Louisiana wins the First Responder Bowl, beating UTSA to the score of 31-24. On the 26th, the Ragin’ Cajuns took on the Roadrunners in Dallas, Texas in what was a shootout of a game. The two teams battled back-and-forth all game; however, Louisiana arose as the victor. This victory would earn the Ragin’ Cajuns their seventh bowl victory. On the other hand, this would have been UTSA’s first had they won. Check out Louisiana Wins First Responder Bowl for more on the game.
Louisiana Wins First Responder Bowl
UTSA entered this bowl game shorthanded before it even started. The Roadrunners were without head coach Jeff Traylor due to COVID. The ‘Runners also were without other key players such as Brenden Brady, Tykee Ogle-Kellogg, and Jamal Ligon. The Ragin’ Cajuns, however, were fully staffed and had all key players for this matchup.
Louisiana surged down the field on the first possession of the game and turned it into seven points. Senior quarterback Levi Lewis went on to connect with Jalen Williams for a 15-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining. Louisiana then forced a turnover on UTSA’s first drive. However, after a failed fake field goal attempt, the Ragin’ Cajuns gave the ball right back to the Roadrunners. The remainder of the first quarter was pretty uneventful. The next score came by way of a Louisiana 31-yard field goal. With that field goal, the Ragin’ Cajuns extended their lead to ten points.
On the very next drive, UTSA was able to finally reach pay dirt. Quarterback Frank Harris turned an 11-yard scramble into a touchdown and got UTSA on the board. Louisiana was able to respond with a score of its own in the form of a Kyren Lacy touchdown pass. Louisiana extended its lead back to ten points before the teams headed to the locker room for the break.
UTSA fumbled the ball on the second play from scrimmage to start the second half. Louisiana quickly took advantage of this mistake in the form of an Elijah Mitchell three-yard touchdown run. This gave the Ragin’ Cajuns a 24-7 lead. UTSA got a touchdown four minutes later. Harris was able to hook up with Zakhari Franklin for a 29-yard touchdown pass, reducing Louisiana’s lead to ten points. The Roadrunners did not stop there. Harris connected with Joshua Cephus for a ten-yard touchdown pass that brought UTSA to within three points of Louisiana.
UTSA continued its momentum into the fourth quarter when Hunter Duplessis made a 20-yard field goal to tie the game at 24. Six minutes later, Louisiana put together a 12-play drive that resulted in seven points following a Trey Ragas one-yard touchdown run. This turned out to be the last score of the game. Louisiana won to a score of 31-24.
Keys to Louisiana’s Victory
Louisiana was able to be successful in this game for a couple of reasons. The first and most important reason is that the defense kept Sincere McCormick out of the endzone. The Ragin’ Cajuns had to contain him if they wanted the chance to win. Although they let McCormick rush for 122 yards, they refused to let him score. Harris on the other hand had a great game. He completed 13 of his 21 passes for 208 yards and two touchdown passes. He also rushed for 91 yards on 18 carries which included one rushing score. But the defense did just enough to secure the win.
The second reason is that Lewis was able to take care of the football. His numbers were not overly impressive; however, he did not have any turnovers. His 146 passing yards and two touchdowns were enough to get the job done.
The final reason that Louisiana was able to win this game was because of its ability to run the ball effectively. The offense had two running backs who rushed for over 95 yards. Mitchell rushed for 127 yards, whereas Ragas rushed for 98 yards. The two also contributed one touchdown each. Louisiana had 265 total rushing yards on the day which ultimately opened up the passing game for big gains.
First Responder Bowl MVPs
The MVPs of the game were the running back duo of Mitchell and Ragas. Head coach Billy Napier always felt confident putting either one of them into the game. The two combined for 225 yards on 33 rushes and two scores. They also averaged just under seven rushing yards for the game. This two-headed monster was nearly impossible to stop and paved the way for Louisiana’s victory.
Photo Courtesy of the First Responder Bowl.