The play was called “Rocket.”
That’s all Dameyune Craig remembers from the 1996 Auburn-LSU football game – the plays and the play calls. A victim of a concussion that night, Craig doesn’t remember the score or the time on the clock or the crowd or the down – just the plays.
In “Rocket,” Craig launched a perfectly placed pass to Auburn receiver Robert Baker. Baker caught the ball, stabbed his toe into the wet end zone turf at Jordan-Hare Stadium, making an obvious divot in bounds.
The official signaled incomplete. The crowd booed. An Auburn ball boy near the end zone gestured at the divot. He’s in! He’s in!
“Guy was in,” a smiling Craig said Wednesday, standing behind an LSU podium, Les Miles off to his right chuckling. “And they called him out.”
Craig has returned to LSU as the Tigers receivers coach, leaving his alma mater Auburn in a somewhat surprising move. The school introduced him and new running backs coach Jabbar Juluke in a news conference Wednesday.
It’s a homecoming for both men. Juluke, the longtime New Orleans high school coach, helped lead Southern to the black college national championship in 1993.
Craig, meanwhile, returns to a school where his coaching career began in 2004 as a graduate assistant. He joins a program he used to hate, a team he battled in four memorable games while Auburn’s record-setting quarterback in the mid-to-late 1990s.
“I was always ready to play against LSU,” Craig said. “I got excited.”
Craig, now 41, played in all four games against LSU during his four years as Auburn’s quarterback.
In 1994, Auburn beat LSU 30-26 in a match dubbed “The Interception Game.” LSU quarterback Jamie Howard threw five fourth-quarter interceptions – three of them returned for scores.
In 1995, Craig mostly backed up Auburn starting quarterback Patrick Nix in LSU’s 12-6 win – a duel LSU fans refer to as “Bring Back The Magic Game,” as new coach Gerry DiNardo’s first signature victory.
In 1996, LSU beat Auburn 19-15 in a game named “The Night The Barn Burned.” Auburn’s old gymnasium caught fire during the game, and the smoke billowed over Jordan-Hare Stadium, where that official ruled “Rocket” incomplete.
Craig got his revenge the next season.
He went 23-of-45 passing for 352 yards and led Auburn on a 10-play, 80-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in the final 3 minutes for a 31-28 victory at Tiger Stadium in 1997.
Craig was 5-of-8 for 69 yards on the drive.
“Down by four with three minutes left in the game, I told my guys, ‘We’re going down and we’re going to score a touchdown and win this football game,’” Craig said Wednesday.
Craig replaces Tony Ball as the Tigers’ receivers coach. Ball left to “pursue other opportunities,” the school said in a statement released Saturday.
Craig’s departure from Auburn surprised many and had some reporting on animosity among the AU offensive coaching staff. He made $500,000 a year at Auburn, had two years left on his contract and held titles of co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach.
Was this a lateral move, he was asked Saturday.
“Getting a chance to work for Coach Miles is definitely not a lateral move,” he said. “I hope you don’t think it is in any way.”
Craig, a former recruiting coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Florida State, will be involved in LSU’s passing game plan, Miles said, and he indicated that Craig may be involved in helping with quarterbacks.
Cam Cameron, whose contract ends in six weeks, has the title of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“He’s a quarterback by nature,” Miles said of Craig. “When you play quarterback, you know every play and know what all 11 guys are doing on that play. That kind of knowledge makes for great coaches.”
Miles still hasn’t decided on a recruiting coordinator title. He has not put a timeline on that decision.
These are busy days for Craig. He is spending half of his days learning Cameron’s offense and the other half recruiting. LSU begins spring practice March 7, and Craig hasn’t yet studied his group of receivers.
That’ll come in time, he said. For now, he’s happy to be coaching under Miles – something he nearly got the chance to do in 2004. Miles inherited the graduate assistant Craig in 2005 in replacing Nick Saban, bound for the Miami Dolphins.
“He came into my office and said, ‘Listen, I’ll stay if you want to make me full-time,’” Miles said, retelling the story. “I told him, ‘You are going to have to give me some time here to make a decision.’”
Said Craig: “I was like, ‘OK, I guess I’m going to Miami.’”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.