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NEW ORLEANS – In a contest that featured the second-most plays in college bowl game history and spanned three hours and 47 minutes, it was worth even snap and every second for Jacksonville State University as the Gamecocks posted a 34-31 overtime victory over the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the 23rd annual R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Saturday afternoon at the Caesars Superdome.

With the score knotted at 31-all, and after watching his defense hold the Cajuns scoreless in the opening possession of the extra period, Jax State running back Ron Wiggins carried six consecutive times to get his team down to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 9-yard line. From there, Garrison Rippa nailed a 27-yard field goal to spark the Gamecocks’ celebration.

Playing in its first bowl game since making the leap to NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision status a year ago, Jacksonville State (9-4) piled up 526 yards of total offense on 109 total plays and outgained Louisiana on the ground, 290-92.

Wiggins was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after gaining 126 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries on the ground while pulling down three passes for another 16 yards through the air.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (6-7) used three defensive scores – including a 46-yard fumble return and a 16-yard interception return for touchdown by safety Jalen Clark – to keep things interesting.

Clark’s first score came on the opening drive of the ballgame, and teammate Keyon Martin intercepted a pass on the next possession. Jacksonville State, however, responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that Cole Fuller capped with a one-yard plunge from the upback position to time things at 7-all.

Clark’s pick-six made it 14-7 with 4:22 to play in the first half, but the Gamecocks once again had an answer as they marked 75 yards on 14 plays with Wiggins going to final seven less than four minutes later to make it 14-14 at the break.

Both offenses picked things up in the second half as Rippa booted a 22-yard field goal at the 7:55 mark of the third quarter, UL quarterback Chandler Fields scored a one-yard rushing touchdown, and JSU added a 10-yard scoring run by reserve signal caller Logan Smothers in the third quarter. Following a 33-yard field goal by Kenneth Almendares just 58 seconds into the fourth, the Ragin Cajuns appeared to take control of the contest on 43-yard interception return for touchdown by Tyree Skipper to stake the squad to a 31-24 advantage with just 5:32 to play in regulation.

But as they had done all day, the Gamecocks answered with an eight-play, 70-yard drive that saw Zion Webb hit Perry Carter with a 18-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to tie things up with 1:46 to go and set up the overtime period.

The Cajuns had some opportunities slip through their fingers as Louisiana got as far as the Jax State 44 before a sack pushed them out of potential long field goal range at the end of regulation.

Louisiana also had the ball first in OT, but failed to gain one yard and Almendares’ 43-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.

The overtime was the second in New Orleans Bowl history and first since Southern Miss defeated Troy in 2008.


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