My Favorite Cajun Moments of the Decade – From the Bird’s Nest
Those who are really sticklers for accuracy would tell you the end of the 2010's actually comes a year from now. (Think about it, the first year didn't start with zero, year ten did.)
But since the generally accepted end of the decade is actually today, I thought I'd look back on my favorite moments of the decade. Your list might be different.
There were some moments that I had to leave off: Basketball's tip to buzzer win at Louisiana Tech in 2013, Jace Conrad's walkoff homer in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament in 2013, Chase Compton's dramatic two out, two strike, two run homer at Southeastern Louisiana in 2014 and more close football wins than one can imagine. But I only had room for ten. And, it had to be a game I broadcasted, which eliminated women's basketball and softball.
Here's my list.
#10. BREAKING INTO THE VAULT--Louisiana 37, Arkansas State 20---October 27, 2019--Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR
The Cajuns were coming off a home loss against Appalachian State and stood at 4-2 overall, 1-1 in the league. Now it was off to Jonesboro, a place where the Cajuns have rarely been able to come home with a win. The Red Wolves were also 1-1 in the league and the winner would have the lead in the Sun Belt West and the tiebreaker if it came into play.
And, it didn't start well.
Arkansas State drove 95 yards in its first possession and took a 7-0 lead. The Cajuns answered with a Trey Ragas touchdown, but Blake Grupe's field goal put the Red Wolves in front again. The Cajuns then scored 17 unanswered points to take a two touchdown lead into the locker room and led 30-20 with just over six minutes left.
The play of the game came on Arkansas State's next possession when Chauncey Manac tackled Marcel Murray for a two yard loss on fourth down and Raymond Calais put the game away with a 38 yard touchdown run. The final of 37-20 catapulted the Cajuns to a six game winning streak to end the regular season.
#9--THE WIZARD OF OZ--Louisiana 1, Rice 0, NCAA Austin Regional--June 4, 2010--Disch-Falk Field, Austin, TX
The 2010 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball season was actually two seasons. The first half, the Cajuns were 14-14 and mired deep in the standings with a 4-8 record.
For team captains Zach Osborne and Justin Robichaux, that wasn't acceptable.
A team meeting cleared the air and solidified the ball club. Lefty Taylor Hubbell solidified the #3 spot in the weekend rotation...and the Cajuns went on a serious roll. Louisiana went on a nine game winning streak, with a pair of conference sweeps. The Cajuns split four non-league games, then won seven straight, again sweeping a pair of weekend series.
Osborne was outdueled by Western Kentucky's Matt Ridings in a 2-1 loss, but the Cajuns won the final two games of the series and then swept three at ULM, resulting in a regular season conference title. Louisiana went 17-1 in conference play after that 4-8 start. And despite going 0-2 in the conference tournament, the Cajuns got the #3 seed in the NCAA Austin Regional.
Powerful Rice, featuring the National Player of the Year in third baseman Anthony Rendon, was the first round opponent. But Osborne pitched the game of his career, holding Rendon hitless and generally dominating his opponent. Chad Keefer's RBI single was the only run of the game and Osborne finished off the Owls in a 1-0 complete game performance, in what I believe was the finest pitching performance of the decade.
#8--THE HEART OF A LION--Louisiana 72, FAU 64--February 12, 2011--FAU Arena--Boca Raton, FL
Bob Marlin's first year as the head coach of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns couldn't have started any worse. The Cajuns were 3-14 and 1-5 in league play. But the Cajuns then went on a roll, winning their final eleven games of the season.
And, La'Ryan Gary was the catalyst. He was in his senior season and was only expected to play a small role after suffering a horrific injury during a game two years before. But we got to be amazed at his courage on this day.
The Cajuns were at FAU in a tight game. La'Ryan was hurting. Every time the whistle blew you could see him walking downcourt, dragging his leg behind him. But he refused to come out of the game. And, that day, he refused to lose. La'Ryan scored twelve of his 15 points in the second half to lead the Cajuns to the win. After the game, he was in so much pain all he could do was lay on the floor and cry. When it was time to go to the bus, his teammates offered to carry him. La'Ryan said "I'm walking. Just help me get up."
It's the most courageous performance I can remember.
#7 THROUGH THE LOSER'S BRACKET--Louisiana 5, Mississippi State 3--June 2, 2014--NCAA Regional, M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field, Lafayette, LA
During the amazing 2014 baseball season, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns had some lengthy winning streaks. But they also had some curious losses. The Cajuns only lost seven games during the regular season, but lost to Eastern Illinois on opening day. They lost to a UNO team in their first year back in Division I.
And, in the first round of the NCAA Regional, the #6 national seed lost to Jackson Freaking State.The 1-0 loss shocked the entire country and put the Cajuns on the brink of extinction. But they defeated San Diego State and got revenge on Jackson State. They then defeated Mississippi State 14-8 to set up a winner take all game for the regional title.
The Cajuns didn't disappoint. Ryan Wilson pitched seven strong innings and Matt Plitt was dominant in relief. The Cajuns got to MSU's ace reliever, who entered the game early, and took an emotional 5-3 win. The dream would fall short of Omaha by one game, but the run through the losers bracket was the epitome of what that Cajun team was about.
#6--AFTER FURTHER REVIEW--Louisiana 24, Arkansas State 19--November 26, 2016--Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA
When it comes to football, there's something about the Cajuns and Red Wolves. In 2014, several players and coaches were suspended or reprimanded by the Sun Belt Conference after things got a little more than chippy. Two years later, emotions were still a part of the rivalry. The 4-6 Cajuns needed to win their final two games to become bowl eligible. Arkansas State was 6-4, but were undefeated in league play at 6-0. Louisiana entered the fourth quarter with a 21-10 lead but closed to within 24-19 after a Warren Wand touchdown run. But the Cajuns foiled a two point conversion attempt, which proved to be huge.
A-State got the ball with 2:54 left to play and methodically drove downfield behind the arm of Justice Hansen and drove to the Cajuns 11-yard line with just 19 seconds left. The Cajuns forced three incomplete passes to bring up fourth down with nine seconds left. On fourth down, Hansen was forced out of the pocket and was trying to get into the end zone. Mario Osborne hit Hansen at the four yard line and the Arkansas State quarterback lateraled the ball, which hit on the turf and was picked up on one bounce by offensive lineman Joseph Bacchus who rumbled into the end zone for what appeared to be the winning score. The Arkansas State team celebrated, running onto the field and had words with the Cajuns' team. But the play was reviewed and it was determined Hansen's knee had hit the ground before the lateral, giving the Cajuns the football and the victory. The Cajuns' celebration was even more demonstrative than A-State's and more words were exchanged.
Red Wolves and Cajuns. You gotta love it.
#5--THE SIXTH MAN--Louisiana 72, Western Kentucky 70 (ot)--January 5, 2012--E. A. Diddle Arena, Bowling Green, KY
It's never easy to win in Bowling Green. On this night, the Cajuns got it done. And only after it was over did we realize what happened.
The game was in overtime tied at 70 with 22 seconds left. Cajuns' coach Bob Marlin inserted freshman Elfrid Payton into the lineup. Payton took the inbounds pass, dribbled the ball, almost lost it, got it back and drove the lane, hitting the winning layup with three seconds left.
After the game, it was discovered the Cajuns had six men on the court in the final 21 seconds of overtime. No one noticed it. Not the players, not the coaches and, most importantly, not the officials. And, it was a veteran crew. Referee Roger Ayers has officiated in multiple Final Fours. The crew was suspended a game and did not get assigned to the conference tournament.
And, WKU coach Ken McDonald was fired the next morning.
#4--DON'T LET GO OF THE ROPE--Louisiana 36, ULM 35--November 5, 2011--Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA
Mark Hudspeth's first year as head coach of the Ragin' Cajuns was exciting, to be sure. His mantra to the players and fans, "Don't let go of the Rope" rang true all season, but never more than this game when the 7-2 Cajuns battled the 2-6 Warhawks. ULM jumped out to a 14-0 lead but Blaine Gautier threw three second quarter touchdown passes to give the Cajuns a 24-14 halftime lead. But ULM's Kolton Browning rallied the Warhawks and, after a turnover, the Cajuns trailed 35-24 with 3:08 to play, sending quite a few of the 28,176 headed dejectedly toward the exits.
The Warhawks were penalized on the kickoff return, giving the Cajuns good field position at the ULM 48 yard line. Six plays and 1:02 later, the Cajuns were in the end zone as Gautier found Darryl Surgent on a 16 yard touchdown pass. The two point conversion failed, but the Cajuns were within five.
Brett Baer's subsequent onside kick was perfect, recovered by Ladarius Green at the ULM 39. It took three plays and 58 seconds for the Cajuns to take the lead on a three yard run by Alonzo Harris. The Cajuns' defense held for the final minute, giving the Cajuns a most improbable win.
#3--OH. MY. WORD, JAY--Louisiana 5, South Alabama 1 (12)--May 24, 2015, Riddle-Pace Field, Troy Alabama
After the incredible season of 2014 and the departure of so many good players, expectations were not through the roof for the 2015 season. But the Cajuns had a solid season at 34-20. That wasn't going to be good enough to get Louisiana into a regional, however and the conference tournament was going to be crucial.
Then the Cajuns lost their first game, giving up four unearned runs in the ninth inning. But the Cajuns battled back and defeated Texas State twice to reach the championship game where they would face long time nemesis South Alabama. The two staff aces, Kevin Hill for the Jags and Gunner Leger for the Cajuns faced each other and both pitchers managed to navigate their way to a 1-1 game after nine innings. South Alabama had turned to their relief ace Ben Taylor in the seventh inning, while Greg Milhorn came on for Louisiana in the ninth. The game was still 1-1 in the twelfth when Joe Robbins singled to lead off the inning. Dylan Butler sacrificed him to second and Blake Trahan was walked intentionally. Brenn Conrad's slow roller to third moved the runners up and Kyle Clement was intentionally walked to set up a force at any base. That brought Stephen Trosclair to the plate and the Cajuns' second baseman, who had moved to first when Robbins was inserted into the lineup, hit a 1-0 pitch high over the monster in right field for a grand slam home run, prompting baseball SID Jeff Schneider who was working color that day to say "Oh, my word, Jay. I can't believe it." Milhorn retired the Jaguars in order in the bottom of the inning and the Cajuns were headed to the Houston Regional, where they would sweep Rice and Houston in three games to advance to their second straight Super Regional.
#2 THE SUN BELT TWO-STEP--Louisiana 73, WKU 72; Louisiana 82, Georgia State 81 (ot), March 15-16, 2014, Lakefront Arena, New Orleans, LA
In the 2013-14 season, the Cajuns were 0-4 against Western Kentucky and Georgia State, although all of the games were decided by single digits. The Cajuns lost by three at Georgia State on Manny Atkins' three pointer at the buzzer and lost by three at Western Kentucky when Elfrid Payton's three point attempt missed at the buzzer. The Cajuns were the #3 seed for the tournament and after dispatching UT Arlington in the quarterfinals, faced the Hilltoppers in the semifinals. The Cajuns had an eight point lead, but WKU went on a 13-2 run to take a 72-69 lead with just over two minutes to go. But Payton hit a jumper and a layup and the Cajuns held the Toppers scoreless in the final two minutes to take a 73-72 win.
That set up a third meeting with Georgia State, who had only lost one conference game all year. The Cajuns found themselves down by eleven points with just over five minutes to go in regulation.But Xavian Rimmer and tournament Most Outstanding Player Bryant Mbamalu led the comeback, and Mbamalu's inside basket with one second to go tied the game at 72 and sent it to overtime. In the overtime, a Payton layup gave the Cajuns a three point lead with :44 left and a pair of free throws by Rimmer after a Georgia State basket kept the lead at three. Ryan Harrow scored the last of his game high 37 points with a layup and Georgia State had a final chance when Rimmer missed a free throw with :18 left. Harrow wound up taking the last shot, but Payton's defense forced an off balance attempt and Elridge Moore secured the rebound, sending the Cajuns dancing for the first time in nine years.
#1 THE KICK--Louisiana 32, San Diego State 30---R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl--Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA--December 17, 2011.
The forty year drought was over.
The Cajuns were in a bowl game for the first time since 1970, accepting a bid to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Lafayette was in a frenzy as ticket demand was high. The Cajuns faced San Diego State out of the Mountain West Conference. The attendance of 42,841 obliterated the bowl attendance record.
The Cajuns led 13-3 at the half after a touchdown pass to Javone Lawson and an 87 yard punt return by Darryl Surgent.and it was 19-3 after Blane Gautier's pass to Ladarius Green. But San Diego State answered back and after an impressive 99 yard drive, the Aztecs were within two, 19-17. Gautier hit Lawson for another score but San Diego State answered and, once again, it was a two point game with just over five minutes left. The Cajuns got a short field goal from Brett Baer and led 29-24 with 2:09 to play.
That was plenty of time for Ryan Lindley, who hit Colin Lockett with a 12 yard touchdown pass for a 30-29 lead.
There were just :35 seconds left.
Gautier hit Lawson with passes of.13 and 26 yards to put them at the Aztecs' 43 yard line with seven seconds left. Gautier hit Harry Peoples for five yards to the SDSU 38 with two ticks left. That sent kicker Brett Baer on for a 55 yard field goal attempt. But before the ball was snapped, the Aztecs were called for illegal stemming (when the defense calls signals to try to make the offense false start.) That moved the ball five yards closer and Baer drilled the game winner from 50 yards as time expired, sending the 'Dome into a frenzy and a sea of red onto the streets of New Orleans to celebrate.
Here's hoping for more memorable moments in the decade to come.