Ragin' Cajuns defeat Miami (Ohio) in LendingTree Bowl
Louisiana wins LendingTree Bowl with 27-17 victory over Miami (Ohio)
Behind a record-setting performance by quarterback Levi Lewis and timely defensive stops, Louisiana earned its first victory in a bowl game since the 2014 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl when it defeated Miami (Ohio) 27-17 in the LendingTree Bowl on Monday night.
Louisiana (11-3, 7-1 SBC) concluded its historic 2019 season with 11 wins, a Sun Belt West Division title, numerous school records broken and the team's first win in a bowl game outside of the state of Louisiana since it defeated Arkansas A&M 24-7 in the 1944 Oil Bowl in Houston.
Lewis, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns to become the first Ragin' Cajun ever to eclipse the 3,000-yard passing mark in a single season. He finished the season with 26 touchdown passes, the most in a single season.
The junior quarterback also led the team in rushing, toting the ball eight times for 62 yards.
Elijah Mitchell was the top running back, notching 11 carries for 55 yards and a score, his 16th touchdown of the season.
Ja'Marcus Bradley hauled in seven passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore Eric Garror was named the game's defensive MVP after recording seven tackles against the Redhawks. Joe Dillon moved into a tie for third on the school's career sack list with one sack and two tackles-for-loss, while Kris Moncrief finished with one sack and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Terik Miller led the Ragin' Cajuns with eight total tackles.
Stevie Artigue scored nine points, giving him 301 total points for his career.
After a scoreless first quarter, Miami (Ohio) struck first with 10:25 remaining in the first quarter when Jaylon Bester rushed in from five yards to put the Redhawks ahead 7-0. The touchdown marked the 10th consecutive game Bester has scored a touchdown.
Four minutes later, Artigue converted a 33-yard field goal to put the Ragin' Cajuns on the board.
Mitchell gave Louisiana its first lead with 65 seconds left in the first half when he powered his way into the end zone from two yards out, sending the Ragin' Cajuns into halftime with a 10-7 lead.
To open the second half, Louisiana capped a nine-play, 70-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Bradley in the back of the end zone after Lewis nearly was sacked by the Miami defense to push the lead to 17-7 with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
After Miami (Ohio) (8-6) connected on a 39-yard field goal by Sam Sloman, Louisiana found the end zone once again when Bradley hauled in his second touchdown of the night on third down from 12 yards out to go up 24-10.
The Redhawks made some noise early in the fourth quarter when Bester scored his second touchdown to highlight a 77-yard drive and cut the deficit to 24-17 with 11:35 remaining in the game.
Artigue later added a 38-yard field goal to push the lead back to 27-17 with 4:50 remaining in the game.
Needing a big stop in a big moment, Louisiana's defense buckled down on the goal line and forced a turnover on downs to seal the 27-17 bowl victory.
Bester had two rushing touchdowns to lead the RedHawk offense.
Through the air, Brett Gabbert went 22-for-31 for 248 yards, while Jack Sorenson had a career-high and Miami bowl record 10 receptions for 107 yards. Gabbert's 22 completions also tied a Miami bowl record, as Austin Boucher in 2011 and Gus Ragland in 2016 both reached the same mark.
Louisiana outgained Miami 401-351.
Ryan McWood led the Miami defense with nine total tackles, while Bart Baratti had eight.
Locally, Central Catholic High alumnus Ja'len Johnson, a Louisiana redshirt sophomore defensive back, received playing time.