South Alabama’s 2017 season continued to slide off the rails on Saturday with a 19-14 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Levi Lewis was a difference-maker for the Ragin’ Cajuns, rushing for 129 yards and throwing a pair of touchdowns.
South Alabama falls to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the Sun Belt Conference with the loss, and must win out to reach a bowl game for the second straight year. Sun Belt front-runner Arkansas State visits Mobile next week.
The Jaguars scored with 59 seconds left to get within a score, but ULL recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock. USA was without all-time leading rusher Xavier Johnson, who was suspended for the remainder of the season prior to the game.
Here’s a quarter-by-quarter look at how the Jaguars dropped their second straight game:
Neither team covered itself in glory offensively during the opening quarter. UL-Lafayette managed just 80 yards of offense, while South Alabama posted 35.
After a long punt return to near-midfield and a 20-yard run by Darius Hoggins, the Ragin’ Cajuns got on the board at the 4:17 mark when Stevie Artigue connected on a 37-yard field goal. UL-Lafayette led 3-0 after one quarter.
UL-Lafayette pulled the redshirt off true freshman Levi Lewis, who started under center. The left-hander rushed for a team-best 29 yards and passed for 10 in the quarter.
Key Play: Earnest Patterson returned a South Alabama punt 21 yards to the UL-Lafayette 46, giving the Ragin’ Cajuns solid field position on the way to the game’s first points.
Key Player: Artigue, who accounted for game’s only points through 15 minutes.
UL-Lafayette led 19-7 at halftime after a wild second quarter in which the Ragin’ Cajuns moved the ball nearly at will and South Alabama scored a late touchdown to at least slow the bleeding.
Levi Lewis hit a wide-open Michael Jacquet for a 54-yard touchdown to make it 9-0 at the 13:34 mark after Stevie Artigue missed the extra point. South Alabama went three-and-out, and the Ragin’ Cajuns soon scored again.
This time, Lewis found tight end Chase Rogers on a 13-yard touchdown pass to give UL-Lafayette a 16-0 advantage with 10:34 left in the half. The Ragin’ Cajuns later added a 20-yard Artigue field goal to go on top 19-0 with 3:18 left in the half.
After not crossing the 50 for most of the half, South Alabama finally mounted a drive late in the second. Cole Garvin — who replaced Dallas Davis at quarterback earlier in the second — hit Malik Stanley on a 12-yard touchdown pass to pull the Jaguars within 19-7 with 38 seconds left in the half.
Key Play: On third-and-11 from the UL 46, Lewis scrambled to his left and found a wide-open Jacquet down the left sideline. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ receiver hauled in the ball at around the 25 and outran the USA secondary for the touchdown and a 9-0 UL lead.
Key Player: Lewis, who ended his first half of college football with 74 yards rushing and 82 yards and two touchdowns passing. The true freshman went 6-for-11 through the air in the half.
A scoreless third quarter left South Alabama still by two scores at 19-7 as the game entered its final 15 minutes.
The Jaguars moved the ball reasonably well in the third, but were undone by an interception in Louisiana-Lafayette territory on one possession and a sack on another. The Ragin’ Cajuns punted on their first two possessions, and were driving in USA territory as the quarter expired.
The teams combined for 132 yards and eight first downs in the quarter.
Key Play: South Alabama had the ball on the ULL 37 midway through the quarter, but Corey Turner picked off Cole Garvin’s high pass at his 16 and returned it to the 38.
Key Player: Turner, whose interception halted the best scoring threat by either team in the quarter.
After forcing a punt on Louisiana’s first possession of the quarter, South Alabama appeared on its way to getting back in the game when Cole Garvin hit Jamarius Way on a big gain. Way stepped out of bounds on the ULL 4, but was credited with a career-long 81-yard reception.
Two plays later, however, Garvin’s pass was tipped and picked off by ULL linebacker T.J. Posey at the 4-yard line with 10:13 left to keep the score 19-7. South Alabama eventually forced another punt, but not before the Ragin’ Cajuns ran nearly four minutes off the clock.
South Alabama then turned the ball over on downs at its 20, and ULL ran the clock down to the 2:26 mark. The Jaguars scored with 59 seconds left on Garvin’s 13-yard TD pass to Malik Stanley, cutting it to 19-14.
UL-Lafayette then recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock for the victory.
Key Play: Posey’s interception, the second in plus-territory off a tipped ball by the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Key Player: ULL quarterback Levi Lewis, who ended his first career start with 229 yards of total offense and a pair of passing touchdowns. Not bad for a true freshman.
Auburn running back Malik Miller (32) celebrates a blocked punt against Texas A&M during the first half Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. (Julie Bennettemail@example.com)