Jay’s Memorable Moment #11 – One For the Road
Louisiana 31, Houston 28
Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX
October 7, 2006
Before becoming part of the radio team for the Ragin’ Cajuns, I did eight years of television broadcasts for KADN-TV. And, back then, there was a pretty comprehensive package of games, both home and road, in football and basketball.
It was after a basketball win one night in Jonesboro, Arkansas at the Convocation Center when radio play-by-play man Don Allen told me something I’ve never forgotten.
“There’s nothing like winning on the road.”
And, he was right.
Going to someone’s house and leaving with a skin for your wall is special. And, one of the reasons it’s special is because it’s, quite frankly, pretty damned hard to win road games, in any sport.
That has been especially true for Louisiana’s football team. Road wins, especially out of conference, were hard to come by for a long time. In fact, from the time I started doing radio broadcasts in September, 1992, until the 2006 season, the Cajuns had won exactly three non-conference road games….all of them in the state of Louisiana: Two wins over Tulane, in 1993 and 1995, and a road win at Louisiana Tech in Jake Delhomme’s senior season in 1996.
In the 2006 season, the Cajuns opened with losses at LSU and Texas A&M, but came home and got two wins against North Carolina A&T and Eastern Michigan. But the road was beckoning again and it was going to be a rough matchup against a solid Houston squad led by senior quarterback Kevin Kolb. The Cajuns really hadn’t had much success on the road against the Cougars; in fact, the last three meetings in Houston, the Cajuns had been outscored 144-24. And, the Cajuns were a double-digit underdog for the game at Robertson Stadium.
Now, let me digress for a minute. I’ve been asked the worst venue in football I’ve ever done a broadcast from, and the answer is Robertson Stadium, Houston, Texas. Houston had done a refurbishing to their working press area, but it was done at the expense of the broadcast area. We had to climb a steep set of stairs to get to our booth, only to discover there was an overhang below us where the remodeling had been done. That meant we had to broadcast standing up, which was not only uncomfortable, it makes it pretty hard to read spotting charts and rosters sitting on a table.
So, here we are. We haven’t won a non-conference road game in a decade, we’re going to a place where we hadn’t even been competitive and I have to do the game standing up.
I’m not a real happy guy.
And, I was less happy as the game unfolded in the first half.
On their second possession it took Houston three plays to cover 59 yards. A long pass from Kolb to Jeron Harvey got it close and Jackie Battle’s two yard run got the Cougars on the scoreboard 7-0, with 9:12 left in the first quarter.
The Cajuns battled back and drove from their own 25 to the Houston 26 in a drive that took more than six minutes, , but on fourth and one the Cajuns were hit with a procedure penalty and Drew Edmiston’s 50 yard field goal attempt was short.
The Cougars promptly drove 68 yards in five plays and Kolb’s 56 yard pass to Donnie Avery got the second score of the night. 14-0 Houston, with less than a minute to play in the first quarter.
Then, on the Cajuns’ first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jerry Babb was intercepted by Trent Allen, who returned the INT to the Cajuns’ 23, and Houston was in business again. It only took four plays to traverse the yardage, with Kolb doing the honors from four yards out. 21-0, Houston with a minute gone in the second quarter.
I wanted to go home. Fortunately, the Cajuns did not.
Deon Wallace returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to the Houston 28 yard line and the return gave the Cajuns a spark. Tyrell Fenroy got fourteen of those yards on three carries and Babb got the other fourteen himself and the Cajuns were on the board with 11:50 until halftime, but still trailed 21-7.
Houston drove from its 18 to the UL 42 before punting to the Cajuns’ 15 yard line. The Cajuns got the ball out to the 44 yard line but were forced into a punting situation with 4th and 6.
Punt? What punt?
Michael Desormeaux took the short snap and raced 51 yards to the Houston 5. The Cajuns couldn’t get it in the end zone, however and had to settle for Edmiston’s 23 yard field goal to cut the Houston lead to 21-10.
With less than three minutes to go in the half, Kolb calmly drove the Cougars down the field. Kolb hit Harvey with an 18 yard touchdown pass but was called for offensive pass interference, moving the ball back to the 32. They got as far as the 23 and on the last play of the half, Ben Bell came on for a 40 yard field goal attempt. But Michael Adams blocked the kick and the Cajuns managed to dodge a bullet and went into halftime trailing 21-10. Kolb had thrown for 276 yards in the first half.
The Cajuns got the second half kickoff and drove from their 18 to the Houston 20, as Babb threw for 46 yards and rushed for 12 more. But Babb misfired on two straight passes and the Cajuns had to settle for Edmiston’s 37 yard field goal to make it 21-13.
At least now, it was a one-possession game.
But not for long.
The Cougars quickly marched 64 yards in nine plays. Kolb threw for 45 yards on the drive which culminated in his nine hard pass to Harvey and the Cougars, now over 350 yards in total offense, led 28-13 with 4:40 to go in the third.
On their final possession of the third quarter, the Cajuns got as far as the Houston 33. Despite trailing by 15, Head Coach Rickey Bustle elected to have Edmiston, who was short on a 50 yarder earlier, to try one from 51 on fourth and nine. Edmiston nailed it to pull the Cajuns within 28-16 with 23 seconds left in the quarter.
On the last play of the quarter, Anthony Alridge returned Britt Framel’s kickoff to midfield and the Cougars were in business again. Houston had scored seven points in the third quarter, mainly because they only had the ball one time. The Cajuns defense still hadn’t shown they could shut down Houston’s offense.
But, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Kyle Ward jarred the ball loose from Donnie Avery and Brent Burkhalter pounced on it at the UL 46 to get the ball back for the Cajuns. They moved 54 yards in seven plays with Tyrell Fenroy scampering in from eighteen yards out for the score and the Cajuns were within five points at 28-23.
There was still 11:33 to play.
But the Cougars again sliced through the Cajuns’ defense as they moved from their 20 to the UL 42 on just three plays. But then the Cajuns’ defense, which had been pushed around most of the night, stiffened. They sacked Kolb on second and nine and allowed only a five yard completion on third down, forcing a punt to the UL15.
The Cajuns then put together one of the best drives in modern history.
Any coach will tell you it’s really hard to have a touchdown drive more than about ten plays. The more plays you run, the better the chance something will go wrong. A sack. A fumble. An interception. A costly penalty.
Not this drive.
There were no fumbles. No interception. No sacks. No costly penalties.
Just one, methodical drive.
Babb hit Derrick Smith for nine yards on third and five. Corey Frederick got ten on an end around. Babb got twelve more on third and ten. After Fenroy rushed for seven, Babb rushed for eight and a first down at the Houston 34. Babb got five more on third and five for another first down. Fenroy got six on second down to move the chains again at the 14. And, the sophomore got the ball two more times for first and goal at the four.
On the next play, Babb found Kevin Belton, who leaped high into the air to snag the touchdown pass to give the Cajuns a 29-28 lead.
1:02 left. Then, Babb hit Derrick Smith for the two point conversion to make the score 31-28.
18 plays. 85 yards. 6:46 time of possession.
But the Cajuns defense would need a stop.
They got one.
Joe Bradley and Tony Hills sacked Kolb on second down and four from the Houston 41. A heavy rush forced Kolb to throw incomplete on third down. And, harassed and flushed out of the pocket on fourth down, Bradley and Rodney Hardaway took down Kolb seven yards shy of a first down on fourth and twelve.
The comeback was complete.
After the post-game show, Steve Peloquin and I said our goodbyes to our hosts and headed out toward our car. Those who had made the trip from Lafayette and those Ragin’ Cajun alumni in the Houston area had the party going in full force. Fans were celebrating, and would do so long after Steve and I headed out of the parking lot.
The fans knew what I learned from Don a full two decades earlier.
There’s nothing like winning on the road.