Louisiana Tops UAB 24-20 in Emotional Contest Honoring D.J. Looney
It was the name written on the back of every Louisiana Ragin' Cajun jersey on Friday night, honoring the late D.J. Looney, who served as UL's assistant offensive line coach.
Looney tragically passed away in August after suffering a heart attack during practice.
Looney's hometown of Birmingham, Alabama was the site of Friday night's game as Louisiana battled UAB in a hard-fought contest.
The Cajuns honored him in spirit, and in play, earning a tough 24-20 victory over the Dragons.
"We lost a special member of our team in coach D.J. Looney," said Louisiana head coach Billy Napier. "Our team played for him tonight."
Looney's family and loved ones were in attendance.
Many tears were shed following the win, as the team held a #66 jersey honoring Looney.
"It was emotional," said Napier. "It was very emotional."
Both teams spent time jawing with one another, as the chippy contest had several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Offensively, it took a while for the Ragin' Cajuns to get into a rhythm.
With only 3 points scored and trailing by 10 late in the 2nd quarter, Chris Smith made a special play on special teams, returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown shortly before halftime.
"Certainly the kickoff return right before the half was huge," said Napier.
In the second half, UAB took a 20-10 lead, before Louisiana's offense found its footing, capping off an 8 play, 78-yard drive, as Jalen Williams scored on a pass from Levi Lewis late in the 3rd quarter.
Louisiana gained its first lead at the 6:35 mark of the 4th quarter, leaning on a physical 14 play drive that ended on a touchdown pass from Levi Lewis to Pearse Migl.
Several minutes later, Louisiana safety Cameron Solomon procured an interception, milking more time off the clock before an unbelievable Rhys Byrns 74 yard punt.
On the final defensive stand, starting center Shane Vallot held the #66 LOONEY jersey on the sideline the entire time.
With 1:16 left, the Dragons were turned away for good as safety Bralen Trahan picked off UAB quarterback Bryson Lucero.
Louisiana gathered at midfield with members of Looney's family following the win, honoring a man who made a huge positive impact on each of them.