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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

New Orleans Bowl: Jacksonville State 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 31

College Football By BRETT MARTEL
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Zion Webb completed a fourth-down pass to Perry Carter for an 18-yard, tying touchdown with 1:46 left in regulation, Garrison Rippa hit a 27-yard field goal in overtime, and Jacksonville State capped off its first season in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 34-31 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday.

Ron Wiggins rushed for 126 yards and a score for Jacksonville State (9-4), which had to overcome four turnovers — three of which were returned for touchdowns — just to force overtime.

Safety Jalen Clark scored touchdowns on a 46-yard fumble return and a 16-yard interception return for Louisiana-Lafayette (6-7). Fellow safety Tyree Skipper had a 43-yard interception return for a score that gave the Cajuns a 31-24 lead in the fourth quarter.

ULL quarterback Chandler Fields ran for 1-yard TD —- the only time the Cajuns ended an offensive possession in the end zone. Kenneth Almendares added a 33-yard field goal that tied the game at 24 in the fourth quarter.

JSU fullback Cole Fuller ran for short touchdown and Gamecocks reserve quarterback Logan Smothers scrambled for a 10-yard score while sharing snaps with Webb in the second half.

Clark’s fumble return came on Jacksonville State’s opening possession. Carter, the Gamecocks’ leading receiver this season, was stripped by ULL’s Patrick Mensah after catching a screen near midfield.

Jacksonville State’s second possession ended with Keyon Martin’s interception of Webb’s underthrown deep ball. But just when the Cajuns were on the brink of widening their lead, linebacker Quae Drake knocked the ball from Fields’ grasp on a third-down sack and the ball bounded out of field goal range before ULL recovered.

The Gamecocks took over after a punt and drove 75 yards for Cole Fuller’s 1-yard touchdown run, set up by Carter’s catch of a tipped ball as he was hit for a 33-yard gain to the 5-yard line.

Clark’s interception of Webb for a score made it 14-7. Wiggins’ 7-yard touchdown run tied it at 14 shortly before halftime, capping a 14-play, 75-yard drive.

THE TAKEAWAY

Jacksonville State: Because the Gamecocks were in the first season in the top-tier FBS, they would not have been offered a bowl bid if there hadn’t been a shortage of six-win teams to fill all of the bowl spots. The Rich Rodriguez-coached squad proved they belonged, outgaining the seven-time New Orleans Bowl participant 510 yards to 247 in regulation and converting on five of six fourth-down plays.

Louisiana-Lafayette: The Cajuns punted on their first six series and also settled for a field goal after having second and 1 from the JSU 16 — then throwing incomplete passes on second and third down. If not for its defense producing four turnovers and scoring three TDs, ULL might have had trouble staying in the game.

​December 16, 2023




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