, setting the stage for Haack's touchdown strike.
After the big first half, the Cajuns held Smith to 76 yards passing in the second half on 6-18 completions as the Cajuns' pressure defense forced Smith into misfiring repeatedly. The Cajuns' defense had five sacks on the night, with two of them by Tovell, who finished the night with a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, and twelve total tackles in addition to the sacks.
For the game, ULM outgained the Cajuns 341-261, but UL had a 171-106 advantage in the second half. The Cajuns were just 2-14 on third down.
But no one will argue it was the kicking game that made the difference. The Cajuns had the advantage in net punting (41.6-22.8) ;punt return yardage (55 to minus-4), kicked three field goals to one for ULM, blocked a punt and benefited from a roughing the punter call which set up a touchdown.
The Cajuns will head to Atlanta to take on Georgia State next Saturday afternoon at 1pm.