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Football Commentary: Cajuns celebrate 25th anniversary of program’s greatest Homecoming win

The only thing visible from the Cajun Field press box was taillights – a constant stream of disappointed USL fans leaving the parking lot in their 1982 vintage automobiles.

Couldn’t blame them. The homestanding Ragin’ Cajuns were behind in-state rival Northeast Louisiana 26-0 midway through the third quarter, and NLU standout quarterback John Holman and the Indian defense were doing a number on a Cajun team that had already lost three of its last four. Just seven nights earlier, the Cajuns had been popped 36-0 at Southern Mississippi.

A Homecoming dance and other organizational celebrations would provide solace. Alcohol was on a lot of minds.

"I would have left, too, if I could have," said quarterback Dwight Prudhomme.

"Just about everybody I know has asked me what did I say at halftime," said then-Cajun coach Sam Robertson. "The first thing we usually did was separate into offense and defense and discuss adjustments we were going to make, and I poked my head into both rooms and said I’d be right back. I went straight to my office and prayed."

Prudhomme’s glad he stayed. And Coach Sam? He had the right idea, because what happened over the final quarter and a half on that Nov. 6, 1982 night had to be divine intervention.

Many of those driving away had their radios on, and they heard play-by-play announcer Don Allen describe the Cajuns’ first touchdown on an unlikely 60-yard quarterback sneak by Prudhomme. Then they heard another touchdown … a field goal … and, improbably, three more touchdowns in rapid succession.

The legend says that many of them turned around. At least one ticket was written that night for a U-turn on Congress Street, without question to some unbelieving fan trying to get back to Cajun Field to soak up the atmosphere of a 40-26 win.

"We didn’t know all that was going on," Robertson said, "but a lot of people unloaded at halftime."

"The people that left missed a good one," Prudhomme said.

A good one? If ESPN had come of age by then, it would have been an Instant Classic. As it was, the sideline grins and a delirious Cajun locker room were classic enough.

"I remember coming back to the sideline after we’d scored again, and I saw Doug Waddell," Prudhomme said. "He’s looking at me and shaking his head and laughing. It was so ridiculous, it was almost funny."

Teams just don’t spot visitors 26 first-half points on Homecoming night and then score 40 unanswered points, even a pretty good Cajun team that finished at 7-3-1 – and especially against a good NLU team that went on to finish 8-3 and five years later won a Division I-AA national championship.

It was the stuff of legends. "My 15 minutes of fame," Prudhomme said.

It all started with the simplest of football plays, one not long after an Andy Martin interception halted what looked like yet another Indian scoring march. But this time, the Cajuns took advantage of a quirk in the Northeast defense.

"They ran an eight-man front and they liked to blitz," Robertson said, "and when the two inside linebackers blitzed it opened up the middle."

"We had an audible that week because of that defense, not even an audible," Prudhomme said. "When they shifted into that, the two down linemen both played on the outside shoulder of the guards. The plan was that I would goose (center) Dennis Peoples on the leg, and when the ball snapped I was just following him."

Sixty yards later, the Lafayette High product was in the end zone, one of only two touchdown runs he had that year and by far the longest of his career.

"It’s the fastest I ever saw him run," Robertson said. "Fear will make you do a lot of things."

"We scored two two-point conversions on the same play," Prudhomme said. "I just kept tapping Dennis."

Still, the touchdown and two-pointer made it only 26-8, and there wasn’t a lot of time left in the third quarter. But moments later, the Cajuns had the ball again and Prudhomme threw a pass that Greg Hobbs leaped, twisted and caught in the corner of the end zone.

An Oscar Speer field goal … David Foret’s 10-yard touchdown run … Prudhomme linking with Pierre Perkins for a 60-yard score … Thomas Jackson going 10 yards for a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Lynn Amedee, in his only season at USL, was on the sidelines and on a roll. Forty straight points, and it could have been more – the Cajuns kneeled down twice inside the Northeast 10 in the final minute.

"The defensive guys never get enough credit for what they did that night," Prudhomme said. "Pat Boudreaux, Andy, Vernon Homer, Cooter Mansur – I mean, Holman was ‘the guy’ back then, breaking most of the state passing records, and we held them to almost zero in the second half."

It’s that 25 minutes of offense, though, that’s burned into the memories of a team that held a 20-year reunion five seasons ago and plans another for the end of this year.

"I don’t think anybody at halftime had a doubt we were going to make a game of it," Prudhomme said. "We didn’t know that we’d score 40 points, but there weren’t a lot of negatives. We’d made some mistakes and we were hurting ourselves in the first half."

The Cajuns went on to knock off La. Tech 29-19 the following week and should have finished 8-3, but self-destructed in a 10-10 season-ending tie at McNeese. Still, it was a solid comeback from a 1-9-1 record in Robertson’s second season.

"We took a team that had won one the year before, and it was just believing we could do it," Prudhomme said. "Sam and I butted heads a little bit back then … I was 20 years old and thinking I knew everything. But he was very patient with me. And we were always prepared and believed we could win."

Even down 26-0 at halftime, apparently.

"I told our coaches to be calm and let’s be good teachers, teaching with a lot of confidence," Robertson said of that now-famous 20-minute break. "At the reunion, they all reminded me of the talk I gave them. I told them that no matter how they performed I still loved them and their parents still loved them.

"I said I wasn’t so sure about their girl friends, but the only way they could love themselves was to go out and play that second half like they could."

The rest, as they say, is history.

Athletic Network Footnote

Picture of 1982 team at the 2002 reunion. Photo provided by the Athletic Network

Wives/guests of the 1982 football team taken in 2002