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LAFAYETTE – A pair of scoring plays over a three-minute span in the third quarter carried Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Football past McNeese and to a 30-22 triumph Saturday evening at Cajun Field.
Freshman Raymond Calais' first career touchdown run came at 7:18 of the third quarter and vaulted the Ragin' Cajuns (1-1) back into the lead at 21-15.
After forcing the Cowboys (1-1) into a three-and-out, Anthony Jennings connected with Al Riles for a 34-yard gain to the McNeese 16. After a roughing the passer penalty brought the Ragin' Cajuns into a goal line situation, Jennings scored two plays later on a five-yard scamper at 4:02 that increased the lead to 27-15.
Louisiana's defense cornered the Cowboys their next three possessions, forcing a punt each time to protect the lead. McNeese added a touchdown in the waning moments of the fourth quarter on a Dylan Long rush with 12 seconds remaining.
"Our first goal in this new season was to get that first win under our belt," Ragin' Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth remarked. "I was most proud of the way we overcame adversity this week, rallied together, and found a way to improve. I think it was pretty evident on the field."
Jennings completed 15-of-21 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. His two touchdown runs, the latter which opened a two-score lead in the third quarter, were his first rushing scores since the 2013 Outback Bowl appearance at LSU.
Elijah McGuire gained 139 yards on 19 attempts, increasing his career rushing total to 3,370. McGuire moved past Alonzo Harris (3,330) and Brian Mitchell (3,335) into second place on the school's career rushing yards list.
Ja'Marcus Bradley led all receivers with 97 yards. He hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jennings at 4:11 of the first quarter which gave Louisiana the lead for the remainder of the opening stanza.
Louisiana's lead grew to 14-6 at 6:14 of the second quarter following a three-yard touchdown run by Jennings. The Cowboys countered with a 13-play, 75-yard drive finished off by a fourth-and-goal touchdown plunge by Long with 30 seconds left before halftime that trimmed their deficit to 14-12.
On their first possession of the second half, the Cowboys moved the ball to the UL 11 before settling for a 28-yard field goal by Trent Manuel that provided a 15-14 lead.
After a 37-yard kickoff return by Calais and 29 yard rush by McGuire, the Ragin' Cajuns were deep inside McNeese territory at the 25 yard line. Two Darrius Hoggins rushes that totaled 15 yards set up Louisiana with first-and-goal, then two plays later Calais bowled over a McNeese defender to the go-ahead score.