Road Trip: Arkansas State – From the Bird’s Nest
Winning is fun.
Winning four in a row is even better.
And that was the scenario as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns prepared to head to Jonesboro, Arkansas to take on the two time defending Sun Belt Conference Champions from Arkansas State.
On the last couple of road trips, things were pretty consistent as far as the flight was concerned. And, I'll admit that during a winning streak, it's good karma to keep things consistent.
Superstitious? Me? Nah!
I had only been at Landmark Aviation for a couple of minutes when I realized something was terribly wrong. There was no Olde Tyme on the trip.
We always have Old Tyme Grocery Po-boys. But not on this day. Now, don't get me wrong...what we had was good. But that wasn't the point.
Never...NEVER mess with a winning streak.
I asked John Dugas about it. He said Coach Mark Hudspeth had asked for something different. I was immediately worried. Not only was a winning streak being messed with, it was the head coach doing the messing.
And, it got worse. The seating for the coaches was considerably different from the trip to Bowling Green. (And, this being the second Tuesday game in a row, it was really important to keep things constant.) The food...the seating. My broadcast partner, Gerald Broussard agreed with me. He had a worried look on his face. It was already going to be a tough game. And, now the Cajuns had to win on the road without winning streak karma.
We boarded the plane. I had a window seat and, as happens wayyyyy too often, I bumped my head on the overhead bin. If there's a place I can bump my head, I'll usually find it. I didn't realize it at the time, but it eventually started to bleed, and I was doing my best Rusty Whitt imitation by the time we touched down.
When the plane landed we exited and I saw Coach Hud at the foot of the stairs and told him of my concerns. He understood where I was coming from. I told him his wife Tyla and I would keep our tradition and hopefully would assuage the winning streak gods.
We bused to the Sheraton downtown Memphis, which would be our headquarters (two years ago on this trip, we stayed at the Marriott downtown..and lost.) When that happens you gotta change it up. When we arrived, Tyla came up to me and handed me the pumpkin shaped Snickers that had gotten us through the last two road trips with a win.
Tyla gets it.
I felt better. A little. But not much. Something was going to have to happen to ensure the changes made weren't going to cost the Cajuns a victory.
We checked into the hotel and after getting settled, headed to AD Scott Farmer's suite for the reception. I was one of the first ones there. I cracked open a beer and explained my concerns. Scott assured me it was going to be okay.
About a half hour later the "party" was in full force. Then Coach Hud and Tyla walked in. Coach Hud address the group and said they were breaking out a secret weapon for the game...and introduced us to Captain America. Mark and Tyla's son Major will be four in February. He walked in with full costume and everyone in the room laughed and applauded.
Including me. Because I just found the weapon that was going to take care of any bad karma.
Dinner was at Corky's Barbecue. Now, you may remember, there was a Corky's in Lafayette for a brief time years ago. (It's an Indian restaurant now.) For some reason, it just wasn't the same. The original Corky's is great. I've probably eaten there fifteen times. SID Brian McCann, his assistant Matt Sullivan and the broadcast crew all ordered plenty of food. Everyone had ribs and something else. Except Brian, who had a full rack of ribs. Steve had ribs and beef and a double side of beans. It was gone in three minutes.
But what good is barbecue without banana pudding for dessert? This was really good banana pudding. We all left, deciding we'd never have to eat again the rest of our lives. That was a LOT of food.
Tuesday morning was pretty uneventful. We made plans to leave around 1:45 for the hour and fifteen minute trip to Jonesboro. Upon arrival I visited with Matt Stoltz, the ASU play by play man. Matt's one of really good human beings in our business. We both agreed this game just might be for the conference championship.
Pregame at Liberty Bank Stadium was pulled pork sandwiches...because we didn't have nearly enough barbecue the night before.
John McElwain of the conference office stopped by to say hello. John and I have become friends over the last few years and it had been quite some time since I had seen him. He agreed this game was going to be a big one.
A couple of observations: First, they announced over 24,000 for the attendance and that tells me a bit why ASU leads the
league in attendance. I don't think there were more than 15,000 or 16,000 in attendance and that was disappointing. And, secondly, I've always thought ASU had some of the most loyal fans in the league. But they gave up on their team early last night. And, those who stayed loudly booed a decision Brian Harsin made to put the football with about five and a half minutes left.
It was a satisfying win...as satisfying a road win as there has been in a while. Assistant SID Jeff Schneider went downstairs and brought up our post game meal, which happened to be barbecued pork sandwiches. I'm tellin ya', I about turned into a cochon on this trip.
We made the trip back to the FBO in Memphis and got on board the plane.
Coach Hud looked at me and said, "This is what a superhero looks like when he's done saving the day." Captain America was laying with his head in mom's lap. He was sound asleep.
But he went to sleep knowing he had done his job...the season had been saved....