Column: Favre and the forgotten comeback - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Column: Favre and the forgotten comeback

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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

At some point in the next few hours, Deanna Favre will step to the podium in Canton, Ohio, and introduce her husband, Brett, for induction into the National Football League Hall of Fame.

Terrific selection for presenter. A no-brainer when it came to induction.

After a 20-year career, Favre was, is and shall ever be a first-ballot slam dunk HOFer. The credentials sparkle: Super Bowl XXXI ring; three NFL Most Valuable Player trophies; career passing yardage (71,838 yards) and passing touchdowns (508) records at his exit.

Even moreso, he was competition personified, The Gunslinger, who played every game down to the final tick, creating timeless, remember-where-you-were-when memories for fans of the Packers, the Jets, the Vikings.

Those shared memories and moments extend across a swath of south Mississippi as well, not only for what Favre accomplished in his professional career, but also his days coming out of Hancock North Central High School to write the opening chapters of his legend at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Over the past few weeks, many of those tales have been told: the unexpected debut against Tulane; from hospital bed to victory at Alabama; a last-second Hail Mary at Louisville to last-second tight end waggles that beat Florida State and Auburn.

But in our opinion, one game tends to be overlooked, a forgotten gem that was classic Favre.

DOWN ON THE BAYOU

The date: Nov. 3, 1990.

The site: Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana.

The opponent: University of Southwestern Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.

This was Favre’s senior season, a year that started with his absence in the opener against Delta State following an off-season car accident and then his return after surgery to lead the Golden Eagles past Alabama 27-24 in Gene Stallings’ coaching debut.

Featuring a ferocious defense, spearheaded by linebacker Arnie Williams and safety Kerry Valrie, and a conservative offense that wanted to run the football first before turning to Favre, Southern Miss came into the early November game with a 6-3 record, with only a road game at Auburn left after the tilt with the Cajuns.

And the Golden Eagles were attracting bowl attention during an era of no conference affiliation/tie-ins and far, far fewer postseason games than the current, cluttered landscape.

So, on a humid, 74-degree day, the Golden Eagles came into Cajun Country with an Independence Bowl rep in the house to face a USL team that would finish the season 5-6.

Southern Miss promptly fell behind 13-0 at halftime and would enter the fourth quarter trailing by the same margin.

A LITTLE MAGIC

Four Southern Miss fumbles had hurt the Golden Eagles, who also saw a 40-yard field goal attempt go awry and a fourth-and-goal pass fall incomplete.

Southern Miss, which had dominated the game statistically, finally broke through on a 26-yard run by Quentis Casey with 8 minutes, 56 seconds to play. Jim Taylor’s extra point brought the Golden Eagles to within 13-7.

After getting the ball back at its own 14-yard line with 6:05 to play, Southern Miss drove to the Cajun 8, where running back Tony Smith fumbled away a Favre pass into the end zone where the Cajuns recovered with 1:53 to play.

But USL could not move and was forced to punt to Smith, who returned the ball 25 yards to the Cajun 49-yard line with 1:20 to play.

Which was right about the time the clocks on the scoreboard and field stopped keeping time, meaning the referees were keeping track on the field.

By this time, I and my compatriot, Stan Caldwell, were making are way down to the field through a homestand-side of the field, whose occupants were none too pleased at the turn of events.

A pass interference call brought the ball to USL 29, and three passes moved it to the 15, where Favre found running back Michael Welch for 4 yards. But Welch could not get out of bounds, and Favre had to spike the ball to stop the non-existent clock.

A third-down pass fell incomplete, leaving the Golden Eagles looking at fourth down from the 11-yard line.

Standing along the sideline just before the goal line, we watched as Favre took the snap, searched for one moment, two moments, three moments, slid to his right before launching an absolute laser.

In the next split-second, a single hand appeared above what appeared to be a throng at the front of the end zone. Somehow, someway, Welch – generously listed at 5 feet, 9 inches – had come down with the football.

We would not have been surprised if the ball had been impaled in his palm.

At any rate, Taylor walked on, kicked the game-winning extra point on what would turn out to be the final play of the game, and we began a zig-zag toward the locker room to avoid the empty bottles falling from the stands.

The rest, as they say, is more well-known history. Southern Miss upsets Auburn the following week and go on to play in the All American Bowl.

And speaking of history, Favre would be drafted in the second round in 1991 by the Atlanta Falcons, then traded the following year to the Green Bay Packers.

Saturday night, Favre was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

But many in these parts had seen the magic show well beforehand.

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