Oct. 6, 2006
by Louis Bonnette
McNeese State athletic trainer Jim Murphy fondly remembers the 1976 Cowboy football team that will be honored at halftime at Saturday's McNeese-Southern Utah game.
He was trainer for the team that year that went 10-2, won the Southland Conference championship and also won the very first Independence Bowl.
"That was an extremely special team. I don't think that in my 26 years of working with the football program here at McNeese that there was ever a group that did more with less talent. These were a lot of average athletes who loved to play the game of football and really played together. Those guys were amazing.
"We were picked to finish fourth in the conference that year and I think that everyone had us as their Homecoming opponent. In the 11 games that we played in the regular season we were the underdog in eight.
"We began the season on a five game winning streak and those were some tough wins. We beat Louisiana Tech and Northeast Louisiana on the road and also beat Marshall and Eastern Michigan.
"We lost to Texas-Arlington and to West Texas State in a three game span but then we won the rest of the games, beginning with a tough Arkansas State team in Jonesboro.
"I particularly remember that Arkansas State game because they had a big running back by the name of Leroy Harris who went on to play with Philadelphia Eagles. He was a very strong, very hard running back and he had 148 yards rushing against us in the first half. I can still see him running down field with our players hanging on his back.
"On the last play that he ran the ball in that first half he got a hip pointer and never came back into the game in the second half. We didn't know that and at halftime you talk about a dejected bunch of players.
"Coach Doland (Jack) tried to get everyone's spirits up for the second half but it was Bill Moseley, who would be our team MVP that year as well as team captain, who put it to them. He told Coach Doland that he wanted to say something to the team and Doland consented.
"Bill said, 'Any one of you quit this second half, when we get back to this locker room I'm going to whip your _____!"
"We ended up winning 24-21 and after the game I talked to their trainer and asked him about Harris. He said that he had a hip pointer and I asked him if he could have played the second half. He said yes but that the coach never asked him.
"We didn't have a bunch of super stars on the team. We just had a bunch of guys who played hard.
"The USL game, which was our final regular season game, was one of the greatest I've every been around. It still holds the record for attendance here, 27,500. You could hardly get down the steps onto the field. And, it was so loud that you had to yell just to talk to the person next to you.
"They were ahead of us 19-7 and we scored to make it 19-13 but Conley Hathorn, our place kicker missed the PAT. We scored again late in the game and it's 19-19.
"Coach Doland is on the sideline with Conley giving him encouragement before he goes onto the field to try the PAT.
"Once again Moseley had the final word. As Conley is walking onto the field, Moseley calls him over. I figure that he's going to give him more encouragement but he says to him, 'If you miss this thing, don't come back because I'm going to whip your _____!
"Conley makes the extra point, we win 20-19 and we're going to the first Independence Bowl game.
"Things start happening then. The NCAA had a rule that fifth year seniors couldn't compete in post season games and we lost eight seniors that way. Then we had an incident with guys breaking team rules and eight were suspended for the game. We had 16 players staying at home.
"The bowl committee in Shreveport calls Coach Doland up there and they want McNeese to withdraw so they can bring Louisiana Tech in. Doland says no way and we arrive in Shreveport with headlines in the papers touting the McNeese jayvee team against Tulsa.
"We get up to Shreveport and they have us staying at the old Captain Shreve Hotel while Tulsa is in the brand new Holiday Inn. One of our guys is opening the window in his room at the Captain Shreve and the entire frame falls out onto the sidewalk below. I think that they condemned that hotel after the game.
"At a team banquet at the Louisiana Hayride, the teams are introduced after a meal. Tulsa introduces all of these 6-5, 6-6 280 pound giants. Our guys are introduced and after our defensive tackle Anthony Naquin is introduced as 5-11, 195 pounds, you can here the Tulsa players laughing.
"The game was a real war. With two minutes left we're down 16-13 with no timeouts and 80 yards to go to score.
"The bowl committee has left the press box headed for the Tulsa side of the playing field to give them the trophy.
"We make a couple of plays, one with Mike McArthur and another with Alan Heisser and a personal foul penalty against Tulsa puts us within field goal range. Coach Doland decides to run the fullback up the middle and kick a field goal to tie the game.
"Tulsa figures that we're going to pass so they blitz their free safety. The ball goes to Oliver Hadnot and he passes the free safety in the hole and when he breaks through the line, it's open sailing to the end zone and we win the game.
"The headlines in the Shreveport paper the next day stated, 'McNeese had not 16 players but did have Hadnot.
"I can't wait to see these guys. They're a great bunch of people."
Jim Murphy (left) and assistant trainer J. D. Boudreaux. Murphy remembers the 1976 team.