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Football: Monumental upset remembered

Football: Monumental upset remembered

Football: Monumental upset remembered

Bruce Brown

Football teams take their que from the quarterback, and Jake Delhomme never saw a game he didn’t think he could win.
So when the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns prepared for their second game of the 1996 season against No. 25 Texas A&M, they saw a senior leader who was ready to make history.

"Our confidence level was extremely high," said Delhomme, who took a break from his Carolina Panthers playbook this week to revisit that moment in time.

"We had lost to Florida (55-21) in the opener, but they won the national championship that year. They just demolished people. We played pretty well, but naturally they wore us down at the end."
Delhomme threw two touchdowns at Florida, but the Gators also returned four UL miscues for touchdowns to make the win easier.

Two weeks later, the tables turned as the Cajuns forced eight turnovers (four fumbles, four interceptions) and ran back three of those for scores in a momentous 29-22 upset before 38,783 fans at Cajun Field.

"We had a lot of confidence," Delhomme said. "We were going to try to wear them out. We were going to get after them. We felt we matched up with them well.

"We went out with two tight ends, Donald Richard and Brandon Stokley out wide. We ran boots, nakeds and stretch plays on them. We wanted to tire them out. We were in better shape than they were.

"It tired us out, too. At half, we were gassed. We were blowing. But we played on adrenalin in the second half."

Delhomme drove the Cajuns 93 yards against A&M’s famous "Wrecking Crew" defense for a 21-7 lead in the second quarter, capping it with a 1-yard scoring pass to Cody Romero.

He also hit Stokley for a key two-point conversion after Britt Jackson’s 30-yard interception touchdown in the fourth quarter for the final margin of victory.

"It was crazy," Stokley said after Indianapolis Colts practice. "It was one of those things you see on TV, but something I’d never been a part of at UL.

"Some of the game is a little fuzzy for me. I got knocked out in the second quarter and kind of lost my mind a little. I didn’t know the score. It was really odd. At the half, I was not feeling good. I probably shouldn’t have played the second half, but I played anyway."

"It was very special," then-coach Nelson Stokley said. "I’m glad Brandon was there. I remember one point in the game where we had a third-and-four and hit him for a quick screen for about 12 or 15 yards. He kept spinning, and I think he made everybody in their secondary miss him."

"The talent was definitely there," said Brandon Stokley. "We just needed to put it all together. The longer we stayed in the game, we felt we could win if we kept playing well.

"You find yourself thinking, ‘We’re right in this game.’ I remember we had the lead and were trying to hold on late in the game. All the way to the end, there was a lot of excitement."

"Just to see people coming down out of the stands was great," Delhomme said. "We weren’t supposed to beat them. That was the first time I’d seen the stands packed, and people all on the grass. We were pretty much walking on Cloud 9.

"It’s still by far the best memory of my career at UL."

Asked if he still hears from people about the game, the younger Stokley took the lead.

"I’ll bring it up every now and then, especially to some of my (Colts) teammates," he said. "I remember they had a ‘Jake and Bake’ poster of the two of us at UL, and Jake sent one of the posters to Peyton (Colts quarterback Peyton Manning).

"Players would come in our room, and see the poster and see the (1996) schedule on it. They’ll say, ‘Did you guys win any of those games?’ and I’ll say, ‘Yeah, we beat A&M.’

"So, it’s still out there."

It’s amazing what a lasting moment talent, grit and confidence can create.

Originally published September 8, 2006