How they got here: Louisiana

Published 3:01 pm Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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No. 24 Louisiana (11-1, 8-0 Sun Belt), the winner of four-straight Sun Belt West Division crowns, is in search of its second-straight Sun Belt football title in Saturday’s Hercules Tires Sun Belt Football Championship Game in Lafayette, La. The Ragin’ Cajuns, who have qualified for the championship game in all four years of its existence, lost at App State in 2018 (30-19) and 2019 (45-38).

After a season-opening 38-18 loss to then-No. 19/21 Texas, Louisiana has rattled off a program-best 11-game winning streak to match the most wins in program history.

Louisiana has already secured its third-straight 10-win season and will be bound for a bowl game for the fourth-straight year and for the ninth time in the past 11 seasons.

The Ragin’ Cajuns 11-game winning streak includes non-conference wins over Nicholls, 27-24; Ohio, 49-14; and Liberty, 42-14, and an unblemished 8-0 conference record. Louisiana owns six one-possession wins on the year.

Louisiana clinched bowl eligibility with a 28-27 win at Arkansas State, its place in the championship game with a 21-17 win over Georgia State and hosting rights for the Hercules Tires Sun Belt Football Championship Game for the first time in program history with a 35-21 win at Troy.

The Ragin’ Cajuns have outscored their conference opposition 281-146. Senior quarterback Levi Lewis has thrown for 2,437 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season—with senior wide receiver Peter LeBlanc owning a team-high 350 receiving yards and freshman wide receiver Kyren Lacy pacing the unit with five receiving touchdowns.

The stable of underclassmen running backs redshirt sophomore Chris Smith (878 yards, 8 touchdowns), freshman Montrell Johnson (776, 11 touchdowns) and freshman Emani Bailey (446 yards, 5 touchdowns) have joined Lewis (366 yards, 4 touchdowns) in leading the ground attack.

Defensively, redshirt junior linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill accumulated a team-high 73 tackles, seven tackles for loss and five sacks. Redshirt senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner—with 60 tackles, three tackles for loss and an interception; redshirt senior linebacker Chauncey Manac—with 49 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks; redshirt junior defensive lineman Andre Jones—with 55 tackles, seven tackles for loss and five sacks; Percy Butler—with 55 tackles, six tackles for loss and an interception; and redshirt junior defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill—with 51 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks—were also key contributors.

A win Saturday would give Louisiana its first outright Sun Belt Conference championship and would keep the home team undefeated in the four-year history of the Sun Belt Football Championship Game. The victory would also be the Ragin’ Cajuns third-straight over the Mountaineers and their 12th of the season, establishing a new program record for the most victories in a single season.

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