Louisiana scored 20 fourth-quarter points, including rushing touchdowns by Montrell Johnson and Emani Bailey inside the final four minutes, as the 23rd-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns rallied to defeat Marshall, 36-21, in the 2021 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Saturday night in the Caesars Superdome.
Quarterback Levi Lewis was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after completing 19-of-31 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown while rushing 12 times for another 74 yards.
The contest marked just the third time in New Orleans Bowl history that a team rallied from behind in the fourth quarter and Louisiana's point total in the final 15 minutes was the most since the bowl's inception in 2001.
Trailing 21-16 following a nine-yard scoring jaunt by Marshall running back Rahseen Ali with 1:01 to play in the third quarter, the Cajuns (13-1) started the comeback with 11:54 to play and drove 68 yards on eight plays - which Bailey capped with a 4-yard touchdown - to take a one-point lead. Louisiana failed to convert the two-point try, but was far from finished as the Ragin’ Cajuns followed with drives of 73 yards on six plays and a 52-yard drive on six plays to account for the final score.
Not to be outdone, the UL defense rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter as the Sun Belt Conference champions held the Thundering Herd to 5 yards of total offense during the final 15 minutes.
The Cajuns finished the day with 220 yards rushing, with Bailey leading the way with 94 yards and a pair of scores on 17 attempts. Dontae Fleming paced the UL receiving corps with four grabs while Michael Jefferson tallied a game-high 108 yards receiving, setting a New Orleans Bowl record with an average of 36 yards per reception.
Louisiana got things going early on, taking the opening kickoff and driving 81 yards on 13 plays with Lewis finding Kyren Lacy for a 9-yard scoring strike to grab the early lead. Following a three-and-out by the Marshall offense, the Ragin’ Cajuns extended their lead on a 42-yard field goal by Nate Snyder to go on top, 10-0, with 1:29 to play in the first quarter.
Three plays later, however, Marshall (7-6) got on the board on a 63-yard touchdown run by Ali and the Herd back added a 14-yard scoring run to take a 14-10 lead with 10:32 to play in the second quarter.
The Ragin’ Cajuns cut the deficit to one on a 25-yard boot by Snyder and closed out the half with another Snyder kick - this time from 24 yards out - to take a 16-14 lead into halftime.
Marshall reclaimed the upper hand midway through the third when Ali scored from 9 yards out to set up the Cajuns' fourth-quarter onslaught.
Ali's three scores tied a New Orleans Bowl record for rushing touchdowns as he finished the night with 160 yards, third-most in the game’s history, on 20 carries. Wells went 15-for-26 for 99 yards, and Gammage led the Herd with nine catches for 50 yards.
Lorenzo McCaskill and Kam Pedescleaux paced the Louisiana defense with six tackles each while Andre Jones had a sack among two tackles for loss. Cajuns defensive back Bralen Trahan posted the game's lone turnover with an interception 56 seconds into the fourth quarter to set up the Louisiana rally.
Marshall safety Brandon Drayton led all players with 10 tackles, including eight solo stops, as did defensive end Owen Porter with four tackles for loss, which tied a Herd bowl record.