Ragin’ Cajuns Rally Behind Jennings To Beat McNeese
Anthony Jennings threw a touchdown pass and ran for two more as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns dominated the second half and defeated McNeese State 30-22 before a crowd of 26, 891 at Cajun Field Saturday night.
The win erased the bad memory of the Cajuns' 2007 loss to the FCS squad from Lake Charles as the Cajuns notched their first win over their former arch-rivals since 1986.
Elijah McGuire gained 139 yards on 19 carries and passed Alonzo Harris and Brian Mitchell, moving into second place on the all-time Cajuns rushing list.
"Anthony keeps getting better," head coach Mark Hudspeth said. And, for the second straight game, we did not have a turnover and that's huge."
Louisiana trailed 15-14 early in the third quarter after Trent Manuel's third field goal of the game with 9:31 left in the third quarter. But Jennings engineered a pair of touchdown drives, marching the Cajuns 61 yards in six plays with freshman Raymond Calais scoring the touchdown from seven yards out to give the Cajuns the lead for good. Jennings scored on a five yard run just three minutes later to give Louisiana a 27-15 lead with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
The game was delayed late in the third quarter when a lightning strike stopped play with 1:25 remaining. After the delay of more than 40 minutes, the Cajuns took up where they left off early in the fourth quarter, putting together a 14 play, 81 yard drive that resulted in a field goal by Stevie Artigue to give the Cajuns a 15 point lead.
McNeese got a cosmetic touchdown in the final seconds on Dylan Long's three yard run for the final score.
The Cowboys got on the board first, driving 59 yards on 14 plays resulting in a 33 yard field goal by Trent Manual for an early 3-0 lead. But the Cajuns' defense, took advantage of a miscue on a lateral pass and recovered a fumble to give the Cajuns the ball at the McNeese 17 yard line. Jennings hit Ja'Marcus Bradley for the touchdown on the first play following the turnover to give the Cajuns a 7-3 lead. Manuel hit another field goal from 40 yards to get the Cowboys within a point, but the Cajuns got a 10 play, 82 yard drive with Jennings scoring from three yards out to increase the Cajuns lead to 14-6.
Quarterback James Tabary, who was knocked out of the game for a time in the first half, came back on the field to engineer a 75 yard drive, with Long scoring from a yard out to cut the lead to 14-12 at halftime.
Jennings completed 15-21 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked once and gained 53 yards on ten carries. Bradley was the recipient on six of those passes for 97 yards.
Tabary was 25-38 for 237 yards and completed passes to nine different receivers. Kent Shelby had six of those catches for 75 yards, while Ryan Ross, who led the Cowboys with 118 yards on 21 carries, had six catches for 26 yards.
The Cajuns' defense, whose poor performance resulted in the firing of defensive coordinator Melvin Smith last week, switched to a four man front and repeatedly harassed Tabary and reserve Grant Ashcraft, notched five sacks resulting in 44 lost yards.
"We still have a lot of work to do on defense, but I was really proud of the effort tonight," Hudspeth said. "And, we didn't give up a lot of big plays tonight."
Trev Miller, who consistently harassed Tabary and Ashcraft and was credited with three sacks in the game, was called for targeting in the final minute and will have to sit out the first half of the next game as the Cajuns open conference play against South Alabama, wrapping up the three game season opening home stand.