Source of inspiration? Cards shocked college football, Bears in 1981

Published 11:21 pm Monday, September 7, 2015

BEAUMONT — The record against Big 12 talent isn’t sparkling by any means.

Oklahoma State (59-3 in 2013) and Texas A&M (73-3 in 2014), both highly ranked at the time, have dominated Lamar the past two years. It’s not the effort that Cardinals coach Ray Woodard has been dissatisfied with, just the demeanor his team has taken into each game.

How exactly to improve the demeanor when Lamar visits fourth-ranked Baylor on Saturday is the answer Woodard was still searching for as of Monday.

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“Friday night, we were very loose, too loose, I thought, before we played this [Bacone] game,” Woodard said, his team winning 66-3 over the Oklahoma NAIA program the next night. “And I told them, I expect y’all to be this loose next week.”

Woodard recalled having to calm down some of his players before a game against Grambling State because too much chatter was taking place. Lamar beat Grambling 27-16 two years ago and 42-27 last year.

“And then the following week, we go up to Stillwater, I walked in and I thought we were walking into a church,” Woodard said.

Or was it Texas A&M? Lamar followed the 2014 opener against Grambling with the 70-point loss in College Station. The 2013 Oklahoma State game followed a 27-13 loss at Louisiana Tech, which ironically followed a 53-0 win over Bacone.

Lamar is 0-6 against current Football Bowl Subdivision teams since restarting its program in 2010. But Woodard plans to use a great moment in the university’s history as motivation for the current Cardinals going into battle with another Big 12 power.

On Sept. 5, 1981 Lamar was classified as a Division I-A member when it began the season at Baylor, a team coming off a Southwest Conference championship. Larry Kennan was looking to reignite a Cardinals team that struggled to a 3-8 mark last year and had lost its last two games by a total of 49 points.

Lamar took a 15-14 lead in the fourth quarter on Fred Hessen’s quarterback sneak. Baylor answered with a 41-yard field goal by freshman Marty Jimmerson with more than 2 minutes to go, but Hessen engineered the winning drive, capped by a 42-yard Mike Marlow field goal with 3 seconds left.

Lamar pulled off the 18-17 upset, then finished the season 4-6-1 before moving down to the I-AA ranks (now Football Championship Subdivision). Baylor went 5-6 under Grant Teaff, just missing out on a bowl game.

Maybe the biggest upset in Cardinal history is not lost on Woodard, who finished his collegiate playing career the next two years at Texas.

“When I first got here, I got to meet a number of players that were on that team,” he said. Everyone associated with our program remembers that game, and that’s a game we point to with pride.

“To say Lamar can’t beat Baylor, you can’t say that because we’ve already done it.”

The scenario 34 years later is a little different, however.

Lamar (1-0) is trying to become a power in today’s Southland Conference, let alone earn its first berth in the NCAA Division I playoffs for FCS teams. Baylor (1-0) is a national championship contender and two-time defending Big 12 champion coming off a 56-21 drubbing of former Southwest Conference rival SMU in Dallas. The win is a nation-best 16th straight at home and tied Oregon for the most 50-point games since 2013 with 12.

Seth Russell, making his first start, racked up 376 yards and five touchdowns Friday. All-America wide receiver K.D. Cannon pulled down three scores. And All-America defensive end Shawn Oakman stands three sacks away from the school record.

“Baylor’s big and they have that going for them, but their team speed is what sets them apart,” Woodard said. “They’re just fast all over the field, and we have to address that in practice if we’re going to have a chance.”

Woodard said backup quarterback Blake McKenzie is set to undergo surgery on his injured knee later this week. It is likely McKenzie, a redshirt sophomore transfer from Fullerton (California) College, will miss the season.

McKenzie, who prepped at Corpus Christi John Paul II, hurt the knee by planting it wrongly on a rollout play during practice last week, the coach said.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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