Louisiana-Lafayette falls to Arizona 45-37

Louisiana-Lafayette already has its first bowl invitation in 41

years. The Ragin’ Cajuns came close to knocking off a Pac-12 team,

too.

The visitors from the Sun Belt Conference rolled up 409 yards

but couldn’t stop the passing game of Nick Foles in a 45-37 loss to

Arizona on Saturday.

Foles, whose status for the game had been uncertain because of

bruised ribs, threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, two of them

late in the first half to put Arizona up 21-13 after the Cajuns had

taken leads of 7-0 and 13-7.

”They were very deflating,” Louisiana quarterback Blaine

Gautier said. ”I feel we have a great team, we could have done

some things better that first half that definitely wouldn’t have

put us in that hole.”

Foles tied the school career and single-season records for

touchdown passes in the game. He already held virtually all other

passing records at the school. Foles also topped 4,000 yards

passing for the season and 10,000 for his career.

”The quarterback, he reads good,” Cajuns cornerback Jemarious

Moten said. ”He slowed the game down, he speeded it up when they

got the momentum; the quarterback is pretty good.”

Moten got the best of Foles once, picking off a pass and

returning it 41 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

It was the seventh ”pick six” of the season for

Louisiana-Lafayette, tying an NCAA record set by Tennessee in

1971.

Foles was injured late in last week’s 31-27 victory at Arizona

State and his status for Saturday’s finale was uncertain all week,

to everyone except him.

”I knew this was going to be my last one,” he said, ”so no

matter what it was, I was going to gut it out and get the `W.’ It’s

pretty sore, I’m not going to lie, but it was worth all the

pain.”

Juron Criner caught nine passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns

for the Wildcats (4-8), breaking the school career record for TD

receptions at 32, a mark that had stood for 36 years.

Gautier threw for 315 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score

for the Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4), who cut the Arizona lead to eight

points three times in the fourth quarter.

”We still continued to fight, as we always do,” Gautier said.

”We’re a four-quarter team. We continue to battle. It’s very

unfortunate to come out of here with the loss.”

Gautier tied Jake Delhomme’s school record of touchdown passes

in a season at 20. Lavon Lawson caught five passes for 137 yards

for the Cajuns.

The Cajuns of the Sun Belt Conference accepted a bid to the New

Orleans Bowl on Monday, their first postseason appearance in 41

years. A first victory over a Pac-12 team would have been a nice

addition to that accomplishment.

”Just too many mistakes,” Louisiana coach Mark Hudspeth said.

”Penalties absolutely killed us, 10 to their three. I’m totally

shocked they only had three and totally shocked we had 10.”

Arizona (4-8) finished 3-3 under Kish after Mike Stoops was

fired halfway through the season.

”Seven weeks ago, we were a hundred individuals that were

confused, distraught, unsure, and it was not a football team at

that point,” Kish said. ”To battle through that situation where

we were at that particular time, at the end of the day, at the end

of the season, those 100 individuals became a team.”

New coach Rich Rodriguez visited with tailgaters before the game

and was introduced to the crowd at halftime.

Louisiana-Lafayette, 0-4 against Pac-12 teams, pulled within one

possession for the final time when Gauthier scored on a 10-yard

quarterback draw with 5:05 to play. But the Cajuns never got the

ball again as Arizona moved downfield and ran out the clock.

Moten’s TD return, on his second interception of the day, cut

Arizona’s lead to 31-23, but the Wildcats’ Daniel Jenkins returned

the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the Louisiana 2. Two plays later,

Keola Antolin scored on a 5-yard run to make it 38-23 with 13:28

left.

Again the Ragin’ Cajuns came back, going 71 yards in 10 plays,

with Alonzo Harris scoring on a 5-yard run to cut it to 38-30 with

10:26 still to go.

Foles’ 35-yard pass to Criner at the 6:08 mark boosted the lead

to 45-30.

The Cajuns used a fake punt and an onside kick in the first

half, both of them successful, to take leads of 7-0 and 13-7.

Gautier’s 40-yard pass to Lawson set up Harry Peoples’ 11-yard

TD run to make it 7-0. Foles came on for Arizona’s second series

and directed a 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive, with fullback Taimi

Tutogi bulling in from the 1 on fourth down to tie it at 7-7.

After the kickoff, Louisiana-Lafayette faked a punt on

fourth-and-11 from its 40, with punter Brett Baer throwing 13 yards

to the Arizona 47. Ladarius Green’s 20-yard run on a reverse set up

Gautier’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Harris. Baer’s conversion

try bounced off the right upright and was no good, so the Ragin’

Cajuns led 13-7 with 9:14 left in the half.

Foles threw two touchdown passes in a span of two minutes, 39

seconds late in the half to put Arizona up 21-13 at the break.