By Barry Allen
Media Relations Director
MOBILE – University of Louisiana junior quarterback Levi Lewis accounted for 308 total yards and two touchdowns leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 27-17 win over Miami University in the 2020 LendingTree Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile.
Lewis completed 19-of-26 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. He was also UL’s leading rusher with 62 yards on just eight carries.
“To me he was the difference,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “There were a couple of times when they deserved to run or throw the ball well and they do and you give credit to them, but there were a couple of plays that he made that changed the game and changed drives where we had him defensed. He can wait so long because he knows how quick he is. Twice we blitzed him and he beat us, and I have good players coming off the edge.”
For his efforts, Lewis was named the 2020 LendingTree Bowl Most Valuable Player.
“I thought Levi’s ability to make plays with his feet was the difference in the game,” Louisiana head coach Billy Napier said. “He does a really good job of making decisions that help win the game. He does a good job of taking calculated risk. He takes care of the ball. We ask him to do a lot. He’s a really good student of the game.”
Miami took its only lead on the game on its first possession of the second quarter. Junior running back Jaylon Bester scored on a 5-yard run with 10:25 left in the second quarter to give the Redhawks a 7-0 lead.
After punting on its first two possessions, Louisiana scored on its next four possessions to take a 24-7 lead.
Stevie Artigue capped a 10-play drive with a 38-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 with 6:32 left in the half. UL tacked on touchdown right before halftime to take its first lead 10-7. Junior Elijah Mitchell capped a 7-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Louisiana (11-3) kept the momentum in the second half with touchdown drives on its first two possessions of the third quarter. Lewis fired a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Marcus Bradley to extend the lead to 17-7 with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
Miami (8-6) answered with Sam Sloman’s 39-yard field goal with 5:18 left to trim the lead to 17-10.
The UL offense went right back to work with another long drive capped by Lewis’ 12-yard touchdown pass to Bradley to extend the lead to 24-10.
Bradley caught seven passed for 82 yards and two touchdowns to earn 2020 LendingTree Bowl Offensive MVP honors. He was one of seven players to catch a pass in the game for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“It was part of the game plan and the plays that we called tonight,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t matter who’s out there for us. Any of those guys that get an opportunity they make plays.”
Miami made it one score game early in the fourth quarter when Bester scored on a 1-yard run with-11:35 left to cut the lead to 24-17. Bester finished with 19 carries for 52 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
The touchdown was set up by a Louisiana pass interference that negated an interception, followed by a 63-yard pass to James Maye to give MU a first down at the UL 4-yard line.
MU freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert was equally impressive. He completed 22-of-31 passes for 248 yards in the loss.
He completed 12 straight passes during the second and third quarter which is tied for the seventh-longest streak in NCAA bowl history. Florida’s Tim Tebow (2010 Sugar) and Alabama’s Jake Coker (2015 Cotton) also had 12 straight completions in a bowl game.
Gabbert’s favorite target was wide receiver Jack Sorenson who had a career-high 10 catches for 107 yards in the Redhawks.
The Redhawks had gained momentum and were poised to tie the game late in the fourth quarter before two miscues sealed their fate.
Miami fumbled at its own 46-yard line with 7:25 left in the game. UL took advantage of the turnover and Artigue tacked on a 38-yard field goal to extend the lead to 27-17.
Artigue was named the 2020 LendingTree Bowl Special Teams Player of the Game. He finished with nine points, including the game-clinching field goal in the fourth quarter.
Miami marched to the UL 1-yard line before a botched snap foiled a fourth-down play and sealed the win for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“I hiked the ball and I think it just slipped off [center] Danny’s [Godlevske] fingers,” Gabbert said. “That stuff just happens sometimes and you can’t control it. I’m never going to blame him; he’s a first-team all-MAC center and it just happened. That play didn’t lose the game for us. Turning the ball over twice and not getting first downs lost us the game.”