No. 24 Louisiana takes roll up against C. Arkansas
Louisiana aims to continue its torrid streak on Saturday afternoon when it completes a run of three consecutive home games with a nonconference meeting against Central Arkansas in Lafayette.
The 24th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1) enter the matinee in a flow, with a four-game winning streak that has powered the team to its third straight Sun Belt Conference West Division title.
Louisiana punched its ticket to the conference title game next month with a 38-10 romp over South Alabama on Saturday.
Levi Lewis led the way with three touchdown passes on a day in which he connected with 12 different receivers.
A potent ground attack rolled up 254 yards, a total only eclipsed by the 282 accumulated by the Ragin’ Cajuns in their 44-34 victory over Texas State on Oct. 31.
“We played with balance and I thought we were kind of mixing the tempo,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier said. “I thought Levi was sharp early, and certainly in the first possession we were able to rush the ball.”
Chris Smith highlighted his 99-yard rushing performance with a 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Trey Ragas, who capped the scoring with a 25-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, had 78 yards on the ground and Elijah Mitchell added 61 rushing yards to boot.
“We’ve been talking about it since Week 1 and (on Saturday) we finally put it together,” Smith said. “The O-line, they were working together, working hard, being confident. We had faith in them. Our running back, receivers, quarterback — we all believed in them.”
There’s plenty to believe in the ground game, considering Mitchell (563 rushing yards), Ragas (522), Smith (290) and Lewis (178) all are averaging at least 5.6 yards per carry.
Central Arkansas (5-4) surrendered 144 points during a 1-3 stretch but turned it around to outscore the opposition 89-35 en route to winning its last two games.
Bears quarterback Luke Hales made the most of his first start since 2018. The junior threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns to help the team rebound after squandering a 24-point lead. The Bears posted a 37-25 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.
“I think they do have poise. I think they’ve been in situations that are tough and tight many, many times,” Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown said of his team. “And I thought they responded in a really positive manner (on Saturday).”
Tyler Hudson reeled in eight receptions for 154 yards, highlighted by a 69-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Lujuan Winningham, who had five catches for 77 yards, had a 12-yard scoring catch in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Running back Kierre Crossley found the end zone in two of his last three games for the Bears.
Louisiana booked Central Arkansas to its slate on the heels of seeing previously scheduled games against New Mexico State and Missouri canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will play Saturday’s game without its band in the stands due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
–Field Level Media