No. 16 La.-Lafayette tops UTSA 31-24 in First Responder Bowl

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DALLAS — Louisiana-Lafayette’s seemingly comfortable 17-point lead over UTSA disappeared during the second half of the First Responder Bowl.

The Ragin’ Cajuns responded with a time-consuming winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and a critical defensive stop in a finish reminiscent of their entire season.

Trey Ragas scored on a 1-yard plunge with 7:16 left and No. 16 Louisiana-Lafayette drove 72 yards in 12 plays to beat UTSA 31-24 on Saturday at SMU’s Ford Stadium.

“We made it entertaining again,” Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier said. “We didn’t have any panic, had great poise. Certainly could have played better in some areas. This group – when it counts, we’ve put some things together.”

Louisiana-Lafayette (10-1) finished with double-digit wins for the second straight year after never previously doing so and came from behind to win six times this season. Napier said there was no need for talk on Saturday after the 17-point lead disappeared.

“It’s too late to have a rah-rah speech,” he said. “At that point you’ve either got the ownership, the character to regroup and make adjustments to compete and play through the ups and downs of the game or you don’t.”

UTSA associate head coach/offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. directed the Roadrunners after first-year coach Jeff Traylor twice tested positive for COVID-19 this week and didn’t accompany the team.

“It could have easily gotten out of hand,” Lunney said “Our guys came to life and turned the tide. We just couldn’t finish the game. We did just enough in all three phases to lose the game, but we also did just enough in all three phases to be in the game.”

Lunney said 15-20 other team members, including assistant coaches and players, also didn’t make the trip.

Levi Lewis passed for 146 yards and first-half touchdowns of 15 and 10 yards for Louisiana-Lafayette. Elijah Mitchell added a 3-yard touchdown run, and Kenneth Almendares kicked a 31-yard field goal, The Ragin’ Cajuns won their seventh straight game following a loss to Coastal Carolina in mid-October.

Mitchell ran for 127 yards after averaging 83.4 per game during the season as Louisiana-Lafayette rushed for 265 yards.

“It started off with the offensive line,” Mitchell said. “We go at it during practice, and we just try to move it onto the (game) field.”

Frank Harris had touchdown passes of 29 yards and 10 yards among his 208 yards and an 11-yard scoring run for the Roadrunners. Hunter Duplessis kicked a 20-yard field goal that tied with 13:32 left.

UTSA outgained Louisiana-Lafayette 431 yards to 411, had two turnovers to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ one and missed a field goal attempt. Harris bemoaned his interception on UTSA’s opening possession and a wayward backward pass deep in Roadrunners territory in the first minute of the third quarter that was ruled a fumble, recovered by Louisiana-Lafayette on UTSA’s 3-yard line.

“We had a lot of self-inflected wounds,” Harris said. “Like my interception and then the one I threw that ended up being a fumble. We just can’t do that.”


Lunney said not having Traylor on the sideline provided extra motivation for the Roadrunners.

“You see a team that loves their head coach, appreciates what he’s brought to the table,” Lunney said. “During the course of the week, once we found out Coach wasn’t going to be with us that the players certainly wanted to make him proud.”


Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns, co-champions of the Sun Belt Conference with Coastal Carolina, will finish as a ranked team for the first time, having moved the FBS in 1982.

UTSA: The Roadrunners, playing in the program’s second bowl, fell short of compiling the first four-game winning streak in the program’s nine-year history.

Alabama suspends freshman defensive back after drug arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama freshman defensive back Tony Mitchell has been suspended from the team following his arrest on a drug charge.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday after the first practice of spring that Mitchell was suspended from the team “and all team activities until we gather more information about the situation and what his legal circumstance is.”

The Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrested Mitchell and another man, Christophere Lewis, last week on a charge of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page. Lewis also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.

“Everybody’s got an opportunity to make choices and decisions,” Saban said. “There’s no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You’ve gotta be responsible for who you’re with, who you’re around and what you do, who you associate yourself with and the situations that you put yourself in. It is what it is, but there is cause and effect when you make choices and decisions that put you in bad situations.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a five-star prospect rated the 34th-best player and No. 3 safety in the 247Composite rankings.

Mitchell was driving the vehicle during a traffic stop. After deputies smelled marijuana, Mitchell picked up a baggie of marijuana from the passenger floorboard, according to the department’s Facebook post.

Sheriff’s deputies found “an additional significant amount of marijuana, a set of scales, a loaded handgun between the passenger seat and center console, and a large amount of cash,” according to the department’s Facebook post.

Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey suspended after arrest

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey was suspended from the team after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the team said.

The 23-year-old, who was a team captain last season, was booked at about 2:45 a.m. and released after posting $500 bond, according to online records from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are aware of the situation involving Chad Bailey,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s been suspended according to Department of Athletics policy. We have high expectations for all of our student-athletes, on and off the field, and we will follow all departmental and campus policies.”

Bailey was Mizzou’s third-leading tackler with 57 stops last season. He started all 11 games he played, missing two with an injury. He’ll be a sixth-year senior this fall after opting to return for his final year of eligibility, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Missouri student-athlete handbook says any athlete who is arrested must serve a minimum one-week suspension.

Bailey was pulled over at about 1 a.m. not far from the Columbia campus for an expired license plate and lane violation, a police statement said. Bailey told the officer he had consumed alcohol and then performed poorly on a field sobriety test, the Post-Dispatch reported.