home sitesearch contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Football: Turnaround year requires dream finish

Football: Turnaround year requires dream finish

Football: Turnaround year requires dream finish

Dan McDonald
Second Wind Column

Told you so.
Told everybody who would listen. Got a bunch of head shakes. Got laughed at a lot.

Rose-colored glasses? Comparatively, Pollyanna was a brutal pessimist.

Who could possibly think, after watching the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns find all-new ways to lose during the first half of the season, that a five-game win streak was feasible?
The Cajuns had just lost to Arkansas State after leading 29-14 in the fourth quarter. They lost by more than two touchdowns to Florida Atlantic, of all people.

They were 1-5 and had two conference losses in two games. Their only chance was mathematical, and the odds were astronomical.

It shouldn’t have happened. For the umpteenth straight season, things were on track for "wait ’till next year."

Few believed. I did.

The ingredients were there, in the pan. All that was needed was something to light the oven. A spark. Something, as coaches often say, to hang their hat on. And they got it at, of all places, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The Cajuns went to Middle Tennessee, the league’s best team when the Blue Raiders are clicking like they’re capable. UL played a magnificent defensive game and marched 71 yards to a final-minute game-winning touchdown. Execution stayed.

Troy came for Homecoming, and Sean Comiskey’s overtime field goal and a Troy wide-left provided win number two. The corpse had a pulse.

A trip to four-time league champion North Texas turned into another last-minute victory, this one at the end of an 88-yard drive. Suddenly, the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train.

Florida International, one week removed from halting UL Monroe’s win streak on the Indians’ own field, was little more than a speed bump. It could have been worse than 28-7. The dream is now reality.

Suddenly, the Cajuns are the most unlikely 5-5 team anywhere and a 5-2 league record will give them a Sun Belt Conference championship – and maybe even get them into a bowl game that they’ll play at their own home field.

Think it’s time to back off that five-in-a-row prediction now? Not a chance.

Don’t bet against the hot dice. And be very careful when you back someone into the type of corner that the Cajuns have been in since mid-season, because they may strike back.

Sure, Monroe’s won three in a row in the series. But those games had little riding on the outcome. Obviously, this UL team plays better in must-win situations. The Cajuns haven’t been able to afford a loss since mid-October, and they’ve responded every time.

Sometimes it hasn’t been pretty. In fact, sometimes it’s been ugly. But there have also been 99-yard drives, a nine-quarterback-sack game and an unexpected option attack that has become a thing of beauty for football purists.

Teams of destiny find ways to win even when they don’t play their best. Over the past five weeks, the Cajuns have made that an art form.

The stars have been lined up for over a month, and now they’re pointing straight at Monroe. That’s where the bandwagon’s headed Saturday, and a bunch of people are jumping on.

Jump away. There’s plenty room on Rickey Bustle’s bandwagon. He’s been punching tickets to ride for a few weeks now, even tickets from those who didn’t believe not too long ago.

If the bandwagon’s big enough, it may not matter that the Cajuns have won two in a row on the road. There may not be that much of a home-field advantage anyway, considering UL Monroe hasn’t made it to 11,000 fans in either one of its last two home games despite leading the conference standings.

Home field doesn’t matter much, anyway, when there are dreams to be fulfilled.

One of the players from UL’s 2000 College World Series baseball team was leaving the park after the Super Regional win over South Carolina, the one that locked up the Omaha trip. He said things like this are what you see when you dream.

For the Cajuns, the dream continues Saturday. It can’t end any other way.

Dan McDonald has been part of the Daily Advertiser’s UL coverage since 1999 and has been involved with the Cajun program for 25 years. Contact him at (337) 289-6318 or at dmcdonald@theadvertiser.com.

Originally published November 25, 2005