Lafayette, La. — Louisiana-Lafayette scored 14 points in the final 2:43 to erase a 10-point deficit and come back for a 31-27 victory over the Western Kentucky University football team Saturday night at Cajun Field.
The loss dropped WKU to 6-5 on the season and 3-4 on the Sun Belt Conference, while ULL improved to 6-4 and 4-2 in league play.
After WKU took a 27-17 lead with six minutes remaining, ULL was able to march 72 yards in 11 plays. After a holding penalty against WKU on fourth down kept the drive alive near midfield, the Cajuns were able to finish the drive and get an four-yard scoring pass from Terrence Broadway to Jamal Robinson to cut the WKU lead to 27-24 with 2:43 remaining.
WKU recovered an on-sides kick, but was stopped short on a third-and-three play, and forced to punt the ball back to the Cajuns with 1:32 remaining. Starting at its own seven, ULL was able to go 93 yards in just eight plays, eating up 54 seconds off the clock. Broadway capped off the drive with a 14-yard scoring run to put the Cajuns in front 31-27 with 38 seconds left.
The Hilltoppers had one last chance, getting the ball to the Cajun 35 with eight seconds left, but a hail mary pass was ruled out of bounds on the final play as ULL held on for the win.
After a scoreless first quarter, both the Hilltoppers and Ragin’ Cajuns traded a pair of scoring drives in the final 15 minutes before halftime. Taking over at its own 33 early in the period, WKU was able to drive 67 yards in seven plays for the first score of the contest. Three plays over 20 yards quickly moved the Hilltoppers down field. Keshawn Simpson was able to break a 22-yard run early in the drive, and Kawaun Jakes hooked up with Willie McNeal on a 21-yard pass to get the ball down to the ULL 24. Jakes then found Jack Doyle for a 23-yard completion down to the one, and Simpson scored his first rushing touchdown of the year on the next play to give WKU a 7-0 lead with 10:16 on the clock.
The Cajuns were able to answer right back, going 84 yards in just five plays. A 28-yard Alonzo Harris run, and a 12-yard completion from Broadway to Harry Peoples quickly got ULL down to the WKU 18. Torrey Pierce was able to score from 18 yards out on the next play to knot things up at 7-7.
A 55-yard kickoff return from Antonio Andrews gave the Toppers a short field on their next possession, and they were able to drive down to the 24 before the drive stalled. However, Garrett Schwettman was able to connect on a career-long 42-yard field goal, moving the Hilltoppers back in front 10-7 with 6:08 on the clock.
After both teams came up empty on their next possession, the Cajuns got the ball back on their own 29 with just over a minute left. With all three timeouts, they were able to go 66 yards in nine plays, and got a 23-yard Brett Baer field goal as time expired, sending the teams to the locker room tied up again at 10-10.
The Hilltoppers created an early second-half turnover as Jonathan Dowling forced a fumble that was recovered by Jamarcus Allen as the WKU 31. WKU proceeded to run the ball on 11 straight plays, picking up 62 yards down to the Louisiana-Lafayette seven. The drive stalled after an incomplete pass on third down, but Schwettman was good again — this time from 25 yards — to put the Toppers back in front 13-10 with 7:19 to go in the third.
ULL took its first lead of the night on the ensuing possession, driving 81 yards in nine plays. Pierce capped the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the night — this time from 15 yards out — as the Cajuns took a 17-13 lead with 2:51 left in the third. The Cajuns were then able to successfully convert an on-sides kick as Baer recovered his own kick at the 46. However, on the first play — a 26-yard completion to tight end Jacob Maxwell — Arius Wright both forced and recovered a fumble, giving the ball right back to the Hilltoppers at their own 36.
WKU took advantage of the turnover, driving 64 yards in just seven plays. After the third-quarter clock expired, Andrews broke two runs to start the fourth, going for nine yards, and then a 17-yard touchdown run to regain a 20-17 lead with 14:19 to play.
WKU’s second interception of the night — this time by Wright — gave the ball back to the Topper offense with 11:52 remaining. They proceeded to run nearly six minutes off the clock as Andrews ran the ball on eight of the 11 plays. Faced with third-and-11, Andrews as able to take a handoff and go 13 yards up the middle for his second score of the night, stretching the WKU lead to 27-17 with six minutes remaining before the Cajuns made their comeback.
Andrews finished the game with a career-high 238 rushing yards, and racked up over 300 all-purpose yards for the third straight game. The Cajuns were able to rack up 582 yards of total offense, getting 100-yard rushing games from both Broadway (145) and Harris (104). Broadway also completed 22 of 32 passes for 258 yards.
The Hilltoppers close out the 2012 regular season next Saturday, hosting North Texas at noon (CST) at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.