Senior writer John Oehser’s first-person look at 25 memorable games in Jaguars history continues with this look at a 17-16 victory over the Houston Oilers in the first regular-season victory in franchise history
Date: October 1, 1995
Site: Houston Astrodome; Houston, Texas.
Records entering game: Jaguars 0-4, Oilers 2-2.
What happened: The Jaguars registered the first regular-season win in franchise history, rallying for a 17-16 victory over the Houston Oilers on a touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Brunell to wide receiver Desmond Howard. The Jaguars turned an early interception by veteran safety Darren Carrington into a 7-0 lead on rookie running back Ryan Christopherson’s one-yard touchdown run. The Oilers rallied from a 10-0 deficit with three field goals by kicker Al Del Greco and a 17-yard touchdown pass from Chris Chandler to running back Rodney Thomas. The Oilers led 16-10 late in the fourth quarter when Jaguars defensive end Jeff Lageman forced a fumble by Thomas that Carrington recovered at the Oilers’ 47. Brunell – who entered the game early in the fourth quarter – then drove the Jaguars 47 yards, capping the drive with a 15-yard pass to Howard for a 17-16 lead with 1:03 remaining. Del Greco’s 52-yard field goal attempt on the game’s final play was wide left.
Jaguars leading passer: Steve Beuerlein (8-18, 117 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interceptions).
Jaguars leading rusher: James Stewart (11 carries, 23 yards).
Jaguars leading receiver: Willie Jackson (six receptions, 48 yards).
Oilers leading passer: Chandler (27-47, 225 yards, one touchdown, 0 interceptions).
Oilers leading rusher: Thomas (17 carries, 59 yards).
Oilers leading receiver: Haywood Jeffries (five receptions, 66 yards).
Left tackle Tony Boselli, the No. 2 overall selection on the 1995 NFL Draft who would become the first player inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars, made his first NFL start in this game. He had played his first game the previous week – a prime-time game in Jacksonville against Green Bay – after a training-camp knee injury.
Boselli: “It was my second game and first time on the road. It was back and forth and a close game. I just remember how excited I was after we won. I remember chasing the wide-receiver screen to Desmond that went to the house, chasing it down and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what a big play that was.’ It was my second game, so I was thinking, ‘Yeah, it was cool.’’’
Brunell entered the game early in the fourth quarter, replacing an ineffective Beuerlein. He completed seven of nine passes for 57 yards and threw the game-winning touchdown pass. The game-winning touchdown came on first-and-10 – one play after a 12-yard scramble by Brunell on second-and-8 from the Oilers 27.
Brunell: “It was Desmond … a little quick screen. I remember getting it to him and being surprised he scored. Those plays … sometimes they break. We’re looking for a completion and we just want a first down …. and zip, zip, zip … he scored. Then Del Greco misses a field goal at the and we get the W.”
Lageman, who had signed with the team the previous offseason as a high-profile free agent, made one of his most memorable plays with the franchise when he forced the fumble near midfield that led to the game-winning drive.
Lageman: “It was a tough, hard-fought game. They had a really good offensive line and they had [offensive lineman] Bruce Matthews, who was a great player. I beat him to get into the backfield to cause the fumble. To beat a Hall of Fame guy and to cause a turnover that led to the first victory in franchise history, that’s a big deal.”
The victory set off a wild celebration.
Boselli: “It was a first for everybody as far as the organization – the excitement and the fun. It was probably the first time we all saw [Head Coach] Tom [Coughlin] smile since training camp. The whole thing was great.”
Brunell took over as the team’s starter following the game. Except for injury, he would start at quarterback for the Jaguars until the 2003 season.
Lageman: “I think that was another perfect example of the mentally-tough, physically-tough football team that we were. We just needed to make a play and that play there at the end helped. Brunell was in there at the end and led us on that drive, and I guess that was the end of Steve Beuerlein. That was kind of the changing of the guard. We found that we were tough, that we could win and that we had a quarterback that had a little excitement to him. … It was big because when you work like we did at some point you have to have a little positive reinforcement. I don’t want to say it was positive reinforcement of Tom Coughlin’s ways, but basically … yeah. It was, ‘Hey, this could work.’’’
The victory was big for a team that didn’t match up in terms of talent with many of the teams it played in that expansion season. Lageman celebrated in memorable fashion.
Brunell: “What I remember about that game is the locker room. I remember Lageman lighting up a cigar in the locker room and thinking, ‘You’re not supposed to do that.’ But I thought, ‘Man, this is really cool.’ Everyone was excited. We honestly didn’t know if that (the first victory) was ever going to come. We were bad. We were really bad. So, to get it (a victory) was pretty cool.”
Lageman remembered the post-game cigar well.
Lageman: “I was taking IVs after the game because I was cramping up. I got a cigar from [equipment manager] Bobby Monica. Bobby had a cigar and I said, ‘Give me one of them things. I’m going to have a victory cigar.’ I’m sitting in the training room and I have an IV in my arm, smoking a cigar. Coughlin comes in and tries to tell me to put the cigar out. I told him, ‘Hell, no. We just won the first game ever in franchise history. You need to have one.’ I didn’t put it out. I kept smoking that son of a gun until my IV was done and it was awesome.”