NEW ORLEANS - Junior placekicker Hunter Stover kicked the first field goal of his college career to lift Louisiana-Lafayette to a 24-21 victory over the Green Wave in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Saturday.
Stover's 27-yard kick with 9:58 left helped Louisiana-Lafayette overcome three touchdown runs by Tulane running back Orleans Darkwa at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
ULL opened a 21-0 lead only to see Tulane fight back to tie the game, 21-21, late in the third period. Darkwa had touchdown runs of 1, 7 and 22 yards for Tulane.
But with the Green Wave backed up to their 3-yard line, quarterback Devin Powell was picked off by safety Sean Thomas - his second interception of the game - at the Tulane 26 to set up the winning field goal.
Tulane had one final chance with 1:35 left. Powell completed a 34-yard pass to Justyn Shackleford on a scramble play out of the end zone. Powell followed that up with a 27-yard strike to Ryan Grant on a deep slant to the ULL 34.
Cairo Santos, Tulane's normally reliable placekicker, hooked a 48-yard game-tying attempt wide left with nine seconds left.
Tulane trailed 21-14 late in the third quarter when Broadway was forced out the pocket by a blitz and appeared to be heading out of bounds. But he stopped, and his attempt at a pass seemed to slip from his hand as cornerback Derrick Strozier gathered in an easy interception that he returned to the ULL 17.
After a false start, Darkwa rumbled 22 yards off right tackle for the tying score.
The teams exchanged punts, and Tulane was backed up at its 3-yard line but decided to make something happen. Powell got pressure from defensive end Christian Ringo and threw a weak pass over the middle that was intercepted by safety Sean Thomas at the Tulane 26. A personal foul for a late hit by offensive tackle Todd Jacquet gave ULL a first down at the Green Wave 13.
The Ragin' Cajuns bogged down again, settling for Stover's three-pointer that would prove to be the game-winning play.
The Ragin' Cajuns sprinted to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter on the strength of touchdown runs of 27 yards by freshman running back Elijah McGuire and 15 yards by Alonzo Harris, along with an 82-yard interception return of a Nick Montana pass by cornerback Corey Trim.
The rout appeared to be on, but Tulane coach Curtis Johnson decided to roll the dice on a fourth-and-2 from the Green Wave 48 late in the second quarter.
Instead of dialing up a short pass to move the chains, quarterback Devin Powell hurled one deep to wide receiver Devon Breaux, who adjusted to an underthrown pass for a 41-yard reception that set up Tulane at the ULL 11. Running back Orleans Darkwa got Tulane on the board three plays later from 1 yard.
Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway made a sloppy throw to set up Tulane's second touchdown in less than two minutes. Broadway's underthrown pass was easily picked off by cornerback Jordan Sullen at the Tulane 35, and the Green Wave made it 21-14 with a quick-strike, two-play drive. The big play was Powell's 49-yard bomb to Ryan Grant to the Lafayette 16. After a pass interference call, Darkwa made it 21-14 with a 7-yard run up the middle.
NOTES: The presence of the Ragin' Cajuns in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl the last three seasons enhanced the live gate at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Attendance was 54,728, the largest crowd in the New Orleans Bowl's 13-year history, over 6,000 more than last season's impressive 48,828. At least 90 percent were Louisiana-Lafayette fans, even though Tulane was playing in its home stadium. ... Tulane played its final game in the Superdome and will move to a 30,000-seat on-campus outdoor stadium next season. Coach Curtis Johnson has not decided yet whether the Green Wave will play day or night games. ... The two schools are just 136 miles apart. They have 108 players from Louisiana on their rosters.