Trip to LSU triggers flashback, Cowboys recall game washed away by rain, lightning

Published 3:37 pm Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Just before the opening kick clouds were gathering to the east of Tiger Stadium.

Nothing new for the skies over Baton Rouge in late summer. It looked like another storm was heading toward town.

A few bolts of lighting flickered in the distance as the game between McNeese State and LSU got started on Sept. 5, 2015. What followed was a bizarre evening of bright flashing lighting, roars of thunder, monsoon-like rains and very little football.

After kickoff, 10 plays followed. There was one first down, two punts and each team had a possession in the first 4 minutes and 52 seconds. Then, just as LSU was to take over at the McNeese 49-yard line, a flash of lighting hit struck near the stadium.

The game was delayed as both teams headed back to their locker rooms.

“Nobody was sure what was going on, but we figured we would be playing after the storm passed,” said Matt Viator, who was the Cowboys head coach at the time. “We just got back in and tried to keep everybody ready.” night,” Michael Bonnette said. “We just sat and sat and sat for what seemed like hour after hour hoping to get the game in. We all wanted to play. We all hoped to play.

“But Mother Nature, she’s undefeated.”

Viator recalls having to do things he never even thought about in other games.

“I remember making a decision to feed the players the postgame meal during the game,” he said. “I never had to make that decision before.

“Here we were standing around, trying to stay as focused as we could and these guys come wheeling in our meals. Now that is not the same you would eat before a game, but our guys were getting very hungry so we let them eat. That was pretty strange.”

Twice game officials came close to starting things up. The closest came at 9:20 p.m., some three hours after the delay.

“We felt there was a window we could play in,” Viator said. “So we got everybody stretching and getting back into the right mind frame. Then we were told there was another lighting strike and the clock reset to zero.”

That was at 9:40 p.m. and time was now working against the teams. There was also the fact that it was the season opener and the field wasn’t getting any better. The heavy on-and-off rains had taken their toll.

“At some point you have to make the tough decision and do what is right for the health and safety of the players and fans,” Michael Bonnette said. “You have to step back and make the tough call.”

Finally, a little after 10 p.m. and with another round of storms closing in, the decision was made to call it a no contest. The few fans remaining booed but both sides agreed that after some four hours it was the right decision.

“We were disappointed,” Viator said. “We wanted to play. Our kids were excited to play in the big stadium against a very good team. I know our fans were really excited about going over to play them too.

“But it was time. It was the right call.”

For its troubles McNeese took home a check for $500,000, which isn’t bad for under 5 minutes of work. That comes out to just over $110,000 a minute.

The Cowboys also left with a great story about the time they played at LSU.

And they can add they even got to eat a meal during the game.

Let’s hope this week’s trip to Death Valley is at least a little drier.

It was McNeese’s second trip to play at LSU. The Cowboys will make their third trip on Saturday. But nothing will be like that night in ’15.

After the lightning, the rains, which fell on the Tiger Stadium turf in waves. There were also gusting winds that blew the rain sideways and sent everything not tied down crashing into walls.

Every time it looked as if the game would resume, another downpour or lightning strike kept the teams off the field. Some of the sellout crowd stayed for awhile, others looked for shelter where they could.

“We had fans trying to get out of the rain in our tunnel,” Viator said. “At first we tried to keep the players focused and the fans away. After awhile they all started mingling together, talking so we let them go.”

There was a lot of that and a lot of sitting around too, as everybody waited for the game to resume.

LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette, whose brother Matt serves in the same position at McNeese, tried to keep the media informed when there was little information to hand out.

“It was such a crazy night,” Michael Bonnette said. “We just sat and sat and sat for what seemed like hour after hour hoping to get the game in. We all wanted to play. We all hoped to play.

“But Mother Nature, she’s undefeated.”

Viator recalls having to do things he never even thought about in other games.

“I remember making a decision to feed players the postgame meal during the game,” he said. “I never had to make that decision before.

“Here we were standing around, trying to stay as focused as we could and these guys come wheeling in our meals. Now that is not the same you would eat before a game, but our guys were getting very hungry so we let them eat. That was pretty strange.”

Twice game officials came close to starting things up. The closest came at 9:20 p.m., some three hours after the delay.

“We felt there was a window we could play in,” Viator said. ” So we got everybody stretching and getting back into the right mind frame. Then we were told there was another lightning strike and the clock reset to zero.”

That was at 9:40 p.m. and time was now working against the teams. There was also the fact that it was the season opener and the field wasn’t getting any better. The heavy on-and-off rains had taken their toll.

“At some point you have to make the tough decision and to what is right for the health and safety of the players and fans,” Michael Bonnette said. “You have to step back and make the tough call.”

Finally, a little after 10 p.m. and with another round of storms closing in, the decision was made to call it a no contest. The few fans remaining booed but both sides agreed that after some four hours it was the right decision.

“We were disappointed,” Viator said. “We wanted to play. Our kids were excited to play in the big stadium against a very good team. I know our fans were really excited about going over to play them too.

“But it was time. It was the right call.”

For its troubles McNeese took home a check for $500,000, which isn’t bad for under 5 minutes of work. That comes out to just over $110,000 a minute.

The Cowboys also left with a great story about the time they played at LSU.

And they can add they even got to eat a meal during the game.

Let’s hope this week’s trip to Death Valley is at least a little drier.