Southeastern drops their season opener to UL Lafayette 24 to 7
LAFAYETTE, La. – A 17-0 hole was too much for the No. 16/17 Southeastern Louisiana University football team to overcome in a 24-7 loss to UL Lafayette in the season opener for both teams Saturday night at Cajun Field.
Southeastern (0-1) played the hosts to a standstill after falling behind early and appeared to have cut the lead to three on the first play of the fourth quarter, before a CJ Turner touchdown reception from Cephus Johnson III was called back on a penalty. The host Ragin’ Cajuns (1-0) forced SLU into a pair of turnovers, but didn’t commit one of their own, while also returning a punt for a touchdown.
Herman Christophe led the Lion defense with nine tackles. Jack Henderson contributed a sack, a breakup and a forced fumble to a SLU defensive effort that allowed seven points over the final three quarters. Brandon Barbee and Darrius Harry were also credited with sacks for the Lions.
In his first start under center, Johnson III was 22-for-34 for 149 yards and an interception, while also rushing 10 times for 48 yards. Carlos Washington Jr. led SLU with 57 yards and a score on 10 carries. Mannie Logan-Greene (five catches, 44 yards) and Turner (3-46) were the top receivers for SLU.
Chandler Fields (13-for-20, 173 yards, two touchdowns) and Ben Woolridge (7-11, 68 yards) split time under center for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Johnny Lumpkin was the top receiver for UL Lafayette with five catches for 72 yards and two scores, while Terrence Williams rushed for 61 yards on 10 carries.
After Southeastern went three-and-out on its first drive, the Ragin’ Cajuns took the early lead. Fields found Lumpkin from 28 yards out to give UL Lafayette a 7-0 lead with just over nine minutes left in the opening quarter.
SLU didn’t manage a first down on its second possession and the Ragin’ Cajuns took over on their own 32-yard line. UL Lafayette embarked on a 14-play drive that was capped by a 36-yard Preston Stafford field goal with 1:34 remaining in the opening quarter to extend the lead to 10-0.
Southeastern managed a pair of first downs as the game moved into the second quarter, but was eventually forced to punt. Eric Garror caught Austin Dunlap’s effort on the run and returned it 83 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead just over two minutes into the second quarter.
The Lions answered with their best drive of the game to that point. Southeastern drove 50 yards on 14 plays, but turned the ball over on downs at the Ragin’ Cajun 18-yard line with 4:49 left in the first half.
The Ragin’ Cajuns were poised to add to their lead on the final drive of the first half. UL Lafayette drove inside the Lion 10-yard line in the final minute, but Tainano Gaulua stopped Chris Smith on downs to keep the deficit at 17-0 at halftime.
The two teams traded three-and-outs to start the second half until Southeastern embarked on a 13-play, 78-yard scoring drive. Washington Jr. powered in from five yards out to cut the Ragin’ Cajun lead to 17-7 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.
The Ragin’ Cajuns drove deep into Southeastern territory on their ensuing drive, but the Lion defense stiffened. Stafford had a 43-yard field goal attempt, but pushed it wide left to keep the score at 17-7 in the final minute of the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Johnson found a wide-open Turner for an apparent 48-yard touchdown, but it was called back for a Lion penalty and the drive ended in a punt.
Southeastern took over after a UL Lafayette punt and attempted a reverse wide receiver pass by Gage Larvadain that was intercepted at the SLU 42-yard line by Garror. The Ragin’ Cajuns then drove into the Southeastern red zone, but Anthony Britton Jr. stopped Smith short on fourth-and-two to give the Lions the ball back.
SLU was forced into a three-and-out on the ensuing drive and then the Ragin’ Cajuns were able to milk some clock, pinning Southeastern at its own 13 yard-line after a punt with just under five minutes left.
On the next play, Johnson was intercepted by Amir McDaniel on a deep pass to give the Ragin’ Cajuns the ball back at the Lion 39-yard line. Seven plays later, Fields found Lumpkin in the right corner of the end zone from three yards out to give UL Lafayette a 24-7 cushion with 1:37 left.
That would prove to be the final margin, as Johnson drove SLU deep into Ragin’ Cajun territory, but missed his target on the game’s final fourth down to give UL Lafayette the ball back for one final kneel-down.
Saturday’s trip to Lafayette was the first of two games versus FBS opponents to open the year for the Lions. SLU heads to Florida Atlantic Sept. 10 for a 5 p.m. (CST) contest that will be televised on ESPN+ and can be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network.
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