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From the Bird’s Nest: Cajuns, Raiders Have Been Memorable

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Louisiana and Middle Tennessee meet for the thirteenth straight season this Saturday at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, TN.  Kickoff is set for 6:30.

I guess it’s only fitting that the series is tied 6-6.  And, each team is 3-3 at home and on the road.

Yep, it’s been that even.

And, in many cases, that memorable.

This will be the eleventh time the teams have met as members of the Sun Belt Conference.  And yep, it’s tied at 5-5.

Here’s a look back at the series between the two teams:

1999:  Louisiana 45, Middle Tennessee 31 (Sept. 25, Cajun Field 14, 621)–Memorable because it was Jerry Baldwin’s first win as the Cajuns’ head coach.  The Cajuns jumped out to a 17-7 lead, but the Raiders’ tied it at the half.  The Cajuns took a 23-17 lead in the third quarter and made it 31-17 early in the fourth on a pair of John Bernard 1-yard runs.  Middle came roaring back, though and tied it with just under seven minutes left.  The Cajuns then went on a 14-play, 80 yard drive which culminated with another one yard run by Bernard to give the Cajuns a seven point lead.  Travis Schwartz picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown fourteen seconds later for the final margin.  Marcus Wilridge caught seven passes for 131 yards.

2000:  Middle Tennessee 41, Louisiana 38 (2OT) (November 18th, Floyd Stadium, 7,913)–It was a miserable ending to a miserable season.  The Cajuns blew a 24-7 lead in that game, in part because of a fake punt call in their own territory in the third quarter (“It was Jerome Coleman’s fault,” Jerry Baldwin said publicly after the game.)  Trailing 31-24, the Cajuns put together a nine-play 51-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, with Darren Brister’s touchdown run tying the game.  Both teams scored in the first overtime, but Brett Bergeron missed a 40-yarder in the second OT.  Brian Kelly, who missed a field goal at the end of regulation that would have won it, then drilled a chip shot for the game-winner.  The Cajuns finished 1-10, the Raiders closed at 6-5.

2001:  Middle Tennessee 28, Louisiana 9. (Sept. 29, Cajun Field Attendance: NA)–It wasn’t much of a contest and was only memorable because it was the Cajuns’ first-ever SBC game.  Middle Tennessee, who would finish 8-3 that year but get left out of a bowl, dominated from start to finish in Jerry Baldwin’s final season.  The Cajuns would finish 3-8. 2-3 in conference play.

2002:  Middle Tennessee 48, Louisiana 35 (Oct 19, Floyd Stadium 9,726)–Not one that meant anything as far as standings were concerned, but memorable for Andrico Hines.  The MT quarterback passed for 347 yards and a touchdown, while running for 75 yards and three more scores.  A 21 point third quarter spelled doom for the Cajuns, as Rickey Bustle faced off against his good friend Andy McCollum for the first time.

2003.  Louisiana 57, Middle Tennessee 51 (4 OT) (Nov. 15, Floyd Stadium 4,311)–Neither team was close to a winning record.  And, with a cold afternoon with some rain, not many people saw it.  But on this day the Cajuns and Raiders had one for the ages.  The Cajuns led 20-10 going into the fourth quarter, but Middle Tennessee got two quick scores to go ahead.  The teams traded scores and a Brian Kelly field goal with two minutes to go gave MT a seven point lead.  The Cajuns, however, put together a 10 play, 81 yard drive to tie it on a pass from Jerry Babb to Bill Sampy and force overtime.  Each team had  two touchdowns and a field goal in the first three overtime periods before Babb’s one yard run gave the Cajuns the lead.  David Prater then intercepted a Josh Harris pass to seal the win.  Babb passed for 435 yards and four touchdowns in the win.

2004–Louisiana 24, Middle Tennessee 17   (Sept. 25, Cajun Field 25,083)  It was the conference opener for both teams, and to be frank, I don’t remember much about it, even after reading how it unfolded.  It was, statistically speaking, a very even game.  Trailing 14-7 late in the first half, UL put together a 79 yard drive.  A touchdown pass from Jerry Babb to B. J. Crist tied it up.  The turning point came in the third quarter when the Cajuns’ Kimmie Lewis recovered a muffed punt at the Middle Tennessee 15.  The Cajuns had to settle for a field goal, but MT was called for a personal foul on the kick and Rickey Bustle took the points off the board.  It proved to be a good decision, as Babb hit Xavier Campbell on the next play to make it 21-14.  Sean Comiskey and Colby Smith traded field goals in the fourth quarter.  Middle had one final chance late, but Antwain Spann intercepted a pass at the UL one yard line in the final minute to seal the win.

2005–Louisiana 13, Middle Tennessee 10 (Oct. 22, Floyd Stadium 17,806)–This one was a big one.  Louisiana was 1-5, 0-2 in league play when they traveled to Murfreesboro, having blown two fourth-quarter leads in their first two conference games against Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State.  And, Middle scored a touchdown on their first possession and added a field goal after a fumble by freshman Tyrell Fenroy for a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.  That would be all they would get on this day as the Cajuns’ defense came to play.  They sacked quarterback Clint Marks nine times and held MT to 45 net rushing yards.  But, the Cajuns offense didn’t get anything much going either.  Redshirt freshman Michael Desormeaux was at quarterback in place of the injured Jerry Babb.  The Cajuns got a touchdown on a Josh Harrison run after the MT field goal to cut the lead to 10-7.  And, it looked like it might end that way.  Middle Tennesse had the best chances to score, but missed a 42 yard field goal at the end of the half, and then Eugene Gross fumbled at the UL 25 early in the fourth quarter.  But, with one chance left, Desormeaux led the Cajuns on a masterful 11-play, 71 yard drive which ended with a Booker Jenkins six yard run with 1:04 left to give the Cajuns a 13-10 lead.  The Cajuns sacked Marks twice on MT’s final possession.  That win lit the fire that led to five straight wins to close the season and the 6-5 Cajuns had their only winning season under Rickey Bustle, along with a share of the conference title.

2006–Middle Tennessee 34, Louisiana 20 (Oct. 28, Cajun Field, 21,485)–As great as that win in 2005 felt, this one hurt about ten times as much.  The Cajuns had everything going in their favor.  After two losses to open the season, Louisiana reeled off four straight wins, including a come from behind road win over Kevin Kolb and Houston.  They followed that up with a shutout of Florida Atlantic on national television.  At 4-2, there was talk about making it to the New Orleans Bowl.  Middle Tennessee was coming to town and although the Raiders were 3-0, the table was set for a homecoming celebration.  The Cajuns fumbled on their first possession, but Michael Adams picked off a Clint Marks pass and returned it 79 yards to give the Cajuns a 7-0 lead.  But Jerry Babb was intercepted by Damon Nickson on the next possession which set up a Marks to Desmond Gee pass which tied the game.  Another Cajuns fumble, this one by Derek Smith, set up a field goal which gave the Raiders a 10-7 lead.  Finally, the Cajuns had a possession without a turnover and Drew Edmiston’s 47 yard field goal tied it up.  Middle Tennessee scored on its next possession to go up 17-10 and one play later the Cajuns turned it over for the fourth time when Nickson picked off Babb and returned it 28 yards for the score.   That made it 24-10 and for all intents and purposes, that was the ole ball game.  Babb would get picked off twice more, both by Nickson, in the fourth quarter.  But by that time the game was decided.  Four interceptions by Nickson.  Six Cajuns turnovers in all.  And Louisiana laid one big egg on homecoming.  Louisiana never really recovered, finishing 6-6 on the year.

2007–Louisiana 34, Middle Tennessee 24 (Nov. 10, Floyd Stadium, 19,227)–This one was a surprise.  The Cajuns were 1-8 coming into the game and there was really nothing that would indicate what was going to happen on this day.  Middle Tennesse was 4-1 in the league and looking for its sixth win.  The Cajuns fell behind 14-0 early in the second quarter, but rallied to tie the game.  Middle Tennessee got a one yard run by DeMarco McNair to take a 21-14 lead at the half.  The Cajuns tied it early in the third quarter, but Middle Tennessee took a 24-21 lead into the fourth quarter.  And then, Michael Desormeaux took over the game.  His 52 yard touchdown pass to Deon Wallace in the fourth quarter gave the Cajuns the lead for good.  Jason Chery added a 31 yard run and Des was taking a knee inside the MT five yard line when the game ended.  Desormeaux wound up with 175 yards rushing and 152 passing.  Tyrell Fenroy added another 100 on the ground and the Cajuns left Murfreesboro with an improbable win.

2008–Louisiana 42, Middle Tennessee 28 (Dec. 3, Cajun Field (15,321)  In a game played on a Wednesday night at Cajun Field, it was believed Louisiana would go bowling if they won this game.  It was a night of festivities with the retiring of Tyrell Fenroy’s #32 prior to the game.  This one turned out to be quite a game.  Statistically, the two teams wound up dead even.  Phillip Tanner and Fenroy each rushed for just under 100 yards.  The Cajuns led 21-7 in that game, but Middle Tennessee scored late in the second quarter and early in the third to tie it at 21.  A pass from Desormeaux to freshman Ladarius Green gave the Cajuns the lead back, but Joe Craddock threw a touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to tie it at 28.  It looked like a mistake might decide this one, and it did.  The Cajuns scored on a Desormeaux pass to Jason Chery to give the Cajuns the lead at 35-28 with about eleven minutes to go.  On Middle Tennessee’s next possession, Jez Washington forced a fumble at the UL 44 and four plays later, Desormeaux threw his fourth touchdown pass of the night, this one to Louis Lee for 37 yards for what proved to be the final margin.  Middle Tennessee turned it over on its final two possessions.  Desormeaux ended the night with a career-high four touchdown passes.  As we all know, however, the Cajuns were jilted at the last hour when bowl bids were handed out.

2009-Middle Tennessee 34, Louisiana 17 (Nov. 14, Floyd Stadium, 16,411)–There’s no doubt this was Middle Tennessee’s best team, and they would prove it with their 10th win of the season, over Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl.  The Cajuns came in at 5-4, MT at 6-3.  But the Raiders were trying to go 5-1 in the league.  The Cajuns put up a good fight for a half.  Chris Masson ran for one touchdown and threw for another as the Cajuns took a 17-14 lead into the locker room.  But it was all Raiders in the second half.  Middle Tennessee scored on its first possession of the third quarter on a Dwight Dasher touchdown pass to go up 21-17.    Meanwhile the Cajuns had exactly two first downs in their next five possessions.  The Cajuns managed a grand total of 75 yards in the second half.  It was probably the most dominant half of football by either team in the series.

2010–Middle Tennessee 34, Louisiana 14 (Sept. 25, Cajun Field, 17,249)–The Cajuns Javone Lawson fumbled on the Cajuns’ first offensive play and the Raiders got a field goal to take an early lead.  Late in the first quarter the Raiders blocked a Tyler Albrecht field goal attempt and drove for a score to make it 10-0 early in the second quarter.  But the Cajuns came right back on a Masson touchdown pass to Ladarius Green to get the Cajuns within three.  But after the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, MT was in the end zone five plays later.  It was 20-14 at halftime, but the game really wasn’t that close.  Middle Tennessee got two big plays in the second half as Logan Kilgore hit Malcolm Beyah for 62 yards and D. D. Kyles broke off a 71 yard run.  Both scores came in the third quarter.  By the end of the season, Middle Tennessee was on their way to their second straight bowl game.  Louisiana was in the market for a new head coach.

Twelve games.  Each memorable in their own way.  And, another chapter to be written this Saturday.

 

Babes

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