This story is a copyrighted enterprise by Bruce Brown.
The pregame banquet was as memorable as the game itself for the 1970 Grantland Rice Bowl, a contest pitting the USL Ragin' Cajuns against Tennessee State in a small college showcase played in Baton Rouge. Tennessee State had a freshman defensive end named Ed Jones, who already owned the nickname "Too Tall" for his 6-foot-9 frame. On the other hand, most of the Cajuns were viewed as "Too Small." So when the two teams gathered for the banquet, the differences were striking. "I don't think they had never seen a team that small," said Myles Casbon, a Cajun defensive end from 1968-71 and a longtime high school coach in the Lafayette area. "To say that we were overmatched physically is an understatement." "They walked in, and they were impressive," said receiver Nelson Schexnayder Jr. "They were big, well-built, good looking athletes." "They were giggling at us, and I don't blame them,"said safety Mike McDonald, who remains the school's all-time interception leader with 21 despite his 5-9 size. "These were some specimens. Then, before the game, they had us come out for the TV cameras (one for each team). The guy they paired me with was 6-9 and I'm 5-9. I'm midway in his chest. I said, 'Uh oh.' They were even bigger in their uniforms." Too Tall Jones later won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys. Tennessee State quarterback Joe Gilliam got a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They had plenty of company on the roster. "I was never on the field with more talent," wide receiver Reggie Dupre said. "They had 11 players off that roster drafted by the NFL." "They had 9 drafted on defense," Schexnayder said. "The only two who weren't were juniors and couldn't be drafted. They were the most talented team I ever faced." Yet those Tigers had their hands full with a smallish Cajun squad coached by Russ Faulkinberry, a team that won 9 of 11 regular season games and lost only to Southern Miss (16-14 in the opener) and Tampa 50-38 for homecoming. They won seven straight games at one point, swept all foes aside to win the Gulf State Conference and earned the school's second bowl bid in history. That squad put a finishing touch to McNaspy Stadium, as USL moved into Cajun Field in 1971. And that squad lost to Tennessee State by a mere point, 26-25. "It's hard to describe the key ingredient," Schexnayder said. "Team was most important to each player. We all played a lot and enjoyed ourselves. Every position had good seniors, juniors and sophomores." "We had great senior leadership," said Dupre, a sophomore in 1970. "Offensively and defensively, that team was well seeded with seniors. They always got us to do the right thing, to stay focused. That was a big part of our success." McDonald agreed, saying, "That was the best leadership of any team I've ever been on." "Everybody, we felt, was bigger than us," said Casbon. "But you felt good about the people around you. Coaches told us to hit as hard as you can, and run to the football." The opener against USM provided a good measuring stick for the campaign. "We walked away from that game feeling like we were a pretty good team," McDonald said. "It was a big confidence builder for us. I think it showed the coaches, and us, that we had a good team." "That was a great, great game," said Schexnayder. Casbon recalled goalline stands against the Eagles that bolstered the self image of a speedy but undersized defensive unit. A few more goalline stands would have helped against Tampa, which followed NFL-bound Leon McQuay to victory. Schexnayder's future wife M'liss was homecoming queen that day, but he also recalled an epic contest. "It was close, back and forth," he said. "We tried a fake punt late, and they got a late score." McDonald dislikes reliving that game. "McQuay blew my knee out in that game," he said. "I only got to play a half. I had surgery three days after and didn't get back on the field until the bowl game. They were very kind to let me on the field (in the bowl). I think they were being loyal to me. "Tennessee State threw a touchdown over my head. I just couldn't get to the ball." Tennessee State intercepted Cajun quarterback George Cousson seven times in the Grantland Rice Bowl, and picked off eight in all, yet needed every one of the thefts to prevail. Schexnayder caught two touchdown passes and the Cajuns led 25-14 before the Tigers rallied. It was a memorable showing for the 1970 squad, capping a campaign full of highlights. "We were riding back on the bus from our second-to-last game (a 24-21 win at Northwestern State), and knew if we ran the table in the GSC we had a chance to go to a bowl," Dupre said. "We beat McNeese (13-7), and got the bid." There were numerous special moments. "The Chattanooga game was a real close one (24-20 win)," Casbon said. "Jimmy Hunter inspired the defense. He comes in, says 'we stop them right here,' we got an interception - end of drive. That's what you expect from your leaders." The 1970 Cajuns were a perfect 5-0 on the road behind such leadership, and enjoyed rousing support at home. "That was our last year at McNaspy," Dupre said. "That was a really special place. You could raise hell, and everybody would hear it." "There was no feeling like it," said McDonald. "You were totally surrounded. McNaspy was a special place. There's nothing like it. It was a rush." As unique as the stadium setting was, the athletes and coaches made the experience complete. "Russ took boys and made them into men," Dupre said. "He was tough, but he really cared. He always knew how to approach different guys." It helped give undersized players the courage to measure up to tall odds.
This story is a copyrighted enterprise by Bruce Brown.
Information below was provided by the Athletic Network, Ed Dugas, Coordinator.
Click here for the photo gallery of the 1970 Football team http://athleticnetwork.net/site258.php# which includes the names of team members, the scoreboard for 1970 football games, conference championship report, Grantland Rice Bowl, and the records that year in passing, rushing, receiving, points and interceptions.