HEAVEN – With one foot dragging near the northwest pylon of St. Peter Field, little used senior fullback Jordy Johnson made a catch for the ages.
Not since the antediluvian period has The Word recorded a more unlikely event than McNeese State’s 46-45 double overtime victory over God Almighty, made possible by Johnson’s acrobatic two-point conversion of sophomore quarterback Derrick Fourroux’s desperate heave into the endzone from the eight-yard line.
“You have to go all the way back to the first six, maybe seven days of Creation [to find something similar],” ESPN college football analyst Brad Edwards said.
“The numbers gets a bit sketchy once you go back that far, but our researchers tell me this is the biggest upset in History since the Spirit of God decided, after moving upon the face of the waters, to create light. [At the time] darkness was unbeaten unto time immemorial. But, wow. McNeese in God’s House? Talk about a crazy season. It’s unbelievable.”
“I hate to use cliches, but this is Biblical,” Edwards added.
As word spread of the upset-in-the-making fans across the nation scrambled to find a venue with Fox Sports Above, the latest addition to Fox’s sports programming wing.
“It was a miracle we found it,” longtime Michigan fan Daniel Boyd, 43, said.
Added Boyd: “I’m so glad I watched it. I feel absolved. Cleansed. I’ve been reborn.”
The Cowboys (8-0, 3-0 Southland Conference) tied the game at the end of regulation with a Blake Bercegeay 43-yard field goal, sending the small crowd of McNeese State supporters into ecstasy. The home partisans at St. John of Patmos Stadium – with its NCAA leading 312,572nd consecutive sellout – had already been silenced by McNeese’s 58-yard Hail Mary from its own 16-yard line with nine seconds left to put the Division I-AA school into field goal range.
To put it more accurately, they were silenced by the decision to award McNeese State two more seconds after the clock had run down to zero.
Fourroux’s heave bounced off three pairs of hands before it found wide receiver Carlese Franklin’s grasp at God’s 26-yard line, where he was subsequently tackled. The scoreboard read God 31, McNeese State 28 – and no time left. Many of the 112,119 souls in the stands began cheering, some of them already rushing the field, when the visiting Pacific-10 officiating crew signalled for two seconds to be put back on the clock. After Fourroux quickly gathered the offense to spike the ball, it was up to Bercegeay to send the game into overtime.
“I knew I could do it,” the 2006 Division I-AA All-America junior placekicker said. “[The team] got me down there. There was no way I was gonna let them down. [Head] Coach [Matt] Viator was kinda joking with me before the Hail Mary, asking me if he should pray for a completion or for me making the field goal.”
“I said, ‘Coach, if I make the field goal that means Derrick made the throw. So pray for the field goal.’ He told me I might have coaching in my future,” Bercegeay said.
The Hail Mary gave Fourroux 268 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-26 passing heading into overtime. The only throw the Erick, Louisiana native would complete after that would be his most important: Johnson’s two-point conversion.
“I think I was a little rattled after the Hail Mary. All I remember was letting the ball go and suddenly I’m on my back and everything’s spinning, and I’m thinking, ‘Well, it’s gonna be a while before I know if I’m dead ’cause I’m already in Heaven,'” Fourroux said.
“Coach Viator kept asking me, ‘You okay? You okay?’ on the sideline. Even if my arm was broke I still would’ve said ‘yeah’. But, yeah, some of those [overtime] throws weren’t so good.”
Despite his obvious concussion and poor throwing in overtime, Fourroux was again and again faced with a defense geared for the pass. Even a confused quarterback knew enough to audible to run plays, allowing McNeese to score first and then, after God’s second overtime touchdown, to potentially tie the game with senior tailback Kris Bush’s second score of the day.
By then, though, Viator had had enough. Faced with an imposing home field advantage and a relentless Lord of Hosts, the eighth year head coach decided it was time to end the game one way or another. He was given the idea by a yellow flag, oddly enough.
“We had an offsides penalty [on God’s extra point attempt] that put Him on the one. We all figured He’d go for two, but He, in His infinite wisdom, decided to take the point. After that we all agreed that if we scored we were gonna end it right there and then and get the Hell out of this place,” Viator said.
“Pardon me,” Viator added.
That set the stage for Johnson’s spectacular catch of Fourroux’s first completion in seven attempts near the back of the endzone. The stat line will record it as a three yard pass, but those who witnessed it will always remember that the ball had to be thrown nearly eighteen yards and then hauled in by a fullback with six catches to his name.
“Don’t forget the toe drag,” Fourroux said. “My momma used to say that, well…. Maybe I shouldn’t say it, but it has to do with Someone being in the details.”
The soft spoken Johnson said it for his quarterback, instead: “I just wanna thank God for giving me the opportunity.”
Former Cowboy defensive tackle and member of the All-Time All-AFL team Tom Sestak (1936-1987), who watched the game from his place in the McNeese State visiting section, echoed Johnson’s sentiments.
“This is a great feeling. I’m so happy for them. It just proves that when you believe in yourself and put your trust in the Lord to not go for two from His own 1-yard line, anything can happen,” Sestak said.
As per tradition, the Creator of the Universe did not speak following the game.