LAFAYETTE – Trey Ragas’ 2-yard TD run with 1:18 remaining capped an 11-play drive and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns moved into a tie for first-place in the Sun Belt Conference West Division with a 47-43 win over preseason favorite Arkansas State on Saturday at Cajun Field.
Raymond Calais rushed for a career-high 121 yards and a touchdown on seven carries while Jarrod Jackson and Elijah Mitchell each went over 100 yards receiving as Louisiana (4-4, 2-2 SBC) won its third straight game at home against A-State (4-4, 1-3 SBC) while moving into a tie with idle ULM in the SBC West Division standings.
A-State, which was picked to claim the SBC West Division title and first-ever SBC Championship Game, trailed 34-21 in the third quarter after Louisiana’s Kyle Pfau booted a 47-yard field with 8:02 remaining before chipping away at the deficit. Marcel Murray, who rushed for 121 yards on 19 carries, scored on a 2-yard run to cap an 11-play drive for A-State before Justice Hansen connected with Kirk Merritt on a 73-yard TD pass to take a 35-34 lead with 10:51 remaining.
Louisiana reclaimed the lead on the ensuing drive as Jackson caught a pass from Andre Nunez and outraced the A-State secondary to the end zone for a 53-yard score to give the Ragin’ Cajuns a 40-35 lead with 8:47 remaining.
Murray scored his third TD of the night on a 7-yard run and the Red Wolves converted on a 2-point conversion with 5:48 remaining before the Ragin’ Cajuns answered with their game-winning drive.
Nunez, who finished 18 for 26 for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns, connected with Ja’Marcus Bradley on fourth-and-5 for 13 yards to the A-State 37 before Calais gained 13 yards to the 22 two plays later.
Calais added a 15-yard run around right end to the A-State 8 before Ragas scored three plays later.
Louisiana took the opening kickoff and needed four plays to find the end zone as Nunez connected with Mitchell on a 64-yard scoring strike down the right sideline. The Erath, La., native added a 65-yard scoring run on the Ragin’ Cajuns third drive before Calais snapped a 14-14 tie in the first quarter with a 72-yard TD run.
Nunez added a 1-yard TD run that gave Louisiana a 28-14 lead in the second quarter before Pfau booted a career-long 52-yard field goal to give the Ragin’ Cajuns a 31-21 lead at halftime.
Jackson caught four passes for a career-high 129 yards for the Ragin’ Cajuns with Mitchell finishing with a career-best 121 yards receiving on six receptions. Corey Turner led the Louisiana defense with eight tackles with Terrik Miller and Jacques Boudreaux recording six stops each.
Koa Haynes picked off his first pass of the season for the Ragin’ Cajuns while Lorenzo McCaskill registered five tackles with his first career sack.
Hansen finished 17-for-30 through the air for 270 yards and a touchdown with Merritt catching four passes for 122 yards. Louisiana held a 547-478 advantage in total offense while controlling the football for over 18 minutes in the second half, including 10:44 in the fourth quarter.
Louisiana will return to action on Saturday, Nov. 3, when it travels to Troy, Ala., to face Troy in a 2:30 p.m. contest at Veterans-Memorial Stadium.