LAFAYETTE – Northwestern State struggled to stop the run for a second straight week as UL Lafayette won 44-17 Saturday at Cajun Field.
Junior running back Elijah McGuire tied the ULL program record with five rushing touchdowns by the middle of the third quarter to highlight a Ragin’ Cajun ground attack that gained 360 yards on 42 carries.
McGuire finished with 162 yards on just 14 carries for an average of 11.6 yards per rush.
The Vandebilt Catholic product scored from seven and 88 yards on ULL’s first two drives to quickly put the Cajuns (1-1) up 14-0 just six minutes into the game.
NSU (0-2) allowed an opponent to run for 350 yards for the second straight week after FCS No. 19 Southeastern compiled 438 rushing yards in a season-opening 34-20 Demons’ loss.
But the Demons remained within relative striking distance for an FCS opponent playing at an FBS opponent until the fourth quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Joel Blumenthal, who started the first two-and-half quarters before J.D. Almond finished the game, helped engineer a heavy NSU rushing attack.
After converting several third-and-mediums, junior running back Chris Jones broke a 41-yard touchdown scamper to slice ULL’s lead to 14-7.
“We hung in there and battled, and I’m so proud of our guys to fight the way they did,” said NSU coach Jay Thomas. “We busted a couple of gaps again and they got big runs … but they’ve also got big offensive linemen and really good backs that made our guys miss a couple times in the gap.
“We left 21 points out there, too (through drops or missed passes). So our offensive is moving forward, and we ran well with the passing game having positives, too.”
McGuire scored two more times in the second quarter on runs of three and 24 yards, respectively, to nudge the Cajuns’ lead to 27-7.
A 48-yard catch by Cody Jones from Blumenthal set up a potential touchdown, but Blumenthal couldn’t hit an open Bobby Chan-Chan in the end zone on third down. Senior kicker Chris Moore made a 21-yard field goal to cut ULL’s lead to 27-10 at the half.
Blumenthal passed for 56 yards on 3-of-5 passing.
NSU began the second half with a Jones fake punt run of 26 yards to put NSU deep within ULL territory, but a sack and a failed fourth-down conversion ended the drive. NSU was 2-of-5 on fourth down.
McGuire punched in his fifth rushing touchdown on the ensuing drive, capping a 78-yard possession as ULL led 34-10 with 6:16 left in the third quarter. ULL had five touchdown drives of at least 69 yards, and five touchdown drives of 3:30 or shorter.
Almond entered the game midway through the third quarter and led NSU on a 75-yard scoring drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jones. Almond threw for 66 yards on 5-of-10 passing that didn’t include at least one drop that would have scored a touchdown.
“We prepare each and every week like we’re going to play, and I did that this week,” Almond said. “It felt good to get in there, and I felt comfortable because the guys I have around me really make that possible.”
Thomas alluded to a former Haughton High School quarterback showdown by saying there’s a “good chance” Almond could start against Mississippi State, who features star quarterback Dak Prescott. That kickoff is Saturday at 3 p.m. in Starkville, Miss.
The Demons sliced the lead to 34-17 late in the third quarter, but ULL officially put the game out of reach with a Torrey Pierce 1-yard touchdown plunge for a 41-17 lead.
NSU rushers Daniel Taylor (60 yards), Chris Jones (57 yards) and De’Mard Llorens (52 yards) led a Demons rushing attack that gained 234 yards on 55 carries. Cody Jones was the leading receiver with two catches for 62 yards.
ULL’s Haack threw for 187 yards on 7-of-8 passing. The Cajuns featured three other 50-yard rushers in Darius Hoggins (58 yards), Pierce (52 yards) and Haack (51 yards).
Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Sports Information