LOUISIANA AT LAFAYETTE 3-PEATS WITH 24-21 NEW ORLEANS BOWL WIN OVER TULANE
NEW ORLEANS – The University of Louisiana at Lafayette ran out to a 21-0 lead and added a late field goal by Hunter Stover as the Ragin’ Cajuns hung on to defeat Tulane in the 2013 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday evening in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
With the win, UL-Lafayette snapped a two-game skid to complete the 2013 season 9-4 and win its third-consecutive New Orleans Bowl title. The Ragin’ Cajuns become just the ninth team in NCAA-FBS history to win the same bowl three straight seasons. Tulane, which played in its first bowl since 2002, concluded the year 7-6.
Green Wave running back Orleans Darwka was named game MVP after running for 83 yards and a New Orleans Bowl-record three touchdowns on 16 carries (5.2 avg.) to become the first player from a non-winning team to claim the honor.
Down by three touchdowns with 12:31 to play before halftime, the Green Wave roared back with two second-quarter touchdowns and tied things up at 21-all Darkwa rambled in for 22 yards. Both teams traded punts, and UL-Lafayette pinned Tulane at its own three-yard line. From there, cornerback Sean Thomas intercepted a hurried throw by Green Wave back-up quarterback Devin Powell with 11:04 left to play to set up Stover’s game-winning kick.
Tulane had a chance to tie the game and potentially send the contest into overtime as Powell drove the Green Wave from their won 16 to the UL-Lafayette 30, but Cairo Santos’ 48-yard field goal attempt sailed just wide of the left upright to spark the Ragin’ Cajun celebration.
Turnovers played a big role in the ballgame as the two teams combined to snare five interceptions and turn them a total of 31 points. Thomas tied the New Orleans Bowl record, previously held by Troy’s Elbert Mack against Rice on Dec. 22, 2006, with a pair of interceptions while cornerback Corey Trim returned an errant toss by Tulane starting signal caller Nick Montana 83 yards early in the second quarter to stake UL-Lafayette to a 21-0 lead.
UL-Lafayette came out on fire, marching 65 yards on six plays which Elijah McGuire capped with a 27-yard touchdown run on its opening possession and added a 73-yard drive on half dozen plays with Alonzo Harris finding paydirt from 15 yards out on its third possession to stake the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 14-0 lead.
Trim’s pick-six extended the UL-Lafayette lead to 21, but the Green Wave came alive on both sides of the ball. After allowing nearly 10 yards per play on the first three drives, Tulane gave up just 3.4 yards per play over the Ragin’ Cajuns’s final 50 plays from scrimmage, did not allow a drive of longer than 42 yards and the lone score the Green Wave defense agave up was Stover’s field goal – which came on a four-play, three-yard series.
After twice going three-and-out and seeing a pair of promising drives end with interceptions, the Tulane offense got on track midway through the second quarter as the Green Wave marched 71 yards on nine plays and Darkwa plunged into the endzone from one yard out to cut the UL-Lafayette lead to 21-7 with 3:55 to go before halftime. Green Wave cornerback Jordan Sullen gave his team the ball back three plays later with an interception of Cajuns’ quarterback Terrance Broadway. Powell connected with wide receiver Ryan Grant for a 49-yard gain on the very next snap, Tulane got an additional 15 yards on a pass interference penalty and Darkwa ran in from the seven-yard line to make it a 21-14 contest at the break.
Neither team could get much going offensively early in the third quarter, but Tulane turned defense into offense with 2:40 to play in the period as Derrick Strozier picked off Broadway and returned the ball to the Ragin’ Cajun 17-yard line. One play and a Green Wave penalty later, Darkwa ran in from 22 yards out to cap Tulane’s scoring and set up the dramatic finish.
Harris led UL-Lafayette with 74 rushing yards and a score on 13 carries while McGuire added 48 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries while hauling in a team-best seven passes for 94 yards. Broadway, who was a game-time decision after breaking a bone in his right arm against ULM on Nov. 30, finished with 143 yards through the air on 12-of-19 passing. Linebacker Justin Anderson headlined the Ragin’ Cajun defense with eight tackles (6 solo, 2 assists).
Powell came off the bench to finish 10-of-21 for 223 yards and a costly interception. Grant was the favorite target of the Green Wave quarterbacks with seven graps for 113 yards. Safety Sam Scofield led all players with 10 tackles (8 solo, 2 assists) while both defensive tackle Julius Warmsley and defensive back Jordan Batiste had 2.0 sacks apiece.