LAFAYETTE, La. (11/26/16) – The Arkansas State football team’s 15-game winning streak over Sun Belt Conference opponents was snapped in dramatic fashion with a 24-19 setback to Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday afternoon at Cajun Field.
The Red Wolves (6-5, 6-1 SBC) drove 69 yards on 14 plays in their final drive trailing the Ragin’ Cajuns (5-6, 4-3 SBC) 24-19 to set up a wild play on fourth-and-10. Justice Hansen scrambled to his right and appeared to lateral the ball backwards with senior offensive lineman Joseph Bacchus picking the ball up off the bounce and carrying it into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. However, after initially being ruled a touchdown, the play was reviewed and it was ruled Hansen was down before lateraling the ball so the score reverted from 25-24 with A-State on top to 24-19 in favor of Louisiana-Lafayette.
“I don’t think we played well at all, especially on offense until late,” A-State head football coach Blake Anderson said. “We were sporadic all day on defense and didn’t do anything on special teams outside of the blocked punt. We didn’t match the intensity early and proud of how we responded late, but it was obviously not enough. At the end of the day, we just didn’t execute well enough to win the game. They did what they had to do to win. We have to regroup quickly and get our minds right for next week.”
Arkansas State outgained the Ragin’ Cajuns 521-292 with 364 yards coming in the second half. Hansen was 35-of-57 for 393 yards through the air and added another 47 on the ground for 440 yards of total offense, which is a career high and the fourth most ever by an A-State player. Kendall Sanders caught six passes for 90 yards to lead the team, while Dijon Paschal hauled in six catches for 70 yards and a score. Nine different players caught a pass for the Red Wolves.
Ja’Von Rolland-Jones led the team with 10 total tackles, including two sacks which gave him a Sun Belt Conference record with 28 in his career, and also tied the A-State school record. A-State tied its season high with 11 tackles for loss, including sacks by Waylon Roberson, Chris Odom, and Jake Swalley in addition to Rolland-Jones. Kyle Wilson added seven tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss.
A-State’s first score of the afternoon was setup by its special teams after Johnston White blocked a punt to give the Red Wolves’ excellent field position. After an 11-yard completion to Blake Mack on the first play, the drive appeared to stall out as A-State faced a fourth down and eight from the Louisiana-Lafayette 24-yard line. The Red Wolves elected to go for it and the decision paid off as Hansen found Paschal for a 24-yard touchdown for the first score of the game with 6:41 to go in the opening quarter.
After the Ragin Cajuns’ tied the game on a 17-yard interception by Taboris Lee, A-State drove the ball to the Louisiana 1-yard line but failed to put the ball in the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play and turned the ball over on downs. Louisiana-Lafayette used the momentum and drove the ball the length of the field for a touchdown when Anthony Jennings found Elijah McGuire on a 14-yard touchdown pass to give the Ragin Cajuns a 14-7 lead with 8:29 to go until halftime.
The score remained 14-7 at halftime as A-State finished with 157 yards of total offense in the first half, but had four drives that lasted three plays or less. Meanwhile, the Red Wolves defense held the Ragin’ Cajuns to 120 yards of total offense and collected three sacks.
The Red Wolves were able to get within 14-10 on a J.D. Houston field goal on their first drive of the second half, but Louisiana-Lafayette drove 76 yards in two plays with a 42-yard passing play to begin the drive and a 34-yard touchdown pass to Al Riles on the next to go in front 21-10. A-State tacked on another Houston field goal, this one from 30 yards, on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 21-13.
Louisiana-Lafayette added a 34-yard field goal by Stevie Artigue with 10:24 in the fourth quarter to extend its advantage back to 11 at 24-13. The Red Wolves immediately responded with a five-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a Warren Wand one-yard touchdown run, to make the score 24-19. The drive was highlighted by a 38-yard pitch-and-catch to Chris Murray down to the one-yard line to set up the score. However, A-State’s two-point conversion attempt failed after a dropped pass.
Arkansas State got the ball back with just under six minutes in the final quarter and gained 35 yards in six plays to get into Louisiana-Lafayette territory at its 48-yard line, but a fourth-down pass attempt to Murray fell incomplete. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns only gained four yards on three plays and punted to the Red Wolves to set up the final drive that ended seven yards short of the end zone.
The Red Wolves close out the regular season on Saturday, Dec. 3 at Texas State. The contest will now kick off at 6:30 p.m. and be televised on ESPN2.