For the second consecutive season, Louisiana Football emerged victorious in its bowl game after it defeated UTSA, 31-24, to claim the 2020 SERVPRO First Responder Bowl title on Saturday afternoon at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
Powered by a stellar performance from the game’s Most Valuable Player, Elijah Mitchell, the No. 19-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns (10-1, 7-1 Sun Belt) locked up their second-straight 10-win season.
Mitchell racked up 127 rushing yards on 19 carries and added a touchdown as part of his MVP performance. The yardage total set the program record for the most rushing yards in a bowl game and was the fourth-most rushing yards in the bowl’s history.
Fellow running back Trey Ragas was also impressive in the win with 98 rushing yards on 14 attempts and his 10th rushing score of the year.
Through the air, quarterback Levi Lewis finished the game with 146 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Jalen Williams and Kyren Lacy. Lewis now sits at third in program history for career passing yards, while Lacy led all Louisiana receivers with four catches for 38 yards.
Defensively, Lorenzo McCaskill tied the program record for the most tackles in a bowl game with 11 against the Roadrunners, his fourth double-digit tackle performance of the season. Ferrod Gardner had another huge day, recording eight tackles, 1.0 sack and a fumble recovery.
Safety Percy Butler notched the team’s other turnover with an interception early in the game, the team’s 16th of the season. With the pick, the team matched its 2009 total of 16 picks.
Louisiana opened the scoring on Saturday when Lewis found Williams for the 15-yard score to cap off an eight-play, 68-yard drive on its opening possession. After Kenneth Almendares added a field goal, UTSA answered when Frank Harris scored from 11 yards out with 4:33 remaining in the half.
Lewis led the Ragin’ Cajuns down the field right before the break, slinging a pass to Lacy in the back of the end zone to put Louisiana up 17-7 at halftime.
It was a dream start to the second half when Gardner scooped up a UTSA fumble, setting up the offense on the Roadrunner three yard line. Mitchell answered on the first play, pounding his way into the end zone from three yards out to extend the lead to 24-7.
UTSA took advantage of turnover and a costly Louisiana penalty on back-to-back drives, scoring two passing touchdowns to pull within 24-21 with 4:09 to play in the third quarter.
After the Roadrunners tied things up with a 20-yard field goal, the Ragin’ Cajuns put together a 12-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off by a powerful one-yard touchdown run by Ragas to push Louisiana back in front 31-24.
Louisiana’s defense came up big at the end of the contest, making a critical stop on fourth down to turn the ball back over to the offense, which successfully milked the clock to secure the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl title.