It is often said that football games feature a “tale of two different games”, and that cliche was certainly in play when Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette hit the field in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night in New Orleans. However, when the dust settled, UL-Lafayette scratched and clawed to leave New Orleans with a 24-21 victory.
For the first quarter and a half of action, it firmly looked as if the Ragin’ Cajuns (yes, that is their real mascot name) were going to run away and hide. They scored on two long touchdown runs in the first quarter, grabbing a 14-0 lead, and when Tulane quarterback Nick Montana (who is, indeed, the son of legendary NFL quarterback Joe Montana) threw a costly interception that was returned by ULL’s Corey Trim for an 82-yard touchdown, the blowout seemed to be on at 21-0 at the 12:31 mark of the second quarter.
As you can tell by the final score, however, Tulane wasn’t going away. The Green Wave answered in huge fashion, gathering the troops despite the big point differential, and Orleans Darkwa scored two different rushing touchdowns in the final 4 minutes of the first half to cut the lead to 21-14 in what amounted to the blink of an eye in football terms. Coming out of the half, Darkwa was up to his old tricks, breaking away for his longest TD run of the game, scoring on a 22-yarder that tied the game with 2:34 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
Once the 4th quarter arrived, the fireworks basically stopped on both sides, as the first field goal of ULL kicker Hunter Stover’s career was the only scoring of the period. Stover’s FG gave the Cajuns the lead at 24-21 with 9:56 to go, but the biggest impetus for their ability to hold on and win came with a ??-play, ??-yard drive that didn’t even tally points on the scoreboard. Louisiana-Lafayette grabbed 3 first downs on the ground as a result of the legs of backup QB Jalen Nixon, and despite the lack of points, the nearly 6 minutes of clock time proved to be crucial in burying Tulane.
Fittingly, the Green Wave didn’t go quietly, though, as quarterback Devin Powell found Justyn Shackleford for a 34-yard completion, and then quickly found Ryan Grant for 27 more yards to take them to the brink of field goal range. However, ULL buckled down defensively after a 9-yard completion to wideout Kedrick Banks, and Powell was sacked for a 6-yard loss that made things very difficult for Tulane kicker Cairo Santos. As you can tell by the score above, Santos was unsuccessful in his 48-yard attempt, and the Ragin’ Cajuns escaped with a 3-point win.
Louisiana-Lafayette grabbed the win without a single, “standout” offensive performance, but their balanced offense was just enough for the win. They ran for over 170 yards with 4 ball-carriers, and more importantly, capitalized on the early opportunities afforded to them by the Tulane offense. It was a huge boost for ULL to have their quarterback, Terrance Broadway, back from injury, but in all honesty, he was mediocre throughout, and all credit should be given to their supporting cast.
On the Tulane side, this was a brutal defeat, but they fought valiantly after digging a massive hole to kick things off. Orleans Darkwa was the player of the game with all 3 touchdowns for the Green Wave, but it simply wasn’t enough, and they’ll be pining for the start of the 2014 season to get this taste out of his mouth.
There is always an argument against the “fringe” bowl games, but when they are this entertaining, it’s tough to rail against them. Congrats to both programs for a fun evening.