by CFP Staff
December 18, 2011
The opening day of the 2011 college football bowl season started with a thud but went out with a bang.
The New Mexico Bowl kicked off a Saturday triple-header with a lopsided 37-15 Temple win over Wyoming. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl followed with an exciting last-second 24-23 win by Ohio over Utah State on a 1-yard TD run with 13 seconds left in the game.
But the New Orleans Bowl capped off the day in grand style as Brett Baer's 50-yard field as time expired lifted the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns over San Diego State 32-30. It was the exclamation point on a final 35 seconds that produced 10 points and two lead changes.
Just 30 seconds earlier, San Diego State had taken its first and only lead of the game on Ryan Lindley's 12-yard touchdown pass to Colin Lockett. But Ragin' Cajun QB Blaine Gautier led his team from its own 18-yard line to the Aztec 38 where they were set to try a 55-yard boot.
The kick became a little easier when San Diego State was penalized 5 yards for "illegal stemming" (making motions and actions to cause the offense to move). The 50-yarder squeezed past the left upright and probably would have been good from 55 or slightly longer.
The partisan Louisiana crowd at the Superdome rode a roller coaster of emotions in the final minute, as did the Aztecs' sideline. When SDSU finally grabbed its first lead, it looked as though its comeback from a 19-3 deficit was complete.
Gautier had different plans. His Louisiana receivers had been making spectacular and acrobatic catches all night. With no timeouts left, Gautier needed just 3 completions to work his team into questionable field goal range.
Gautier finished the night with 470 yards and 3 touchdowns. Javone Lawson caught 9 balls for 193 yards and 2 scores and Ladarius Green had 5 catches for 121 yards and a TD.
It was Louisiana-Lafayette's first-ever FBS bowl appearance and came in Mark Hudspeth's first season as head coach. The final 9-4 record represents the school's most single-season wins since 1970.
Virtually every preseason prognosticator had them finishing last in the Sun Belt, but they wound up just 2 games out of first with a 6-2 conference mark that trailed equally surprising Western Kentucky (7-5, 7-1) and outright champion Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0).
San Diego State dropped to 2-5 all-time in bowl games. Last year's victory over Navy in its hometown Poinsettia Bowl was its first bowl win since 1969. This was the first time the Aztecs were ever making back-to-back bowl appearances. The Aztecs defeated Navy last year in their hometown Poinsettia Bowl.
Making SDSU’s two-bowl appearance streak more amazing is that they accomplished it with two different head coaches. Brady Hoke led the team to a 9-4 record last year, and Rocky Long would have equaled that mark with a victory in this game. San Diego State was projected to finish 9-3 by the preseason Congrove Computer Rankings.
The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl set a new attendance record with 42,841 fans on hand, besting last year's attendance by 46 percent.
86.7% of CollegeFootballPoll.com voters picked San Diego State to win this game and the Congrove Computer Rankings had the Aztecs tabbed as the projected victor by 9.46 points.