Louisiana Finds Rhythm in Second Half, Explodes Past EMU

Ragin' Cajuns roll to the finish line with 35 unanswered points and extend win streak to 15 games
Posted at 2:25 PM, Sep 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-11 15:25:42-04

LAFAYETTE – Stymied and shut out in a half for only the second time in two seasons, Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns exploded with seven straight touchdowns in the second half and rolled to a 49-21 victory over Eastern Michigan on Saturday, September 10 at Cajun Field to extend the nation's longest winning streak.

The Cajuns, now 2-0 for only the third time in the last 14 seasons, trailed 14-0 at halftime before the quarterback combo of Chandler Fields and Ben Wooldridge teamed for five touchdowns passes – to five different receivers -- in a time span of 19:19 in the final two quarters.

Meanwhile, UL's defense forced five second-half turnovers and held the visiting Eagles (1-1) to one second-half score before the Cajuns scored the game's final 35 points.

"It was kind of a tale of two halves," said UL coach Michael Desormeaux, who became the first Cajun coach in 72 years to start his career with three straight wins including last December's R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. "Offensively we couldn't find a rhythm, and in the second half, we came out and said we wanted to take some shots.

"Defensively, our guys fly around and strike people. When you do that, the ball will come loose."

The Cajuns, who opened the season with a 24-7 home win over Southeastern Louisiana last weekend and have now won a school-record-tying 11 straight games at Cajun Field, rolled up 376 yards of offense in the final two quarters after being limited to 76 yards and four first downs in a first half that included a lightning delay of one hour and three minutes.

Eastern Michigan came back after the delay to finish off an 88-yard drive five seconds before halftime, with quarterback Taylor Powell hitting Tanner Knue with a 25-yard scoring pass that provided a 14-0 lead.

The Cajuns had to punt on the second half's first possession, but found the end zone seven straight times after Eric Garror's 34-yard punt return gave UL good field position and a spark. Fields hit Michael Jefferson on an out-and-up behind the EMU secondary for a 27-yard score on the drive's second play.

Brandon Bishop's out-route interception set up another short drive, with Fields capping a 32-yard march with a one-yard scoring pass to tight end Johnny Lumpkin – one of three scoring receptions by three different Cajun tight ends. That gave Lumpkin three touchdowns in UL's first two games after the senior tight end scored twice in the opener.

The Eagles reclaimed the lead on a quick five-play, 82-yard drive capped by Darius Boone's one-yard score, but Wooldridge had 66 yards passing in a 75-yard march that ended with John Stephens, Jr.'s 36-yard scoring catch over the middle. The TD throw was Wooldridge's first since November of 2019 when he was at Fresno State.

The Cajuns took the lead for good on the first play of the fourth quarter when Chris Smith broke a tackle on the right side and scampered 20 yards for a 28-21 lead, capping a quick six-play, 61-yard drive.

A one-yard touchdown burst by Dre'lyn Washington came after scoring passes from Fields to Neal Johnson and from Wooldridge to Pearse Migl, part of an explosion that saw UL score all 49 of its points in a period of just over 23 minutes. That followed a first-half shutout, a first since the Georgia State game last season.

The Cajuns also rallied to win that game, and have now gone more than a calendar year without a loss, dating back to last year's 38-18 opening-game road loss at Texas.

"We were struggling in the first half," Desormeaux said, "but that was one of the best second-half comebacks I've ever been a part of."

Wooldridge completed 12-of-13 passes for 169 yards and the two scores, while Fields came back after the offensive struggles in the first half to complete 10-of-21 passes for 141 yards and three scores. The duo guided UL's offense to its second straight turnover-free game, and the Cajuns are a plus-7 in turnovers after two games.

Jefferson had five catches for 80 yards to lead 10 different Cajuns with receptions while Stephens had a career-high 103 yards on three catches. Four different UL running backs had 30 or more rushing yards led by the 45 yards of Washington, all of those coming in a fourth quarter when the Cajuns outscored the Eagles 28-0.

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