Kick, punt returns help Louisiana-Lafayette topple No. 23 Iowa State

Ragin' Cajuns use two return TDs to upset Cyclones (1:58)

Louisiana defeats Iowa State 31-14, giving the Ragin' Cajuns their first-ever victory against a ranked opponent on the road. (1:58)

AMES, Iowa -- Louisiana-Lafayette got kick and punt returns for touchdowns to help secure one of the biggest wins in program history -- a 31-14 victory over No. 23 Iowa State on Saturday.

On a day when both offenses seemed overmatched, the Ragin' Cajuns were ignited by Chris Smith's 95-yard kickoff return in the second quarter and Eric Garror's 83-yard punt return in the third.

"We've got a lot of belief that the University of Louisiana should always have a competitive team," coach Billy Napier said. "We're fortunate we got the necessary things from our administration. They decided they wanted to have an exceptional Group of 5 football program. They gave us the money to go hire the people; they've given us the resources inside the building to really run a Power 5 operation. This is what we expected to happen.

"Nobody is going to care what happened today if you go lose a couple over the next couple weeks. We'll celebrate tonight and then come down to earth tomorrow and start working again."

Levi Lewis threw a 78-yard scoring pass to Peter LeBlanc to give Louisiana-Lafayette a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter.

Louisiana-Lafayette beat a Top 25 opponent for the first time, having gone 0-26 against ranked foes away from home. The Ragin' Cajuns' only other win over a Top 25 team was in 1996 at home against Texas A&M.

The Ragin' Cajuns limited Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy to 16-of-35 passing for 145 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception. It was ISU's fewest passing yards in two years.

"We dropped some balls that are difference-makers in the first half and early in the second half," Campbell said. "Getting into a really good rhythm was hard to find."

Iowa State's Breece Hall rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

The Cyclones' offense sputtered early with a series of dropped passes before putting together consecutive touchdown drives of 49 and 69 yards.

Smith put Louisiana-Lafayette on the board immediately after Iowa State's first score. The Ragin' Cajuns drove 61 yards in the final 70 seconds of the first half, pulling within 14-10 on Nate Snyder's 30-yard field goal.

The Ragin' Cajuns have had a difficult summer. Assistant coach D.J. Looney died of a heart attack on Aug. 1, and Hurricane Laura devastated parts of Louisiana in late August.

"I can't help but think my man D.J. is up there smiling right now," Napier said.


Iowa State: The offense was hampered by the absence of tight end Charlie Kolar, who caught 51 passes and scored seven touchdowns last season. He was out with a lower body injury. Right guard Robert Hudson also missed the game.

Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin' Cajuns were able to knock off the Cyclones despite two missed field goals by the transfer Snyder and a struggling ground game. Louisiana-Lafayette averaged 6.3 yards per rush last season while totaling 3,604 yards. Iowa State limited the Ragin' Cajuns to 2.7 yards on 22 attempts through the first three quarters.


Iowa State began the season ranked for a second straight year but will likely drop out of the poll this week. The Cyclones were 3-0 all time against Sun Belt Conference opponents and listed as a double-digit favorite going into Saturday's game.


Iowa State visits TCU on Sept. 26.

Louisiana-Lafayette visits Georgia State on Sept. 19.