DALLAS (AP) — Trey Ragas scored on a 1-yard plunge with 7:16 left and No. 16 Louisiana-Lafayette beat UTSA 31-24 in the First Responder Bowl on Saturday at SMU’s Ford Stadium.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (10-1) drove 72 yards in 12 plays for the winning score after UTSA (7-5) overcame a 24-7 second-half deficit to tie it.
“We made it entertaining again,” Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier said. “It’s too late to have a rah-rah speech. At that point you’ve either got the ownership, the character to regroup and make adjustments to compete and play through the ups and downs of the game or you don’t.”
UTSA associate head coach/offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. directed the Roadrunners after first-year coach Jeff Traylor twice tested positive for COVID-19 this week and didn’t accompany the team. Lunney said the Roadrunners were missing 15-20 total team members, including other assistant coaches and players.
“It could have easily gotten out of hand,” Lunney said. “Our guys came to life and turned the tide. We just couldn’t finish the game. We did just enough in all three phases to lose the game, but we also did just enough in all three phases to be in the game.”
Levi Lewis had first-half touchdown passes of 15 and 10 yards for Louisiana-Lafayette. Elijah Mitchell added a 3-yard touchdown run, and Kenneth Almendares kicked a 31-yard field goal, The Ragin’ Cajuns won their seventh straight game following a loss to Coastal Carolina in mid-October.
Frank Harris had touchdown passes of 29 yards and 10 yards and an 11-yard scoring run for the Roadrunners. Hunter Duplessis kicked a 20-yard field goal that tied with 13:32 left.
UTSA was originally scheduled to play in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 19 against SMU, but that game was cancelled because of COVID protocols in place within SMU’s football program.
Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns, co-champions of the Sun Belt Conference with Coastal Carolina, will finish as a ranked team for the first time, having moved the FBS in 1982. They finished with double-digit wins for the second straight season after never previously doing so.
UTSA: The Roadrunners, playing in the program’s second bowl, fell short of compiling the first four-game winning streak in the program’s nine-year history.
Louisiana-Lafayette: Lewis, a senior who is 22-6 as a starter, has said he will return next season thanks to the pandemic eligibility exemption. The Ragin’ Cajuns are scheduled to open at Texas after upsetting then-No. 23 Iowa State in this year’s 2020 opener to end a 20-game losing streak against ranked opponents.
UTSA: The Roadrunners should be experienced at the offensive skill positions with Harris, a junior, and sophomore running back Sincere McCormick scheduled to return. They will open at Illinois on Sept. 4.