AMES, Iowa -- Perseverance, confidence and two long kick returns propelled Louisiana-Lafayette to one of its biggest wins in program history, 31-14 win over No. 23 Iowa State on Saturday.
The Ragin' Cajuns beat a Top 25 opponent on the road for the first time, having gone 0-26 against ranked foes away from home. Their only other win over a Top 25 team was in 1996 at home against Texas A&M.
"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 Five 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 Five operation. This is what we expected to happen."
Lewis passed for 154 yards and contributed to a business-like approach by the Ragin' Cajuns, who didn't celebrate much on the field after the game.
"All because we expect that," Lewis said. "The type of work we put in, the hours. All of us pretty much say our practices are harder than the games."
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," Iowa State coach Matt 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.
"Give credit to their team," Campbell said. "A really veteran football team that came in here and in the second half just really dominated the game."
The Ragin' Cajuns, like other teams across the country, had stops and starts with preparations since the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. The last month has been especially difficult. 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 Cyclone 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-Layette: The Ragin' Cajuns were able to knock off the Cyclones despite two missed field goals by transfer kicker Nate 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.
BRIGHT DAY FOR THE SUN BELT
Around the same time Louisiana-Lafayette was beating Iowa State, Arkansas State was shocking Kansas State, another Big 12 member.
"You can't underestimate a Sun Belt Conference team anymore," Napier said. "It's become a normal thing. You put a Sun Belt team on your schedule, you better watch out."
Iowa State is 4-20 when trailing after three quarters under Campbell. The Cyclones are also 8-16 with a negative turnover margin. They had two turnovers against Louisiana-Lafayette; the Ragin' Cajuns had none.
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 double-digit favorites going into Saturday's game.
Iowa State visits TCU on Sept. 26.
Louisiana-Lafayette visits Georgia State on Sept. 19.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
The highlights that prove Utah is able to make noise again in 2022
Coming off of last year's Rose Bowl appearance, the Utah Utes are ready to take back their spot up high in the college football rankings.
Braelon Allen, the next great Wisconsin RB! Check out the tape
Braelon Allen burst onto the scene last season and looks to be next in line at running back for Wisconsin.
Get ready for Ohio State football in 2022!
Check out some of the Buckeyes' most electric plays from the 2021 as they get ready to reload for 2022.
Texas Longhorns suspend transfer receiver Agiye Hall following arrest on criminal mischief charge
Texas Longhorns wide receiver Agiye Hall was suspended by coach Steve Sarkisian on Friday, a day after being arrested on a criminal mischief charge after damaging a parking boot, according to a police report.
The case for betting on the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2022
Chris "The Bear" Fallica breaks down why he believes college football bettors should believe in the Ohio State Buckeyes this season.
Texas A&M Aggies top annual underachiever tiers of college football
Texas A&M tops this year's list, but there's hope for the Aggies. Last year's No. 1 underachiever? Defending national champion Georgia.