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On The Line: Upset win left program with special memories

On The Line: Upset win left program with special memories

On The Line: Upset win left program with special memories

Bruce Brown, Daily Advertiser –

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot

For one brief shining moment

That was known as … Cajun Field.
With apologies to Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, and the musical "Camelot," fans of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns won’t let it be forgot that on Sept. 14, 1996, their team stunned No. 25 Texas A&M 29-22.

Can it really be 10 years now?

Ten years since the Cajuns earned their first victory over a ranked team, and still the only time they’ve pulled it off.

Ten years since 38,783 fans overflowed Cajun Field, spilling onto the hills behind the north and south end zones.

Ten years since the Cajuns erased bitter memories of narrow losses to Oklahoma State and Ole Miss (both by 21-20) in 1986, at Alabama in 1989 (24-17), at Arkansas in 1991 (9-7) and at Auburn in 1992 (25-24).

Ten years since the goal posts came down, and were carried away and out of the south end of the stadium by jubilant fans looking like so many ants toting a carrot up an ant hill.

"It’s been 10 years, and there’s still a grin on my face," said Nelson Schexnayder, who was UL’s athletic director at the time.

"It was an unbelievable night for our program. The kids played their hearts out, and it was exciting for the fans, parents, coaches and band. It still gives me chills.

"In my opinion, it was the best night in Cajun history."

"It was something the kids and the program needed," said Mike Doherty, whose secondary scored on two interceptions and a fumble recovery, then sealed the game with another pickoff.

"We had come so close in previous games. We were all glad to be a part of it."

The architect of the upset was head coach Nelson Stokley, who reached his Cajun zenith that night.

"For us it was very special," Stokley said. "It was really tremendous to see that. It was a terrific game, a terrific win for the people of UL. We put our hearts and souls into being a success.

"We got some breaks, but we made our breaks, too."

The final two points for UL came on an extra-point pass from Jake Delhomme to Brandon Stokley, both of whom are preparing for NFL openers this week.

"The buildup to it was something else," said Brandon Stokley, the coach’s son and star receiver. "The magnitude of it was something else. Everybody in the community was looking forward to it. It was exciting to be a part of it, and then to beat A&M and see the goal posts being carried out of the stadium, that’s what it’s all about.

"To see all those people in the stands, to feel their support and to see how excited they were, that’s one of my best memories."

"It was certainly great to walk out on the field and to see that overflow crowd," Delhomme said. "It was great to see the people sitting on the hills."

In the press box, where cheering for either team is prohibited by NCAA etiquette, fellow writers kidded me when I couldn’t stand the tension and had to pace silently behind my seat in the second half.

I also recall the flood of fans on the field afterwards, and I remember the sheer joy on the faces around me.

We put together a special section on the win. It felt like we had no time to turn that project around, but we did it, and I still have a few tucked away somewhere. I also still have a tape of the television broadcast.

You keep things like that.

"Winning that game at home, in front of our fans, made it more special because of the support they gave," Brandon Stokley said.

As unforgettable as that victory was, the best way to celebrate it would be to duplicate that feat soon, and then not wait 10 years to do it again. "Camelot" doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.

Originally published September 8, 2006