NEW ORLEANS — The Nevada Wolf Pack will have to wonder how the New Orleans Bowl might have been different if not for some untimely mistakes deep in Louisiana-Lafayette territory.
Nevada failed to reach the end zone for the first time in six seasons and lost 16-3 on Saturday. Freshman receiver Wyatt Demps fumbled just inside the Ragin’ Cajuns 10-yard line and later was called for a false start on first-and-goal at the 1.
“It’s missed opportunities,” Nevada coach Brian Polian said. “We get it deep into the red zone twice; we have to settle for three points. The margin of victory against a good team like (Louisiana-Lafayette) and a team that looks like us is very slim. In all those scenarios, we didn’t find a way to make a play, and that’s got to be the next step in our progression.”
Nevada’s defense gave up only one touchdown while forcing four field goal attempts — one of which was missed — but otherwise had a hard time preventing Cajuns quarterback Terrence Broadway from completing passes. ULL had a sizable advantage in yardage (411-213) and time of possession (36:54 to 23:06). Broadway became the first quarterback to complete his first 14 passes in an NCAA Division I bowl game and finished 26 of 31 for 227 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Hunter Stover made a career-long 46-yard field goal in the first half and added kicks of 35 and 30 yards for the Ragin’ Cajuns (9-4), who completed their fourth consecutive nine-victory season with their fourth straight New Orleans Bowl win.
“We put together four quarters of possibly the best football we played this year,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said.
He took great pride in his team winning eight of its last nine games after starting 1-3.
“That shows a lot of determination by these young men,” he said.
Cody Fajardo passed for 124 yards and rushed for 49 more for Nevada (7-6), marking the second time he’d passed for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 in a season.
But the Wolf Pack, who had 200 or more yards rushing in each of their previous five games, gained only 89 yards on the ground against ULL and failed to score a touchdown for the first time since being shut out at Notre Dame in 2009.
“Things just didn’t go our way. We weren’t on the details and we paid for it,” Fajardo said. “To not score a touchdown in your last game is pretty hard for me, knowing that this offense kind of moves the way I move. I put it all on my shoulders.”
Demps’ fumble came early in the second quarter on a hit by Sean Thomas, and the ball was recovered by Cajuns linebacker Dominique Tovell at the 11.
Demps’ false start later in the quarter moved Nevada back to the ULL 6. Then the Cajuns stuffed a running play and forced two incompletions before Nevada settled for a field goal.
Fajardo was 14 of 29, and his incompletions included a pair of key fourth-down passes in the fourth quarter. Both quarterbacks were sacked four times.
Broadway’s fast start helped keep Fajardo on the sideline but didn’t amount to many points.
The Cajuns scored their only touchdown on their opening possession, capped by Broadway’s 17-yard pass to C.J. Bates. Stover’s first field goal was the only other ULL score in the opening half.
Broadway’s first incompletion didn’t come until 44 seconds remained in the first half, when the Cajuns were on the edge of field goal range. But Brock Hekking’s sack of Broadway took ULL out of range, and Broadway’s second incompletion came next as he threw for the end zone as time expired.
Broadway was picked as the game’s most valuable player.
“He’s an athletic guy. He was shifty back there. He made excellent reads and flat out beat us,” Hekking said. “It’s heartbreaking how it didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”