- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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That's as good as it gets during bowl season. Dramatic comebacks from both teams and a final-second field goal blew the roof off the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans as the Ragin' Cajuns gutted out the victory. Here's how it all went down:
Turning point (1): With 1:40 remaining, on fourth-and-2 from his own 39-yard line, SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley threw an incomplete pass, but pass interference kept the drive alive, and nine plays later, Lindley connected with Colin Lockett on a 12-yard touchdown pass to put the Aztecs ahead with 35 seconds to play. Game over, right?
Turning point (2): The failed two-point conversion left ULL with a small window of hope. Quarterback Blaine Gautier moved his team from the 18 to the SDSU 43, setting up a 55-yard game-winning field goal attempt from Brett Baer. But a defensive penalty moved the kick from 55 to 50 yards, and Baer drilled it as time expired. Now, it's game over.
Stat of the game: Ronnie Hillman's 55 yards. The Ragin' Cajuns were determined to make sure the San Diego State running back wasn't the deciding factor. They kept Hillman, who entered averaging 138 yards per game, to just 32 yards in the first half and just 2.3 yards per carry for the game.
Player of the game: Gautier was beat up, bruised, battered and smacked around all game. But he hung in there and took every shot -- passing for 469 yards and three touchdowns. He was poised on third downs and calm on the game-winning drive.
Unsung hero of the game: Darryl Surgent had only three catches for ULL, but he came up big in the fourth quarter with a 56-yard reception and a total of three catches for 92 yards -- an average of 30.7 yards per catch. Oh yeah, he also had that 87-yard punt return for a touchdown.
What it means: Preseason predictions be damned. The Ragin' Cajuns were picked to finish last in the Sun Belt conference, and some publications had ULL ranked 120th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. But a 9-4 record, capped by a victory over a team that will eventually play in the Big East, is a significant accomplishment for this program.
2hSam Khan Jr.
1dMax Olson and Jake Trotter