The win, before a nationally-televised audience, was Louisiana's fourth straight and improved the Cajuns to 4-2 overall and 2-0 in Sun Belt play. WKU fell to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in Sun Belt action.
"This is a pretty good win for our football team," Louisiana head coach Mark Hudspeth said. "We started the game off a little slowly but caught fire at halftime and figured everything out.
"Credit goes to our defense because all things considered, they turned in an outstanding effort tonight. It took them a drive or two to figure out Western's scheme, but once they did, they were prepared for everything that they threw at us."
After almost 20 minutes of offensive futility and defensive adjustments, the game turned around for the Cajuns on a fourth-and-goal play that turned terribly wrong for the Hilltoppers.
With WKU up 10-0 and in a position to take control of the game, the Hilltoppers went for it on a fourth-and-goal at the UL 1. Instead of handing off to Antonio Andrews, who rushed 28 times for 154 yards and a touchdown in the game, WKU opted for a pass.
WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty was pressured on the play by Trevence Patt and Justin Anderson and hurried his throw, allowing Al Riles to step in front of it and return it 99 yards for a touchdown to make it a 10-7 game with 6:41 left.
That play deflated the Houchens-Smith Stadium crowd and infused the Cajuns with life, with the game being tied at 13-13 at halftime.
"I told our players all week long that one of them was going to be the guy to step up and make the first big play that would make a difference and there wasn't a bigger play tonight than the one Al (Riles) made.
"It was a great defensive call by (UL defensive coordinator) James (Willis)," Hudspeth added. "He had a pretty good idea of what they were going to run and by throwing a blitz at them, we threw him (Doughty) off balance and forced him to hurry the throw."
Louisiana got the ball to start the third quarter and methodically moved the ball down the field on a 15-play, 65-yard drive that spanned 7:48 to take the lead for good, 16-13, on a Stephen Brauchle 23-yard field goal.
After forcing WKU to punt on its next possession, the Ragin' Cajuns drove 80 yards in nine plays with Terrance Broadway scoring on a 1-yard run to push the Cajuns ahead, 23-13.
WKU could not recover.
A 24-yard Broadway touchdown pass to Jacob Maxwell at the 9:43 mark of the fourth quarter made it a 30-13 game and even though Andrews added a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:02 left, the Cajuns controlled the ball down the stretch to run away with the win.
Run away they did, as the Ragin' Cajuns rushed 52 times for 254 yards and three scores in the game. Harris led the way, recording his seventh career 100-yard rushing game. His two touchdowns gave him five this season and 24 in his career (23 rushing), moving him into fifth place on the Louisiana career touchdown chart.
Harris also became the sixth runner to rush for 2,000 yards in a career, increasing his career total to 2,025 yards on 410 carries.
The Cajuns were out-gained 471-344 in the game, but the big difference were turnovers where Riles and T.J. Worthy each had interceptions and Justin Anderson forced and recovered a pair of fumbles as part of a 4-1 turnover advantage.
Anderson also set a career high with 16 tackles in the contest, 11 solo.
"We went into the game hearing about how special the WKU linebackers are, but Justin Anderson showed tonight that he is one of the top defenders in the Sun Belt this year," Hudspeth said. "He has a great knack for knowing where the ball is. On both of those plays he simply met the receiver and took the ball right out of his hands. It was just like you work on it in the drills."
After being outgained 349-81 in the first half, the Cajuns turned the tables.
Louisiana had the ball for nearly 12 minutes in the third quarter, outgaining the Hilltoppers, 145-50, with 136 of the Cajuns' yards coming on the ground on 31 carries.
"I couldn't be prouder of this team," Hudspeth said. "They could have folded down early but they refused to let go of the rope, played like champions and found a way to come back."
WKU drew first blood, taking the opening kickoff and driving 75 yards in seven plays with Mitchell Henry catching a 14-yard pass from Doughty at the 11:33 mark of the opening quarter.
The teams exchanged turnovers late in the quarter – T.J. Worthy making his second interception of the year for the Cajuns before Alonzo Harris couldn't hold on to a handoff and fumbled. WKU took advantage of theirs, adding a 29-yard field goal by Garrett Schwettman at the 3:13 mark to make it a 10-0 game.
Riles return made it a 10-7 game and WKU again stumbled on fourth down on its next possession.
Faced with a fourth-and-9 at the UL 29, Petrino elected to forego a long field goal attempt. Doughty completed a pass over the middle to Mitchell Henry for an apparent first down, but Justin Anderson stripped the ball away from Henry and returned the fumble 45 yards to give Louisiana the ball in WKU territory.
The Louisiana offense came to life as Broadway completed a 9-yard pass to Ian Thompson on the first play of the drive. It was his first completion of the game and came with 3:20 to play in the half.
A 9-yard run off a fumbled shotgun snap by Broadway set up a 1-yard Harris touchdown run with 1:32 left to put Louisiana ahead, 13-10. Brauchle's extra point attempt however was no good, hitting the right upright.
WKU evened the game at 13-13 at halftime as Schwettman booted a 28-yard field goal as time expired to cap a 64-yard drive in the final 92 seconds.
Behind the running of Harris and freshman Elijah McGuire (9 carries, 71 yards) Louisiana came out strong to start the half, pulling ahead, 23-13.
The Cajuns defense had a chance to put the game away, but Justin Hamilton was called for roughing the passer, negating a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by Corey Trim.
Doughty was knocked out of the game on the play, returning later to throw just one more pass and ending the night completing 18-of-23 passes for 260 yards. He threw one touchdown but had two interceptions.
The Cajuns will be on the road again next week, traveling to Jonesboro, Ark., to face defending Sun Belt champion Arkansas State on Tuesday, Oct. 22 beginning at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised on ESPN2.
Phil Steele released his preseason All-Sun Belt team earlier in the day with five Cajuns earning a spot on the first team and five more being placed on the second team. . . . Jamal Robinson (WR), Andre Huval (C), Daniel Quave (OG), Mychael Quave (OT) and Justin Anderson were on the first team with Terrance Broadway (QB), Alonzo Harris (RB), Jacob Maxwell (TE), Sean Thomas (S) & Dominique Tovell (DL) picking up second team honors. . . the Cajuns won the toss and deferred their decision to the second half, giving WKU the ball to start the game. . . . the missed extra point in the second quarter by Brauchle snapped a string of 27 consecutive extra points made by the Cajuns' sophomore. . . the streak ends as the fourth-longest in school history, falling short of Drew Edmiston's school record of 35 set in 2008. . . the attendance for the game was 16,359. . . the interception return by Riles was the second-longest interception return in school history, trailing only a 105-yard return by Luther Perrin against Stephen F. Austin in 1934. . . punter Daniel Cadona had his best night as a Cajun, kicking four times for a 44.5 average.