Ragin' Cajuns defeat San Diego State 32-30 in team's first-ever bowl win
NEW ORLEANS - Blaine Gautier's record-setting passing and a big game ending kick by Brett Baer gave UL-Lafayette fans the type of excitement they haven't experienced since Jake Delhomme was the Ragin' Cajuns' quarterback.
Baer kicked a 50-yard field goal as time was expiring, sending UL-Lafayette to a 32-30 victory over San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night.
Playing in their first bowl game as a Division I FBS team and first postseason bowl game since the 1970 Grantland Rice Bowl, the Ragin' Cajuns (9-4) led up to the fourth quarter but fell behind 30-29 when Aztecs quarterback Ryan Lindley connected with Colin Lockett on a 12-yard touchdown strike with 35 seconds left in the game.
Gautier was able to drive UL-Lafayette as far as the Aztecs 38 yard line setting up what was initially to be a 55-yard attempt. However, a pre-snap penalty on SDSU (8-5) for trying to bait the Cajuns into a false start moved the winning kick 5 yards closer.
Gautier passed for 470 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with 2,958 yards passing and 23 touchdowns on the season, breaking Delhomme's single-season school records.
Delhomme held those records since 1996, when he passed for 2,901 yards and 20 touchdowns. Gautier's passing total also broke the New Orleans Bowl record for passing yards.
Gautier threw two of his touchdown passes to Javone Lawson, from 18 and 11 yards out, and had a 20-yard scoring strike to Ladarius Green.
Darryl Surgent returned a punt 87 yards for a score, slicing through SDSU's punt coverage with a quick cut to his right and a sprint back to the left.
Expected to finish dead last in the FBS this season, UL-Lafayette wasn't expected to contend for a bowl bid, but earned one with a surprisingly quick turnaround under first-year head coach Mark Hudspeth.
Thousands of red-clad, bowl-starved fans followed the Ragin' Cajuns to New Orleans, a drive of just more than two hours east from Lafayette, turning the Superdome into a de facto home field. They also helped set a New Orleans Bowl attendance record of 42,841.
Lawson made nine catches for 193 yards, including a 52-yard catch and run that set up Green's touchdown. Green caught five passes for 121 yards.
Lindley was 28 of 49 for 413 yards and three touchdowns. The Aztecs needed every bit of that as their offensive star, running back Ronnie Hillman, was largely bottled up and finished with 55 yards, well below his average of 138 yards.
Lindley found Lockett for a pair of 16-yard scoring passes in the third quarter, when the Aztecs trimmed a 19-3 deficit to 19-17. Lockett's second touchdown capped a seven-play, 99-yard drive that was helped by a pass interference penalty that wipe out an interception.
The Ragin' Cajuns responded with a 14-play, 78-yard drive that included three third-down conversions and finished with Lawson's second touchdown catch.
Adam Muema's five-yard touchdown run up the middle pulled SDSU back to 26-24 with 5:40 left, but the Cajuns marched right back down the field and were in position to put the game away.
Surgent made a one-handed catch while reaching around behind defensive back Leon McFadden, even as McFadden was interfering with him. He then broke free of McFadden for a 56-yard gain to the SDSU 20.
Lawson then pulled down a catch between two defenders while being interfered with, giving the Cajuns a first down on the three yard line. But UL-Lafayette was forced to settle for Baer's 22-yard field goal, setting up the wild finish.
The Aztecs missed opportunities, including a 36-yard field goal attempt that Abeladro Perez kicked wide right with just more than ten minutes to go.
They had a first-and-goal on the four yard line on their opening drive, only to go backward and settle for Perez's 27-yard field goal.
Early in the second quarter, SDSU appeared to have a successful short passing play on fourth-and one from the UL-Lafayette six yard line, but Dylan Denso made the catch and landed inches short of the first-down marker.