2011 New Orleans
- That was the ultimate adrenaline kick. Brett Baer was helped by the San Diego State penalty to make it a 50-yarder, but he put a charge into the game-winner.
- It'll be forgotten about, but Baer also put three punts inside the 20 including back-to-back kicks on the one.
- To go along with a missed extra point and a blocked one.
- But that was nothing compared to Abelardo Perez's brutal shank that forced San Diego State to keep pressing.
- It's this simple: San Diego State's First Team All-Mountain West corners – Leon McFadden and Larry Parker – were abused by ULL's Javone Lawson and Ladarius Green. Lawson made a few special plays and Green was a mismatch nightmare.
- Blaine Gautier was fantastic, throwing for 470 yards and two scores, but Green and Lawson were fighting for those passes. Hard.
- The Aztecs are going to be kicking themselves for an entire offseason, and for the seniors, this will be haunting for a lifetime. The secondary was torched for 491 yards, the offensive line didn't generate any sort of a push to get Ronnie Hillman going, and Ryan Lindley air mailed too many easy throws.
- However, Lindley did what he needed to get the team in a position to win. With Hillman too hesitant and getting drilled, Lindley rallied back only to see his defense go into the tank.
- Just when it seemed like Lindley was putting on a highlight reel for the NFL scouts – hitting on a few brilliant passes to covered receivers – he's fire out a fastball to screw things up. Even so, he threw for 413 yards and three scores. The loss was hardly his fault.
- This game is why it's so hard to predict bowl games. You can't account for the coaching staffs that pull out all the stops. Even harder, you can't account for when over-aggressive decisions work. Mark Hudspeth and the Ragin' Cajuns played this game to win and didn't hold back a thing.
If you can contain San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman, one of the nation's top rushers, you've done a full night's work. Louisiana-Lafayette, spearheaded by an undersized, speedy and attacking D, did just that in the Superdome. Coordinator Greg Stewart deserves a ton of credit for having his kids well-prepared for a balanced and quality opponent.
Talk about ironic. Louisiana-Lafayette wins a thriller, its first-ever bowl game, on a last-second field goal after leaving special teams points on the field throughout the night.
For those of you who rip the college postseason because of its number of so-called meaningless games, did you watch this one until Brett Baer propelled a walk-off 50-yarder through the uprights? Do you realize what this first bowl victory means to the Ragin' Cajuns program? Every bowl game has some beauty if you look hard enough.
Ragin' Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth has thrust himself into the consciousness of athletic directors across America with his performance as a first-year head coach. He'll be back in Lafayette in 2012, but will be tough to retain for much longer if he delivers a repeat of 2011.
Maybe Aztecs QB Ryan Lindley didn't hurt his NFL Draft grade on Saturday night, but he probably didn't improve it either. While the senior threw for a ton of yards, and fueled a late comeback without help from Hillman, he also made a lot of poor throws and decisions versus marginal competition. Call it a push for No. 14.
By Matt Zemek
-- It's late at night. A lot of heads are spinning over the "illegal stemming" penalty called on the San Diego State Aztecs at the end of a clinically insane New Orleans Bowl. We'll keep the points short and sweet so you can wrap your mind around the speech-robbing finish in the Louisiana Superdome. First, the game-winning kick by Louisiana-Lafayette's Brett Baer probably would have been good from 55 yards. Second, the penalty still gave the struggling placekicker (but superb punter) the small extra dose of confidence he needed to deliver an accurate boot. Baer was short on a 49-yard attempt in the third quarter which was wiped out by a false start penalty by his ULL teammates. Baer couldn't have been optimistic about his chances when he prepared to hit a 55-yard kick. The SDSU penalty didn't just improve Louisiana-Lafayette's field position; it gave the Ragin' Cajuns and their kicker the hope that a different outcome could and would be created.
-- Other points to ponder: After seeing Penn Wagers and his crew completely embarrass the officiating profession in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, it was refreshing to see Randy Christal's Big 12 crew do such a magnificent job in this game. The crew and the replay booth handled a lot of difficult calls with accuracy, speed and skill, plus a lack of the utter confusion which derailed and befuddled Mr. Wagers and Company in Boise. The late pass interference call on Louisiana-Lafayette (on SDSU's go-ahead drive in the final minute) was highly questionable, but on balance, this group of officials did a wonderful job. Meanwhile, Mr. Wagers needs to be a Sun Belt ref next season. He should not be handling SEC games at this point in his career.
-- If San Diego State offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig had accounted for Louisiana-Lafayette's concerted attempt to load the box and play the run, the Aztecs just might have scored more points. SDSU could have thrown the ball 273 times on Saturday night, and the Cajuns STILL wouldn't have laid a glove on Aztec quarterback Ryan Lindley, who perpetually had all day to throw the ball downfield.
-- ULL head coach Mark Hudspeth made a curious decision to kick a field goal on 4th and 3 from the SDSU 31 in the third quarter following the use of a timeout. He also mismanaged the final half-minute of the first half. However, aside from those two missteps, the first-year coach of the Ragin' Cajuns did a marvelous job in the New Orleans Bowl. He coached boldly, faking a punt and gaining a first down in the process. He and his staff relentlessly attacked San Diego State's thin secondary with vertical passes, continuously prying open opportunities for big gainers. Louisiana-Lafayette was properly motivated and prepared, showing why Hudspeth should become a highly-sought coach in the near future.
-- It sure feels as though San Diego State won't maintain its Brady Hoke level of excellence once Ryan Lindley and Ronnie Hillman leave. The Aztecs were flat in the first half, inconsistent throughout the evening, outplayed for most of the proceedings, physically matched by a Sun Belt foe, and ultimately beaten by a self-inflicted wound. This can't inspire much long-term confidence on the Montezuma Mesa.
-- Temple won its second bowl game on Saturday. Ohio won its first. Louisiana-Lafayette won its first. Three cheers for three programs who enjoyed a rare but well-deserved day in the sun. This can be said because the Owls, Bobcats and Cajuns all EARNED bowl bids by producing these things called… wait for it… winning records. There ARE too many bowls, but again, it's the bowls with 6-6 or 6-7 teams that shouldn't exist. Don't count the New Orleans Bowl as an example.
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- What a start to the bowl games. It all started with the clunker of a New Mexico Bowl, but that two night caps have lived up to the billing and then some. It looked like San Diego State was going to pull an Ohio University in the N'Awlins Bowl and steal defeat at the end. Instead, a boneheaded penalty aided in a 50-yarder sailing through the uprights as time expired. There couldn't have been more drama down on Bourbon Street.
- Speaking of which, why all the fuss about too many bowls? Do all of those people so salty about thirty-five bowls, do you like football? Good. Thirty-five bowls means more football. Just thought I'd throw that out there. By the way, if you watched both the New Orleans Bowl, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (I feel like I do when ordering a Starbucks with extras when reading off some of these names), then you not only saw football, but very entertaining football.
- On that same note--why isn't there as much vitriol against the NCAA tournament and the sixty-eight teams that get in. It has play-in games, and several "meaningless" games when a 16 seed meets a 1 seed. Yet, we all sit googly-eyed to watch more basketball. And yes, mediocre teams make the field just like mediocre football teams make a bowl game.
- Where did this aerial assault come from from the Ragin' Cajuns? Certainly Louisiana-Lafayette is above average in racking up air miles, but it stepped up to first class for a game by throwing for 491 yards. That's a way out of-whack stat, and against an Aztec pass defense that has not been that bad this year at all. Kudos to Blaine Guitier for cooking up 469 of those spicy yards in the Big Easy to shatter his career high.
- Do you think the Big East and the Mountain West/Conference USA might want to re-consider their proposed directions yet? These conferences are not getting off to a good start and there have only been three games played. Temple smacked around MWC member Wyoming, and the Aztecs who are being air-lifted to the Big East can't beat the third place team out of the Sun Belt Conference. Now about that much sought after automatic BCS bid down the road....
- This game had to feel like redemption for a Louisiana-Lafayette team that had limped to the finish line. As the saying goes: Bowl games give a lot of teams a chance to feel good about themselves at the end of a season. And so it must be for a Ragin' Cajun crew that lost three of their last five coming in. Now the bus is all warm and some gumbo on the stove for a victorious arrival on campus.
- Are the Aztecs on the verge of going south? Brady Hoke is gone, their senior QB is graduating, a new league awaits, and about half of SDSU's wins came at the expense of some heart defibrillators. It'll take a monumental effort to continue momentum into next year and beyond.
- Memo to San Diego State: Remember how long the flight was to New Orleans? Keep that filed away for the future trips across the continent when Big East play begins. Is it too late to re-locate the campus?
- Congrats to Louisiana-Lafayette on its first bowl win as an FBS school.
By Phil Harrison