My Least Favorite Cajuns Games – Part 2 – From the Bird’s Nest
As a broadcaster, you have to learn to divorce yourself somewhat from the results on the field. But some of those losses really hurt.
For me, these are the ones that hurt the most.
#5--AUBURN 25, USL 24--JORDAN-HARE STADIUM--OCTOBER 24, 1992
This was my first year covering the Cajuns. They weren't very good.
USL would win only two games that year. Their biggest issue was their offense, which scored more than twenty points only twice during the season. This was one of those games.
Naturally the Cajuns were big underdogs in this one, and they fell behind early, 10-0. But on this day the Cajuns had some offense. Tijuan Hayes threw three touchdown passes in the first half, two of them to Wayde Butler. The Cajuns defense stiffened after the first two drives and kept Auburn off the board. A Richie Cunningham field goal with :04 left in the first half gave the good guys a 24-10 halftime lead.
Auburn kicked a field goal with its first possession of the third quarter and a 38 yard punt return set them up at the Cajun 31, where they scored to make it 24-19. The Tigers elected to go for two and the conversion attempt failed. Hayes was intercepted on the Cajuns' next possession, but the USL defense held Auburn on fourth and two.
Early in the fourth quarter, Auburn put together a drive and got another field goal from Scott Etheridge to cut the Cajuns' lead to 24-22 with eight minutes to play.
The Cajuns had been stymied by Auburn's defense the entire second half, but drove from their own 19 to midfield. Auburn returned Randy Baggett's punt to their own 23 yard line. The Cajuns' defense came through, as Fernando Thomas intercepted Stan White's pass and returned it to the Auburn ten yard line. An illegal block during the return pushed it back to the 20. There were four minutes, 20 seconds to play.
USL head coach Nelson Stokley would later say the plan was to run the football three times, hopefully make Auburn use their time outs, then kick a field goal to go up five and make Auburn drive the entire field if they were going to win the game.
But Reginald Francois fumbled on the very next play. The fumble was picked out of mid air and returned to the Auburn 31. The Cajuns got a stop but couldn't convert on third and two and Auburn got the ball back with 1:19 to play at their own 36 with one time out.
It really came down to one play. Auburn drove to the USL 38 but faced fourth and six. White found Orlando Parker for a 22 yard gain, and on top of that, the Cajuns were hit with a personal foul penalty that gave Auburn first and goal at the 8. Etheridge then kicked his fourth field goal of the game with :14 left to win it for the Tigers.
The Cajuns wouldn't win another game, finishing on a seven game losing streak. But Jake Delhomme was about to graduate at Teurlings Catholic. Things were about to get better.
#4--THE WRONG DECISION--ULM 56, LOUISIANA 50 (2OT)--CAJUN FIELD--SEPTEMBER 23, 2017
I don't second guess coaches. They have enough on their plate without some broadcaster questioning everything they do after the fact. Fans do that.
I will, however, first guess. And when I do that, coaches are fair game.
It was unusual for the game with ULM to be the conference opener, but in 2017, that was the case. And, the Warhawks came out smoking. Quarterback Caleb Evans was a one man wrecking crew as ULM jumped out to a 23-7 lead before Elijah Mitchell's second touchdown got the Cajuns to within 23-13 at the half.
Louisiana got within a score when Stevie Artigue kicked a 20 yard field goal early in the third quarter, but ULM came right back with a touchdown to make the score 30-16. Dion Ray scored for the Cajuns but Artigue missed his second PAT of the night and the fourth quarter began with the Cajuns trailing 30-22.
It was 43-22 with 9:35 left and the Cajuns looked dead in the water. But Andre Nunez led an 83 yard drive with Trey Ragas scoring from a yard out. 43-29, 7:03 to play.
The Cajuns defense forced a three and out and Ryheem Malone returned the punt to the ULM 37. Seven plays later, Nunez found Bam Jackson with a 12 yard touchdown pass. 43-36. 3:34 to play.
Again, the Cajuns forced a punt and took over at their 16 with 1:56 remaining. Despite being sacked twice, Nunez led the march downfield, completing four passes to Jackson to put the ball at the 14 yard line with :06 left. Nunez then found Ja'Marcus Bradley over the middle for the score as time expired in regulation. 43-42.
And, on the play, ULM was called for roughing the passer, which meant the ball would be placed 54 inches from the goal line.
54 freaking inches.
Mitchell and Ragas had combined for 197 yards. ULM's defense was gassed. The Cajuns had everything going for them and there was no doubt in my mind a give right up the middle would end the game. And, keep in mind, Calvin Linden had been sent out for his first kicks after Artigue missed a pair of PAT's. It was an absolute no brainer to go for two.
Mark Hudspeth played for overtime. And, ULM won the game.
As more years go by, this game may fade as far as bad memories are concerned.
But right now, it's still very fresh.
#3--THAT'S THE WAY THE BALL BOUNCES...ER...CAROMS--ARKANSAS STATE 39, LOUISIANA 36--INDIAN STADIUM, JONESBORO, AR--THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2005.
This game didn't seem like such a big deal at the time it was played. But in the grand scheme of things it meant everything.
The Cajuns were just 1-4 heading into the Thursday night, ESPNU telecast against Arkansas State. The Cajuns, who rushed for 457 yards on the night, raced out to a 16-0 lead.
Then came one of those plays that makes you wonder if it's going to be one of those nights.
ASU quarterback Nick Noce heaved a pass toward the end zone as the first half was about to end. The pass caromed off the helmet of Levi Dejohnette and nestled into the arms of Joe Brown, cutting the Cajuns lead to 16-7 at the break.
The Cajuns continued their solid play and took a 29-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
Then it all went to hell in a handbasket.
Arkansas State went on a 72 yard march, aided by a fourth down roughing the passer call. On the next possession, Noce hit Dejohnette with a 55 yard scoring strike and tied the game with a two point conversion.
After a Cajuns turnover, Noce ran one in from 15 yards out to give A-State a 36-29 lead. The Cajuns responded with an 80 yard drive culminating in a touchdown run by Josh Harrison to tie the game with :52 left.
A 35 yard run, aided by an obvious clipping penalty that wasn't called, got Arkansas State in position to win the game and Eric Neihouse did just that with a 35 yard field goal.
At the time, it was just another loss. But the Cajuns didn't lose again, reeling off five straight wins. The fifth, a lopsided win over ULM, put the Cajuns in a three way tie for the conference title with A-State and ULM. But ULM was eliminated from the tie-breaker because their overall record was 5-6. The Cajuns lost the head to head tiebreaker with the Indians and Arkansas State went to the New Orleans Bowl, which, as we all know, was played at Cajun Field.
#2--(THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY--7) FLORIDA 27, LOUISIANA 20--BEN HILL GRIFFIN STADIUM--GAINESVILLE, FL--NOVEMBER 10, 2012
If you're going to play one of the elite teams in college football, sometimes timing is everything. And, playing in November, you can sneak up on someone.
On this day, the Cajuns had it all going their way.
The Cajuns trailed 13-3 early in the third quarter, but the Louisiana defense was keeping them in the game. The Cajuns finally got the offense untracked as Terrance Broadway and Harry Peoples led the Cajuns deep into Florida territory, where Alonzo Harris scored from two yards out to cut the lead to 13-10.
Then came the break the Cajuns were looking for. On Florida's next possession, Bradley Brown blocked a Florida punt and Blake Comminie returned it 22 yards for a touchdown to give the Cajuns a 17-13 lead.
The Cajuns forced another punt on the next possession and the Cajuns marched down the field. They had first and goal from the Florida 7 yard line but had to settle for a Brett Baer field goal, giving Louisiana a 20-13 with 13:11 to play.
The Cajuns forced another punt, but then went three and out on offense. The Gators got a 16 yard punt return and started their next drive at the Cajuns' 49. There was 6:51 left on the clock.
The Cajuns defense got another stop, but, taking over deep in its own territory, Louisiana couldn't move the ball and after a 41 yard punt, Florida again started at the Cajuns 49.
2:56 to go.
On third and three, Florida finally broke a big play on a pass down to the Louisiana 3 yard line. Florida scored on the next play and the drive took just 1:14 off the clock.
The Cajuns got the ball back. Florida had one time out. Mark Hudspeth decided it would be easier to score from the Florida 25 than the UL 27. He chose to run the football and run the clock. As I said previously, I don't second guess coaches. Many have second guessed that decision. I have not. The Cajuns ran the ball three times and gained seven yards. Florida called their final time out with :13 left.
And then, blocked Brett Baer's punt. Jelani Jenkins recovered it and ran it in for the score from 36 yards out.
I wanted to throw up.
The Cajuns had to settle for a field goal early in the fourth. They allowed a big play on Florida's last drive. And, they had a punt blocked.
And went home a loser, 27-20.
#1--INTO THE ABYSS--NORTH ALABAMA 48, USL 42 (4OT)/NORTHEAST LOUISIANA 28, USL 21 (OT)--CAJUN FIELD--OCTOBER 11/OCTOBER 25, 1997
1997 was not a good year for Ragin' Cajuns football.
Now, to be fair, it's hard to do well when your schedule includes Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M in your first four games. There would also be a date with Ryan Leaf and Washington State later in the year.
But, just one season after pulling the upset of Texas A&M at Cajun Field, I'll repeat. 1997 was not a good year. Virtually all of the playmakers from the season before were gone.
The Cajuns started 0-5, then beat Arkansas State. And, with games coming up against Division II (That's right, D-II, not 1-AA) North Alabama and then Northeast Louisiana, both at home, there was optimism things would get better.
The Cajuns led Bobby Wallace's team 18-7 at halftime. USL had allowed just 95 yards in offense in the first half, 53 on the ground. But North Alabama would get 133 yards rushing in the third quarter alone to cut the lead to 18-13 and while the USL offense struggled, UNA continued to run at will. UNA took a 19-18 lead early in the fourth quarter and had a three point lead with 3:16 left. The Cajuns drove to the UNA 10 and Jeremy Deach kicked a 27 yard field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Each team got a touchdown with its first possession. Deach missed a 27 yard field goal, but Kevin Pearce misfired on a 30 yard attempt. UNA scored and made the two point conversion and the Cajuns had their backs to the wall. UNA was called for pass interference in the end zone and the Cajuns got the touchdown and the two pointer to send the game into the fourth overtime.
Lance Domec's pass was intercepted. UNA scored to win the game.
The Cajuns had lost to a Division II school. And, UNA wound up with 353 yards rushing AFTER HALFTIME.
After a bye week, the Cajuns faced Northeast Louisiana and led 21-7 at halftime. The Cajuns outgained the Indians 237-198. It was still 21-7 going into the fourth quarter. NLU scored early in the fourth then successfully converted an onside kick and cashed in for another touchdown to tie the score at 21.
But the Cajuns got a huge break. Brian Fuchs went back to punt at the NLU 7. He got a low snap and his knee touched as he fielded the ball. First down Cajuns with 41 seconds left.
Run it one time, let the clock run down, kick a 22 yard field goal and go home a winner.
Not this team.
Instead they called a run/pass option and Barton Folse threw the ball into the end zone...and was intercepted. The Cajuns, in the second half and overtime, amassed 77 yards of offense.
The Cajuns would not win another game. In fact, USL, in its final three games, gave up 56 points to Tulane, 77 to Washington State and 63 to Louisiana Tech. They set an NCAA record for most average points given up in a season.
Counting 1997, the Cajuns would go 9-46 over the next five seasons, 13-69 over the next eight.
And, in just 15 months the Cajuns went from its biggest win ever to being on life support.