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Listing of Stories - Scroll Down for Full Stories.
Nov. 26, 2005 Stokley Wishes Cajuns Good Luck - Brandon Stokley, former UL great.
Nov. 25, 2005 1970 team recalls Cajuns' bowl trip - Thornton recalls fan support.
Nov. 23, 2005 Emotional Moment at Start of Football Practice - Robert Trahan.
Nov. 23, 2005 Nothing Sells Like Success - Support for Cajuns Winning Football Season.
Nov. 22, 2005 Holiday Won't Keep Students From Game - Student Spirit.
Nov. 22, 2005 UL Fans Awaiting Playoff - Comments from die-hard fans.
Nov. 13, 2005 Tailgaters follow UL football's incredible ride - Tailgating at UL Home Games is exciting.
May 26, 2005 UL Fans Brave Distance - Baseball Fans at SunBelt Conference Tournament.

Stokley wishes Cajuns good luck

November 26, 2005 -
Dan McDonald

Brandon Stokley accomplished a lot of amazing things during his four years with the then-USL football team.
He's the Ragin' Cajuns' all-time receiving leader in catches, yards and touchdowns, and nobody else is really close in any of those three categories. He led the Cajuns in receiving during three different seasons.

When he finished his career in 1998, he had more catches than any four-year player in Louisiana collegiate history, and he's still second on that list.

He set NCAA records, two of which still stand, and he ranks in the top 30 in Division I-A college football history in the four major receiving categories.
But there's one thing Stokley missed when he wore a Cajun jersey from 1995-98.

He never had the chance to experience that one afternoon, that one game, when a victory would mean a conference championship, and perhaps a trip to a postseason bowl game.

"That's what you play for, that one chance to win it all," said Stokley, who now plies his trade as a standout NFL wide receiver with the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts. "I wish I could have had that opportunity, that chance."

His alma mater has that chance today, when the University of Louisiana travels to face UL Monroe at 2:30 p.m. at ULM's Malone Stadium.

A victory means a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship for the Cajun squad, and that, coupled with a loss by Arkansas State at North Texas today, would put UL into the relocated New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20 at Cajun Field.

"You don't get to have that kind of chance very often," said Stokley, whose Cajun teams were in a conference only one year of his career and had only one winning record in four seasons. "I hope they can take advantage of it."

Stokley, of course, went on to success in a much bigger game. The seven-year NFL veteran made a name for himself on football's biggest stage, when he caught the first touchdown pass in the Baltimore Ravens' 34-7 win over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. He was Baltimore's leading receiver in that game with three catches for 52 yards, and his 38-yard first-quarter score gave the Ravens the lead for good.

The former Comeaux High standout was signed as a free agent by the Colts after the 2002 season, and hasn't missed a beat. He had 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 scores last year as Indianapolis became the first team in NFL history to have three receivers with 10 or more touchdowns and one of four in history with three receivers over 1,000 yards.

This year, the Colts are pro football's only unbeaten team at 10-0 heading into a Monday night home game against Pittsburgh.

But, he's still found time to keep track of his hometown school, and is one of the many who's thrilled with their late-season success.

"They started out slow, but they've really picked it up the last few weeks and gotten it going," Stokley said. "My dad (former Cajun head coach Nelson Stokley), Bubby Schexnayder, a lot of other people keep me posted on what's going on and I definitely follow it. I'll be checking up on them Saturday."

UL's down-the-stretch surge also has given Stokley a chance to brag about his school in the Colts' locker room.

"Players are always talking about their teams, and a lot of them make fun of me because they went to Tennessee (Colts quarterback and Stokley's good friend Peyton Manning's alma mater), Michigan or Notre Dame and they know I went to a smaller school. It's nice to be able to come back with a little ammunition, especially if they get to a bowl game."

Originally published November 26, 2005

1970 team recalls Cajuns' bowl trip

November 25, 2005 - Bruce Brown

Editor's Note: Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns will play the UL Monroe Indians on Saturday for the Sun Belt Conference championship and the right to host the displaced New Orleans Bowl at UL's Cajun Field on Dec. 20. It has been 35 years since a Cajun team earned a bowl bid.
When a member of the Tennessee State football team met USL's Jim Doyle in December 1970, he ventured a guess about Doyle's position judging by his size.

"What are you, a running back?" Doyle was asked.

"No," Doyle replied, "I'm the biggest guy on our team."
In fact, Doyle was a lineman for the Ragin' Cajuns of coach Russ Faulkinberry, one of the few sizable players on a 9-2 squad that earned a berth in the Grantland Rice Bowl after capturing the Gulf State Conference title.

The XXXXX Tigers were less than impressed with the Cajuns, their opponent for the Dec. 12 bowl game in Baton Rouge.

"Their attitude was that they would come in and run over us," recalled Nate Thornton, a freshman on that 1970 Cajun team.

To hear other Cajuns tell it, the Tigers had a right to feel that way.

"They were, without a doubt, the most talented team I had ever seen up close," said Nelson Schexnayder, a junior receiver in 1970. "Ten of their 11 defensive starters were drafted into the NFL after that season, and the only reason the 11th guy wasn't is that he was a junior and you couldn't draft juniors at the time."

Tennessee State was quarterbacked by "Jefferson Street" Joe Gilliam and had players like Ed "Too Tall" Jones in its defensive line.

"We were in way over our heads," said Mike McDonald, a junior safety in 1970 who remains the UL career interception leader with 21.

"There was a banquet the night or two before the game, and they thought we were the JV," Acadiana High assistant coach Myles Casbon said.

Schexnayder remembers that banquet scene like it was last week.

"In those days, we had set travel outfits," Schexnayder said. "We wore white slacks, blue shirts, white ties and red coats. So, we got to the banquet first, and then Tennessee State came in.

"They were dressed to the nines. They had on expensive suits, hats, fedoras. One guy was wearing a cape. Imagine wearing a cape in 1970! And there we were in our little red, white and blue outfits."

As Cajun receivers, Dupre and Schexnayder would be matched against that talented Tigers defensive backfield in the bowl game, so they were understantably concerned.

"We didn't know much about Tennessee State, how talented they were or the success they'd had," Schexnayder said. "Maybe Russ didn't want us to know everything.''

TSU led 14-12 at halftime and no one scored in the third quarter, setting up a furious finish as Tennessee State prevailed by a wafer-thin 26-25 score.

"They were a rough group," McDonald recalled. "They were great, but they were also cocky and arrogant. It was kind of a dirty game. There was a lot of stuff going on between plays, and trash talking was unusual at that time."

"You look up, and they outweighed us, they were faster and they were quicker," Casbon said, "but we played as a team and had that never-say-die attitude Coach Faulkinberry instilled in us.

"We kept plugging, and it was almost there for us."

Now, 35 years later, coach Rickey Bustle's Cajuns have a chance to return to postseason play.

"They're solid and well-coached," said Schexnayder, who hired Bustle to take over the program in 2002. "They play smart football, and they're learning how to win.

"I think we've turned the corner, and I think that bodes well for the future."

Thornton, for one, always thought it could happen again.

"I was on the bowl team, and I was also on the (1973) team that went 0-10," Thornton said. "Our last game (in 1973) was against McNeese, and it was pouring down rain. As we came down the tunnel to the field, I looked up and saw a couple of people up in Section EE, with trash bags over their heads, waiting for the game.

"When I saw that, I said as long as people like that can support us, when I get out I've got to support the Cajuns. I never lost faith, and it's all been worth it. This is what it's all about."

Originally published November 25, 2005

Emotional Moment: Start of Tuesday's Football Practice

November 23, 2005 - Exerpts From Dan McDonald's Article Entitled "Cajuns Hold Final Full-Pads Practice"

EMOTIONAL MOMENT: Prior to Tuesday's practice, the Cajun squad presented the game ball from last Saturday's 28-7 win over Florida International to long-time supporter Robert Trahan.
The ball included the date and score of the game and was signed by all members of the squad. Trahan, whose battle with a serious illness hasn't stopped him from attending this season's games, was on hand at practice with several members of his family including son Hunter Trahan, who is chairman of the school's athletic director search committee.

"It was good to see all of the kids go over there to him," said Bustle. "It got pretty emotional. I couldn't even talk to the team. It's a good thing Robert was able to break us down and get us started with practice."

AN Note: We are proud to have Robert Trahan as one of the original sponsors of the AN. He has been with us since Day #1.

Football: Nothing sells like success

November 23, 2005 -
Ragin' Cajuns gain support with winning season

Amanda McElfresh

With the University of Louisiana football team preparing to play one of its biggest games of the season Saturday against UL Monroe, some UL supporters say they have never wavered in cheering on the Ragin' Cajuns.
But others have taken notice of this year's team, now one game away from the school's first winning season in a decade, and have become fans once again.

"A lot of them have been there through thick and thin. They're there win or lose," said Liz Landry, a UL alum who is now director of the school's advancement services. "The energy might be different when they're winning, but the people are still there."

Carolyn Bienvenu is one of those fans who has stood by the team through good times and rough patches. She said as the team struggled through the first part of the season, she and her husband, Ronald, never expected UL to be in a position to play in a bowl game this year.
"It was pretty dim at the beginning," Bienvenu said. "You always hope. We thought that maybe it would be another year. Rickey (head coach Rickey Bustle) asked for four years to recruit. We thought it would take another year."

But longtime UL fan Jude Simon said he hopes fans who have become stronger LSU supporters in recent years will recognize the success the Lafayette team is having.

"I hope a lot of the people who have bought LSU season tickets might now come back to UL," Simon said. "I think the season they've had is awesome. It's great for the whole school."

Dan Hare, executive director of the UL Alumni Association, said that although most fans have stuck with the football team through both winning and losing seasons, some alumni have become more active now that the team is on the verge of its first winning season in 10 years.

"There's definitely a correlation between the success of the football program and the response we get from our supporters," Hare said.

(Staff writer Marsha Sills contributed to this article.)

Originally published November 23, 2005

Football: Holiday won't keep students from game

November 22, 2005 -
Marsha Sills

Although the University of Louisiana campus will be closed for the Thanksgiving break, the stands at UL Monroe's football stadium won't lack Ragin' Cajun student spirit Saturday.
"I'm really not concerned about our crowd," said Jackie Alleman, a cheerleader and sophomore majoring in secondary education. "The ones that go will be there to support the team, and I think we'll have a good showing."

Two busloads of students will leave for the game Saturday. Today is the deadline for students to reserve a seat on the bus.

UL student Seward Broussard said it's likely that the Thanksgiving break and a competing event - the Bayou Classic, which has been moved to Houston - may impact the size of the crowd. But, he agreed the student die-hards won't miss it for anything.
"I'll be there face-painted, the works," he said.

He said one student bus already is full, and students are working to fill the second one.

"One bus - I think that's a good turnout for any away game," Broussard said.

One of the team's largest supportive groups will be absent from the game - the Pride of Acadiana Marching Band. The band will return Saturday from its trip to New York City to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Their instruments won't arrive in Lafayette until Sunday.

Logistically, it just doesn't work out, said Brian Taylor, marching band director.

"With how important the game it is, it would have been nice to go and watch the team win," Taylor said.

Band members said they wish their schedules would have worked out, too.

"I think we get the crowd into the game more," said Anthony Gribble, trumpet player and music performance sophomore.

Jim Price, a mellophone player, said he wishes more people would turn out for the games.

"I'm always yelling. By the end of every game, I'm hoarse. I wish there were more people at the game," Price said. "It takes an entire crowd to make a game."

Originally published November 22, 2005

UL fans awaiting playoff

November 22, 2005 -
Marsha Sills

Win or lose, year after year there are die-hard fans who return Saturday after Saturday to watch the Ragin' Cajuns on the field.
On Saturday, they may be rewarded for their devotion with a Sun Belt Conference title and UL's first bowl berth since 1970.

"Thirty-five years we've been waiting for another bowl," said Al Comeaux, who has been a fan since the mid-'60s, when he was in high school.

Even if the team wins Saturday against UL Monroe, for a berth in the New Orleans Bowl, North Texas has to beat Arkansas State on Saturday. The bowl has been moved to Lafayette, making the bid even more rare for the Cajuns to play a bowl on their home turf.
Comeaux was one of several fans at Monday's Quarterback Club luncheon in which head coach Rickey Bustle meets with program supporters.

The game is likely the biggest in the past 10 years, said Bob Manuel, a fan since 1966 who has held the same season tickets since the stadium was built.

The program has faced unsuccessful seasons and a strained budget that has been padded with community support and fundraising efforts. With development in the athletics department, including renovations to the athletic complex, locker room and training rooms and a planned indoor practice facility, this season's successes are more building blocks for the program.

"The ramifications will have a tremendous effect on the football program," Manuel said. "It would be a tremendous plus for recruiting."

Manuel was at the 1970 game when the team lost by one point to Tennessee State in the Grantland Rice Bowl at Memorial Stadium in Baton Rouge.

No one likely understands the importance of a winning athletic team better than UL President Ray Authement.

"We sense the positive spirit in the community," Authement said. "People are just dying to have a winning football program. ... Just a winning season would be tremendous and good for the future of the team. We should be on an upsurge in football in the next three to four years."

E.G. "T-Boy" Hebert didn't play football when he was a student at UL, but was on its championship weightlifting team in the late 60s.

Now he fuels his passion for UL athletics and football by giving back to the university by mentoring athletes and attending practices.

Before Hurricane Katrina displaced him from his Kenner home, he tried to attend practice twice a week. Now, he's attending more frequently.

"I want to be part of helping to build the program," Hebert said. "We're on the move. We're raising money. ... Coach Bustle came along four years ago and said, 'I need four years,' and now we have one of the most successful teams since Jake Delhomme played."

This success of this turnaround season shows the character of the team, Hebert said.

"Those kids just didn't give up," Hebert said. "This is the first winning season we've had in a long time. We're just going to get better. If we beat UL Monroe, it will be the biggest thing to happen to UL football in years."

Longtime fan Joseph Handy agreed that a bowl game would be a nice gift to fans, but it's just "lagniappe," he said.

"This week is huge," Handy said. "I would be elated and happy to go to a bowl game, but most important is that it will give us a winning season. The lagniappe is playing the bowl game. This is huge."

Originally published November 22, 2005

Tailgaters follow UL football's incredible ride

November 13, 2005 -
Amanda McElfresh

The University of Louisiana's last home game of the season brought out hundreds of tailgaters Saturday afternoon, excited about the chance of the UL football team having its first winning season in a decade.

After winning only one of their first six games, UL has rebounded in the second half of the season, winning three straight games and putting themselves in position to possibly earn a berth in the New Orleans Bowl, to be played Dec. 20 at Cajun Field.

George Hollier has been attending UL football games since 1977 and said this year's season has brought back memories of previous successful years in the mid-1990s.

"It feels good, like it did in 1992 and 1993," Hollier said. "The players deserve it because they've worked their tails off. Coach Bustle has worked extremely hard to get this program back up to where it needs to be."

Shawn Bernard said he has been tailgating at UL for the past six years and hopes this year's success will translate into more fans turning out for future games.

"They've lost a lot of their fan base," Bernard said. "I'd like to see more community support. I think that will happen if they keep winning."

Hollier agreed, and said he expects the team's success to continue in future seasons.

"If this town has a winner, the people will come out to support it, and you'll see a lot bigger crowds," Hollier said

Mike Doucet, a UL sophomore, said he has class with several football players, and the attitude on campus has been different this year than in the past.

"It's a totally different atmosphere," Doucet said. "They're a lot happier, people are talking to them more."

Doucet said he thinks the support is great for everyone involved, including coaches, players and fans

Originally published November 13, 2005

UL fans brave distance

May 26, 2005 -

Dan McDonald

MIAMI - Karen Lucroy didn't know that, when son Jonathan signed with Louisiana's baseball team, their family signed up, too.

"I really wasn't sure what it was all about," she said Wednesday, "but it's something we've really gotten into."

That was obvious to every player, coach and fan that arrived at Florida International's University Park Field for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament's first day. They were treated to a pair of large white tents, covered with Ragin' Cajun banners, that became headquarters for UL fans at the tournament.

It was also the only tailgating in sight, even including fans of the host FIU club.

"They haven't had football down here very long," Lucroy said. "They really don't know how to do it."

Cajun baseball fans, known for their tailgating abilities, were more than happy to welcome Karen and Steve Lucroy into the fold. The couple, whose son leads the Cajuns in hitting as a freshman and earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors as a designated hitter, pulled a trailer full of tents, tables, chairs and other items from their Umatilla, Fla., home.

They also brought food - lots of pork and chicken, watermelon and sweet corn which was boiled on site. The entire Cajun team had lunch there Wednesday and also ate there after the team's disappointing 10-7 loss to Western Kentucky in UL's tournament opener.

"We're from a small town," Lucroy said of Umatilla, which is approximately 40 miles northwest of Orlando. "Everybody knows everybody, it's like one big happy family. That's why it was easy for us to fit in with all of these guys. They're the same way."

The Cajun tents occupied the park's prime locations, nestled under a group of large palm trees near the third-base foul pole and adjacent to the main road leading into University Park. They were easy to spot, thanks in part to four banners that read "Ragin' Cajuns 2005 SBC Champs" that Doug Williamson at Acadiana Fun Jumps arranged in one day after UL claimed the league title last weekend.

"This is a great spot," said long-time Cajun fan and follower Pat McDonald, who flew in Tuesday. "A lot of people have come through here ... a lot have been from other schools who came by to visit and have fun with us."

More than 100 Cajun fans were in attendance at UL's tournament opener Wednesday, many of them making the long trek from Acadiana by flight, but some braved the 1,000-mile drive.

Wayne and Ida Boling did both, flying to Tampa and driving across much of South Florida over the last five days. Wayne Boling combined the baseball trip with business stops in his position with SPL Laboratories, an environmental lab that has several accounts in Florida. The couple also spent the weekend in Key West before returning to the Miami area.

But well before game time Wednesday, the Bolings had their spots among the other Cajun faithful - a spot that got even better when Marla Trahan arrived with a portable CD player.

"I had to run over to Office Max to get one," she said, "but we needed some music here."

The tailgate area didn't just happen. It became a consolidated effort from a lot of fans, with some help from the host institution.

"The FIU folks have been as nice as could be," Trahan said. "They brought us ice, and they've kept asking if we needed anything else."

Most of that wasn't necessary. The Lucroys brought most of the necessities.

"We've had so many good comments," Karen Lucroy said. "A lot of our fans have thanked us, but that wasn't necessary. We just feel so fortunate to have fallen into Cajun baseball. We're the ones who have been blessed."

Originally published May 26, 2005

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