By Sam Stuve, Sports Director
Iowa State junior linebacker Mike Rose attempts to chase down Louisiana freshman wide receiver Kyren Lacy. Louisiana upset No. 23 Iowa State 31-14 on Sept. 12, 2020 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.
Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletics
Two special teams touchdowns and stellar defensive play in the second half led the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns to upset the 23rd ranked Iowa State Cyclones in Ames on Saturday, 31-14.
In a game played in front of no fans, Iowa State struggled to find a rhythm on offense and had some special teams mishaps.
Louisiana had two touchdowns from its special teams units, one from sophomore running back Chris Smith had a 95-yard kick return for a touchdown and one from junior cornerback Eric Garror had an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“We were out of our coverage range and they have playmakers,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “From my end of it, there’s no excuse….we’ve got the ability to be good on special teams, but today hats off to them because they (Louisiana) made two big plays and they were game-changers.”
Louisiana head coach Billy Napier said, “Both those game-changing plays were well thought out conceptually. We knew exactly what we were doing. Those things were well crafted into our plan and the players went and executed them.
The Cyclones outgained the Ragin’ Cajuns on offense 303 yards to 273, but they were only able to score 14 points.
The Ragin’ Cajuns kept the Cyclones’ offense in check in the second half, limiting them to 99 yards in the second half.
“We got away from the run game a little bit,” Campbell said. “I think negating the running game was really an advantage for them.”
Iowa State only crossed midfield on one drive in the second half, which resulted in a turnover on downs for it.
The turnover battle also didn’t go Iowa State’s way, as they committed two turnovers and Louisiana committed zero.
The Cyclones had to play Saturday’s game without 2019 AP Third Team and Pro Football Focus All-American redshirt junior tight end Charlie Kolar. Kolar missed the game because of a lower-body injury, according to the Des Moines Register.
Louisiana had a chance to score early in the third quarter after a fumble by sophomore running back Breece Hall. However, Louisiana missed a 27-yard field goal wide right.
Iowa State scored first as senior running back Kene Nwangwu broke the scoreless tie with a one-yard rushing touchdown and Iowa State led 7-0 with 4:28 left in the first half.
The Ragin Cajuns quickly tied things up again with a 94-yard kick return by Smith on the ensuing kickoff.
After a confusing spike attempt by senior quarterback Caleb Evans, who muffed the snap and then spiked the ball, Louisiana kicked a field to make it 14-10 Iowa State at halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Iowa State junior quarterback Brock Purdy threw an interception that gave the ball to Louisiana at the Iowa State 14 yard line.
The Iowa State defense held and Louisiana’s junior kicker Nate Snyder missed a 27-yard field goal attempt, his second miss of the game.
On its next possession, Louisiana scored a touchdown on a 78-yard pass from Evans to sophomore wide receiver Peter LeBlanc.
Louisiana extended its lead to 10 in the fourth quarter, after Garror’s punt return for a touchdown.
A three-yard rushing touchdown by redshirt senior Trey Ragas with 10 seconds left sealed Louisiana’s 31-14 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
Iowa State’s junior quarterback Brock Purdy struggled, completing 16 out his 35 pass attempts for 145 passing yards and threw one interception.
“I don’t think I played good at all, I was never in a rhythm,” Purdy said. “I need to do a better job of getting our guys together offensively.”
Iowa State redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trevor Downing went down with an injury late in the second quarter and walked off the field with a limp.
Saturday’s win is only the second time Louisiana has beaten a ranked opponent (beat No. 25 Texas A&M in 1996) and is the first time it has done so on the road.
Louisiana’s secondary didn’t allow Iowa State’s receivers much space (without getting a pass interference call) to make a catch, which hampered Iowa State’s offense.
“That was a huge difference in the second half of the game,” Campbell said.
The Cyclones begin the 2020 season with a 0-1 record.
Redshirt senior defensive back Greg Eisworth said that the loss hurts but that there will be “finger-pointing” and “If everybody improves individually the team will as well.”
Campbell said that he is “not in panic mode.”
Purdy said, “We’ve been through this, we’re going to come back Monday and see what we have to fix.”
The Cyclones next game is on Sept. 26 in Fort Worth, Texas, against the Texas Christian Horned Frogs.