BOCA RATON, Fla. — Terrance Broadway and Alonzo Harris combined for 250 rushing yards rushing and the Louisiana-Lafayette defense forced three turnovers to close the regular season with a 35-21 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, bound for the New Orleans Bowl for the second straight season, clinched a tie for second place in the Sun Belt Conference standings.
Now they can gear up for East Carolina.
ECU accepted an invitation Saturday to meet ULL for the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 22 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The invitation went out to the Pirates (8-4, 7-1 Conference USA) after Tulsa’s overtime victory over Central Florida in the Conference USA title game Saturday.
East Carolina has won five of its last six games, but lost out in tiebreaker with Central Florida for Conference USA’s East Division crown.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt) are the reigning New Orleans Bowl champions, having clinched their second straight eight-win season with Saturday’s win at FAU.
Louisiana-Lafayette accepted its bowl invitation after beating South Alabama last week.
The Cajuns then followed with a turnover-free win over FAU (3-9, 2-6).
“I thought this was a pretty complete game,” ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said. “We started a little slow on defense, but once we got going, we put things together. We had a good week of practice and have been playing real well over the last month, so this was another good performance.”
Despite allowing 528 yards of offense, the Cajuns’ approach worked. ULL had three takeaways (two interceptions, one fumble recovery) and forced FAU to attempt two long field goals — one of which was blocked.
The Cajuns also stopped FAU on three fourth-down attempts.
Meanwhile, ULL amassed 284 rushing yards on 50 carries, with Harris picking up 127 yards and a career-best three touchdowns on 21 attempts.
Broadway, the quarterback and Capitol High graduate, ran 15 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 13 of 19 passes for 168 yards and a score.
Graham Wilbert led the Owls, completing 25 of 38 passes for 379 yards and two touchdowns. Jonathan Wallace rushed 18 times for 86 yards and a score.
“We tipped the game in our favor in the second quarter with our running game,” Hudspeth said. “We got them tired and they couldn’t recover. We didn’t do anything fancy but run at them and use our strength and quickness, and it was effective.”
It took the Cajuns just two plays and 74 seconds to open the scoring when Broadway kept the ball around the right end on a keep and rambled 77 yards for the touchdown to give ULL a 7-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived, as Florida Atlantic struck back on its first play from scrimmage when Wilbert found William Dukes open down the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown to even the score at 7.
The game settled down after that. FAU took a 14-7 lead with 37 seconds left in the quarter on a Jonathan Wallace 11-yard run. The score capped a 13-play, 95-yard drive that lasted 4:51.
The Cajuns fought back, using the ground game to post a pair of touchdowns to give themselves a 21-14 lead at halftime.
Alonzo Harris evened the score at 14 when he bulled his way into the end zone from 9 yards out with 6:33 left.
Sean Thomas turned in the first big defensive play of the game, intercepting a Wilbert pass to stop an Owl scoring drive inside the 10.
The Cajuns took advantage of the break, driving 96 yards in 15 plays to take the lead on a 15-yard pass from Broadway to James Butler with 35 seconds left in the first half.
ULL used a strong ground attack to take a 28-14 lead in the third quarter.
FAU opened the scoring in the fourth quarter when Wilbert found Dukes on a cross pattern for a 42-yard touchdown that brought the Owls to within 28-21 with 13:16 left.
It was the ninth catch of the game for Dukes, who finished with 204 yards receiving.
The Cajuns made another big play when Cordian Hagans recovered an FAU fumble, allowing Harris to score his career-best third touchdown on a 2-yard run to put ULL ahead 35-21 with 7:06 remaining.