Ragin’ Cajuns Celebrate Third Consecutive New Orleans Bowl Championship
Mark Hudspeth grabbed a security guard in pure joy as the confetti began to fall over Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns for the third time in as many years. The announcement of “New Orleans Bowl Champions” blared in through the Superdome speakers as the Tulane Green Wave supporters tried to forget Cairo Santos’ kick sailing wide left with seconds to go.
The Cajuns pulled out another magical victory in the Crescent City by a final tally of 24-21 in front of an official crowd of 54,728 fans, breaking the attendance record for the second straight year.
Terrance Broadway led the Cajun offense out of the tunnel and into a quick 14-0 lead only three weeks after breaking his arm against ULM, capitalizing on a trick-pass gone awry that turned into a Sean Thomas interception.
With the Green Wave on their heels, Corey Trim took a Nick Montana pass 82 yards to the house for a three score lead in the Dome. The game looked over, but the tide turned midway through the second quarter.
Broadway was the question heading into the game, but Montana clearly looked bothered by a nagging shoulder injury and was taken out after several three and outs.
Devin Powell came in to mount the comeback, and there were no more Joe Montana close-ups.
Head Coach Curtis Johnson decided to roll the dice on a fourth and short, and Powell rewarded him by throwing a bomb downfield, which was capped off with a short Orleans Darkwa run.
The Tulane defense, which thrived all year on turnovers, provided a key interception on the ensuing Cajun drive. Powell connects on another prayer into double-coverage, and then in goes Darkwa for the second time. All of a sudden it’s a whole new ball game.
Offensive inefficiency was the trend coming out of the half as both teams exchanged punts, but then the Green Wave defense picked up a gift from Broadway as a ball he intended to throw out of bounds stayed in and plopped into the hands of a Tulane defender.
Darkwa galloped 22 yards into the endzone on the next play for his third touchdown of the night, and the game was tied at 21 a piece with the momentum pendulum swinging fully on Tulane’s side.
The magic of bowl season was happening in New Orleans, and it appeared Cajun fans were in for another fourth quarter thriller with thoughts of Brett Baer in their head.
With the game knotted up in the fourth and Tulane hoping to drive, Christian Ringo dove at the feet of Powell, which forced a bad throw that Sean Thomas picked off for his second interception of the game and took inside the redzone.
The Cajuns failed to capitalize on the field position as Broadway dropped to the turf on third down with cramps that sidelined him for the remainder of the game.
Hunter Stover trotted onto the field to attempt his first collegiate field goal in a tie game in front of a record-setting crowd for his hometown team, and what did he do?
He banged home a 27 yarder to give the Cajuns a 24-21 lead, not knowing at the time that his kick would be the game winner.
Tulane threatened on the ensuing drive but were forced to punt after an errant snap sailed over the head of Powell and out of field goal range. Now it was redshirt freshman Jalen Nixon’s turn to play the role of heroic backup to kill the game.
Nixon and the Cajun offense got the ball with 7:20 left at their own nine yard line and burned clock on the ground. Nixon provided a key third down conversion by evading pressure and hooking up with Robinson to keep the clock rolling, but eventually Daniel Cadona was called out to pin the Green Wave back at their own five with under two minutes to go.
Powell evaded a safety to begin the drive and continued to orchestrate the two-minute offense to a tee, but the Cajun defense’s spine stiffened at the opportune time to force a long field goal.
Cairo Santos is easily one of college football’s best kickers, so Hudspeth decided to ice the already cold-blooded kicker. With no timeouts left for either team, the only thing that could provide overtime was the foot of Santos.
The snap was good, the hold was solid, but the kick kept wobbling. With 109,456 eyes watching, the ball sailed wide left. The Cajuns knelt the ball, and the game was over.
New Orleans Bowl insanity struck the Cajuns and their fans for the third straight year, and the hardware was placed in the hands of Coach Hudspeth and his players.
Darkwa, with his three touchdown performance, brought home the New Orleans MVP, but the Tulane supporters had to watch a sea of red flood the Dome as Cajun Nation rejoiced again in the Crescent City.
The players rejoiced, Hudpeth danced with a security guard, and the sea of red flooded out into the streets to paint the Quarter red until next December.