Breaking down the numbers that mattered in Louisiana-Lafayette's dramatic 32-30 win over San Diego State in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
1,049: Combined yards gained by the two teams. Considering that, it is a bit surprising that they scored only 62 points. But both teams left points on the board; San Diego State's Dey Juan Hemmings picked off ULL's Blaine Gautier at the Aztecs' four-yard line in the second quarter, the Ragin' Cajuns missed two extra points, SDSU's Abelardo Perez missed a 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, and the Aztecs very nearly completed a two-point conversion when they scored with 35 seconds remaining in the game. Whoever lost this game (i.e. whoever didn't get the ball last) was going to be left with some serious what-ifs.
79: Ryan Lindley's third-down completion rate. Louisiana-Lafayette did a spectacular job of leveraging the Aztecs into passing downs, completely erasing Ronnie Hillman in the first half and consistently forcing third downs. Lindley completed just 17 of 35 passes on first and second downs, but he consistently made the play on third downs: he completed 11 of 14 third-down heaves for 169 yards. And though there were some drops, Lindley's oft-iffy receiving corps made some big plays; Dylan Denso led the way by catching five of eight passes for 109 yards, and what Colin Lockett lacked in consistency (only six catches on 13 targets), he made up for with timing: his six catches went for 84 yards and three touchdowns.
74: Fourth-quarter receiving yards pulled in by ULL receiver Javone Lawson. He caught four of five passes, and they couldn't have been bigger. Second-and-10 from the SDSU 11: 11-yard touchdown. Third-and-17 from the SDSU 27: 24 yards. First-and-10 from the ULL 18 with 35 seconds left: 13 yards, then 26 yards on the next play. Lawson and Darryl Surgent faced off against an awesome pair of Aztec cornerbacks (Larry Parker and Leon McFadden) and came away with 12 catches and 286 yards in 18 targets. Parker and McFadden managed to break up four passes along the way, but ... scoreboard. (Credit also goes to Blaine Gautier for being on the field to throw the passes to these two. He left the field with injury twice in the fourth quarter, then limped back on to make the big passes. He was never sacked and only officially faced two quarterback hurries, but he seemingly got lit up on every pass in the second half.)
55: Ronnie Hillman rushing yards. The Ragin' Cajuns focused virtually all of their defense on stopping Hillman, and it worked. Hillman averaged just 2.3 yards per carry, his worst average of the season and second-worst of his career. ULL's rushing success cane at the expense of pass defense, of course -- Lindley consistently burned them through the air (and to his credit, Hillman had four receptions for 49 yards, meaning he still produced over 100 yards from scrimmage), but the Cajuns showed some serious effort and pursuit in taking the Aztecs out of their gameplan in the first half.
7.6: Average yards per play gained by San Diego State over their last six drives. The Aztecs gained just 200 yards in 43 plays (4.7 per play) and scored just three points over their first five drives. But when they basically gave up on the run, their prospects improved. Coach Rocky Long took the ball out of Ronnie Hillman's hands and put it in Lindley's, and it worked. The Aztecs gained 281 yards in their final 37 plays, scoring four touchdowns and surging back from a 16-point deficit.
2: PATs missed by Louisiana-Lafayette kicker Brett Baer. And then he made a 50-yard bomb to win the game at the buzzer. God bless college football.
(No, the kick probably would not have been good without the five-yard illegal substitution penalty committed by San Diego State directly before the kick. We're focusing on the positive here.)