NEW ORLEANS — The first half’s final play had to feel like déjà vu for Louisiana-Lafayette senior kicker Brett Baer.
Baer won last year’s New Orleans Bowl with a 50-yard field goal as time expired, clinching a 32-30 win over San Diego State. On Saturday, with four seconds left — the same amount of time that was displayed before last year’s winner — there was Baer again, lined up for another 50-yarder aimed at the same goal posts.
Just like last year, the kick sailed through the Poydras Street-end uprights, giving the Cajuns a 31-21 halftime lead.
“This time, it was closer to the other hash,” said Baer, who made two more field goals in the game’s final four minutes to ensure the 43-34 victory. “I try to go into every field goal thinking the same thing. But I knew if I could make one more field goal in my career, it would ice a win for us.”
Baer’s three field goals made him the most accurate field-goal kicker in Football Bowl Subdivision history among players with 50 or more attempts. The Brandon, Miss., native finished his senior year 20-for-23 on field goals and capped his career at 45-of-50. That 90.0 percentage is better than the listed record of 89.5 percent set by Nebraska’s Alex Henery (68-of-76 from 2007-10). The official NCAA record requires 55 attempts.
ULL coach Mark Hudspeth vowed senior quarterback Blaine Gautier would play in this year’s New Orleans Bowl, and he did just that midway through Saturday’s second quarter.
Gautier, the MVP in last year’s game when he threw for a bowl-record 470 yards and three scores, replaced Terrance Broadway with 8:57 left in the period and ULL pinned at its 2-yard line.
He promptly guided the Cajuns on a 98-yard scoring drive, the last 68 coming on Alonzo Harris’ 68-yard touchdown run.
Gautier had a 16-yard run and completed an 8-yard pass to Bradley Brown before the score, which ended ULL’s second-longest march of the season. The Cajuns had a 99-yard TD drive against UL-Monroe in a 40-24 victory in November.
East Carolina twice declined to go for it on fourth-and-less-than-a-yard in the first quarter. On both occasions, ULL drove for touchdowns after the punt.
“We were a little too far back (at his team’s 34- and 27-yard lines),” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. “Normally I don’t mind going for it, but I had to do what was right at the time.”
The Pirates came into the game ranked fourth nationally in fourth-down conversions (10-of-13, 76.9 percent). They were 1-of-2 in the fourth quarter.
Officials for the bowl were assigned by the WAC, which will not have football next season. It was a homecoming of sorts with Clair Gausman serving as referee; he’s the father of former LSU pitching standout Kevin Gausman.
Sun Belt teams are 7-5 in the New Orleans Bowl and have won the past four. ... East Carolina running backs coach/special teams coordinator Kirk Doll is now 1-1 in Superdome bowl games. Doll was an assistant at LSU in 2003, when the Tigers defeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl for the BCS title. ... ECU has lost four straight bowl games and six of seven. … Harris set the bowl record for longest rush with his 68-yard second-quarter touchdown run. … ULL used the same uniform combination that it had in last year’s New Orleans Bowl, with the only exception an extra white stripe in the middle of its red helmet.
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