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Jay’s Memorable Moment #13 – Fourth Down Magic

USL 32, Tulane 28

Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA

October 28, 1995

In 1995, Southwestern Louisiana was on its way to its third straight winning season under the tutelage of quarterback Jake Delhomme, who guided the Cajuns to a share of the Big West Conference title his first two years as the Cajuns’ quarterback, including an 8-3 record his freshman season.

And, on the schedule for the eighth time in eleven years was the Tulane Green Wave.  All of those eight meetings between 1985-95 took place at the Louisiana Superdome.  Cajun fans enjoyed the series even though Tulane had not come to Cajun Field.  It meant a weekend party in New Orleans and the Cajuns were more than competitive.  In fact, the Cajuns had won three of the last four meetings between the two teams, including a 36-15 beatdown in Delhomme’s freshman season.

USL came into the game with a 4-3 record, but had won three in a row.  Delhomme had a good offensive unit to work with.  Marcus Prier and Kenyon Cotton provided a 1-2 punch in the backfield, Donald Richard was a deep threat outside as a receiver.  And, there was a young freshman named Brandon Stokley who was obviously going to be a good one.

The Green Wave had a talented freshman of their own.  Shawn King was splitting time at quarterback on his way to a spectacular career where he would lead the Wave to an unbeaten season by his senior year.  Tulane relied on its running game, with good reason.  Cecilia’s Jamaican Dartez and Jerald Sowell were a solid combination in the backfield.

As usual, the Cajuns had as many fans at the ‘Dome as the Green Wave did.  And, the Cajuns players came out through the tunnel that day, not running, but walking four abreast, holding hands in a show of unity.

The day didn’t start well for the Cajuns.  Five plays into the game, a Prier fumble gave the ball to the Wave at the Cajuns 32 and it took the Greenies just five plays to get into the end zone with Dartez gaining 23 of the 32 yards and the touchdown to give Tulane a 7-0 lead just three minutes into the game.

The Cajuns marched from their own 13 to the Tulane 38, but Delhomme misfired on second and third down and Mike Jones punted to the Tulane 8.  But backed up deep in their own territory, King hit Derrick Franklin for 32 yards on third down to get Tulane out of trouble.  The Wave moved to the Cajuns 22 yard line and a pass interference call moved the ball down to the seven.  Two offside penalties later, Tulane was at the Cajuns two yard line and King took it in himself from there.  A two point conversion made the score 15-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The Cajuns finally got a break in the second quarter when Jeremy Liggon fumbled on a reverse and Joe Evans recovered for the Cajuns at the Tulane 42.  The Cajuns picked up two first downs but the drive stalled at the Green Wave 15 and Mike Shafer booted a 37 yard field goal to get the Cajuns on the board.

Following a Tulane punt, the Cajuns drove 64 yards in eleven plays for their first touchdown of the game.  Delhomme hit Stokley three times during the drive for 44 yards.  Prier got the score from two yards out to cut the lead to 15-10, which is how the first half ended.

The Cajuns forced a punt on Tulane’s first possession of the second half, but Delhomme was intercepted at the USL 33.  The Wave moved to the 23 where Sowell found a huge hole up the middle for a 23 yard touchdown run to extend the Tulane lead to 21-10 after the extra point failed.

The Cajuns punted on their next possession but the defense came up big as Evans forced a Dartez fumble which was recovered by Paul Cabble at the Tulane 18.  Three plays later Prier was back in the end zone and Delhomme’s two point conversion to Cotton got the Cajuns within three, 21-18.

The defense shone again on Tulane’s next possession as Leodis Gilmore recovered another Tulane fumble, this time at the Tulane 42.  Delhomme hit Richard for two completions to the 24 and Prier swept around the right side down to the one yard line.  Cotton took it in from there and USL had their first lead of the game, 25-21 with four minutes left in the third quarter.

But on the first play of the fourth quarter, Delhomme threw his second interception of the game, which was returned to the Cajuns 38.  Backup quarterback Tracy Watts led the Wave to the Cajuns eleven, where Dartez reclaimed the lead for Tulane with 11:51 to go.

That seemed like plenty of time, but the Cajuns offense sputtered on the next two possessions, failing to get a first down.  Fortunately, the Cajuns defense was sound and Tulane failed to record a first down on its possessions as well.

That gave the Cajuns the ball at their own 17 yard line with 3:41 to go.  Delhomme immediately hit Stokley for 20 yards out to the 37, but then threw two incompletions.  On third down Delhomme went back to pass, then saw lots of green turf in front of him and scrambled for 23 yards to the Tulane 40.  But the drive stalled after a three yard Cotton run and two straight incompletions.  The Cajuns then called back to back timeouts, facing fourth and seven at the Tulane 37.

On fourth down, Delhomme went back to throw and looked at Richard.  The Tulane defense bit and Delhomme lofted a pass to a streaking Stokley, who was five yards behind the defender.  He caught it at the five and waltzed in for the touchdown to give the Cajuns a 32-28 lead.

Tulane moved from its 27 tot he USL 46, but back-to-back sacks in the closing seconds took care of business and the Cajuns had their third straight win in the series and fourth straight win in the 1995 season.

Delhomme ended the game 21-40 for 249 yards and the winning touchdown.  Richard caught eight passes for 102, Stokley had seven for 113.  Prier rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns.  Sowell and Dartez combined for 133 yards in the game.

The Cajuns have only played Tulane a few times since then, none in the last decade.  The 1995 win was the last for the Cajuns in the series.

The Green Wave will visit Cajun Field for Homecoming on October 6th.

 

(NCAA Box Score and UL Sports Information contributed to this story.)

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