Jake Delhomme remembers his touchdown pass to tight end and close friend Cody Romero. He also remembers that Texas A&M had a difficult time covering wide receiver Brandon Stokley, and that his then-USL team relied on its defense to pull off the biggest football win in history.
More than anything else, he remembers Gerald Broussard predicting victory during the Ragin’ Cajuns' practice sessions.
“We were having very intense practices, and Gerald kept getting really emotional and yelling, 'That’s why we’re going to whip their a** and shock the world!' ” Delhomme said of the Cajuns’ 29-22 win over the Aggies on Sept. 14, 1996.
“He said all week that we were going to beat them. It wasn’t that A&M was coming to town. We were going to win.”
As it turns out, the veteran Cajuns offensive line coach was a prophet.
“I was playing golf that summer with a friend that was a big A&M guy,” Broussard said, “and I told him I thought we were going to win, that we matched up pretty well with them. Maybe it was just ignorance, but I felt good during the summer, seeing the things we were doing and the things they were doing. That whole week, I thought we were going to win the game.”
Most members of the current Cajuns team weren’t born yet, but this year’s UL-Lafayette squad, which travels to College Station, Texas, to face the Aggies on Saturday, has read or heard about what happened at Cajun Field some 21 years ago when the goal posts came down — something that hasn’t happened since.
“It was such pandemonium on the field,” said Delhomme, a senior on that year’s team who went on to a lengthy NFL career. “Gerald said we were going to shock the world. We were going to get their butts tired, go sideline to sideline, and the fans are going to rush the field and the goal posts are going to come down. He actually said that. And here everybody was rushing the field and taking the goal posts.”
It is a night and an image seared into the minds of longtime fans, watching the posts go up and over the bowl end of Cajun Field not long after Britt Jackson’s 30-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Cajuns a fourth-quarter lead.
Delhomme’s two-point pass to Stokley provided the seven-point margin with 6:30 left, and USL’s defense held on two final A&M possessions.
Jackson’s return was one of three defensive scores for the Cajuns. Damon Mason’s 42-yard interception return tied the game at 7, and Charles Johnson’s 17-yard fumble return for a score made it 14-7 late in the first quarter.
Those were among eight A&M turnovers in the game — four of them interceptions off quarterback Branndon Stewart. The normally run-oriented Aggies threw 33 times that game along with 41 rushes, and Broussard said if A&M had concentrated on its running game, it’s likely that then-Cajuns head coach Nelson Stokley wouldn’t have been carried off the field afterward.
“I wasn’t surprised they threw it that much,” said Broussard, who served two stints under three head coaches as an assistant and later worked six years on the radio broadcast crew.
“If they had done that — run it right at us — we could not have stopped them. They had a lot of big people, but that was a game they felt like they could throw the football. I thought we were really good in the back, and that was playing into our hands.
“I know Steve (Ensminger, then the Aggies offensive coordinator and now an LSU assistant) was getting pressure to throw it more. We were lucky in that they threw it to us a few times.”
Heading into Saturday’s game at Kyle Field, this year’s Cajuns are also struggling to stop the running game, ranking next-to-last nationally. But this year’s team has also shown offensive firepower, much like the Delhomme-led squads of the late 1990s.
“We were moving the ball on them and doing a good job,” said Delhomme, who completed only 15 of 34 passes in that game but didn’t have a turnover. “It was just like, keep doing what we were doing. It was unbelievably hot and humid and miserable, and we could tell they were getting tired. We could tell they were panicking a little and weren’t happy with some things we were doing.”
One example of that came after an Aggies turnover inside the USL 10-yard line, when it looked like A&M would tie the score. The Cajuns recovered and drove 93 yards before Delhomme hit Romero with a 1-yard pass on fourth-and-goal.
That provided a shocking 21-7 lead midway through the second period.
“That was the drive that told our guys we could win,” Broussard said. “We knew our defense was playing well, but we knew it was going to be tough to score on them. That was when they had the ‘Wrecking Crew’ on defense, and it wasn’t like we hit a big play. We methodically moved the ball those 93 yards. When we did that, we had a chance.”
A&M rallied with 15 unanswered points, including a 46-yard scoring run by the pass-oriented Stewart, to take a 22-21 lead midway through the third quarter. It stayed that way until Jackson stepped in front of Stewart’s sideline pass and returned it for the winning score.
“Branndon had a rough night that night,” Delhomme said, “and our playmakers were making plays. We weren’t going to just play it close and have a feel-good moment. That was never in the discussion.”