CONTENTS

Dietzel Returns - I

Dietzel Returns - II

Profile: Bert Jones - I

Profile: Bert Jones - II

Largest Crowd in SEC History

Win One for the Bear

Ken Kavanaugh - I

Ken Kavanaugh - II

Why Didn't He Go to Florida?

No Married Players


Tiger Den Archives – I

Tiger Den Archives – II

Tiger Den Archives – III

Tiger Den Archives – IV

Tiger Den Archives – V

Tiger Den Archives – VI

Tiger Den Archives – VIII

Tiger Den Archives – IX

Tiger Den Archives – X

Tiger Den Archives – XI

Tiger Den Archives - XII

 

LSU Bowl Games

 

Football Magazine

Golden Rankings Home

Tiger Den Archives – VII


Dietzel Returns - I
Paul Dietzel, West Point Head Coach
Paul Dietzel at West Point

LSU AD Jim Corbett
Jim Corbett

General Troy Middleton, LSU President
Gen. Troy Middleton

George Terry
George Terry on LSU 1958 Staff

While Paul Dietzel was still the head coach at LSU in the early 1960s, AD Jim Corbett asked his advice on scheduling an opening football game for 1966.
  • With a tough slate already lined up for '66, Corbett was looking for a team the Tigers could beat.
  • Of the six or seven teams willing to come to Baton Rouge, Paul picked South Carolina.

By the time 1966 rolled around, guess who was the new head coach at South Carolina?

  • Dietzel shocked Tiger fans when he left after the 1962 Orange Bowl to take over as head coach at West Point. Some fans were more than shocked - they were angry.
  • As Paul explains in his autobiography, "Although I had been offered other head coaching jobs, I was never interested in any of them because I felt that I had the best job in the country. In one particular interview, I had stated, 'I'll never leave LSU.' Later, I certainly regretted saying that, but at the time, I was young and meant it."
  • The one job that did hold special meaning for Dietzel was Army. He served as a bomber pilot in the Army Air Force in World War II and had coached at West Point on two different occasions under the legendary Colonel Earl Blaik. When Paul said, "I'll never leave LSU," he did so with the knowledge that the U.S. Military Academy had never hired a head coach who was not an alumnus.
  • At the end of the 1961 season, Army fired head coach Dale Hall. When the AD called Paul to ask if he were interested, the AD said they had decided to go in a different direction and open the search to non-grads.
  • The AD had two other men on his short list besides Dietzel: Murray Warmath, just named Coach of the Year at Minnesota, and Vince Lombardi, an assistant under Blaik who was in his third season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Paul replied, "I'm quite honored to be in the company of those two fellows."
  • Dietzel spoke to Corbett about Army's interest. Jim pointed out that "you've got a long contract here." Paul said if that were a problem, he'd tell Army he wasn't interested." But Jim said, "No, if you want to go, there's no way we would want you to stay. It wouldn't be good for either of us."
  • The clincher came when General Troy Middleton, the LSU president and a West Pointgraduate, told Paul: "We don't want to lose you. However, the Army football team is the mirror of the U.S. Army. West Point has got to have a good football program. ... If they want you at West Point, you have got to go."

So Dietzel took the job.

  • He went 6-4 in his first year and 7-3 in the second. However, the Cadets fell to 4-6 in '64 and 4-5-1 in '65.
  • With the limitations on recruiting and the U.S.'s growing involvement in Vietnam, he realized "that the kind of football team I wanted to have at West Point might be impossible."
  • He also didn't like the fact that the Army regularly changed the superintendant, commandant of cadets, and AD.

When South Carolina contacted him after the 1965 season about becoming its AD and head football coach, he listened to what they had to say.

  • Dietzel relied on the advice of his friend George Terry, who had transferred with him from LSU to USMA. Terry told him, "You've got a real challegne here at West Point, and you'd have a real challenge at South Carolina. Both places present challenges, but at South Carolina, they'll let you take on the challenges."
  • Dietzel was also put off by the response of the new academy superintendent when he met him for the first time and told him of the SC offer. "Well, if you don't think you can do something for the benefit of the academy, then I think you should leave," the general replied. As Dietzel recounts it, "I thought that was a rather cold comment."
  • "After a great deal of thought, reflection, and prayer, I reached the decision to accept South Carolina's offer."
  • He also recalls: "Before I accepted the job, I asked the board at South Carolina if I could recruit black athletes. I said that I hated to see so many South Carolina athletes becoming All-Americans in the Big Ten and the Big Eight just because USC did not recruit them and keep them at home. They said, 'It is time.'"
Reference: Call Me Coach: A Life in College Football, Paul F. Dietzel (2008)
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Dietzel Returns - II
The opening game of LSU's 1966 season brought South Carolina to Tiger Stadium.
  • The two coaches, Charlie McClendon for the Tigers and Paul Dietzel for the Gamecocks, became good friends when they served on Bear Bryant's staff at Kentucky in 1951-2.
  • The two had agreed that, whichever one became a head coach first would hire the other as his chief assistant. As it turned out, Dietzel won that race when LSU hired him in 1955. He didn't have to hire Charlie since Mac was already a Tiger assistant.
  • Now they would compete on opposite sidelines for the first time.

The friendship between the two coaches had cooled for several reasons as Peter Finney explained in The Fighting Tigers.

Paul seemingly had gone out of his way "to put the hat on" the 1962 Tigers [McClendon's first team as head coach] and then, a week before his return to LSU, he wrote in I: "In 1962 we were going to have more than 30 lettermen back and there wasn't any way I could coach them badly enough to lose." Dietzel explained the personal coolness this way: "Charley has held a grudge ever since I did not include him in my plans at West Point. The reason I didn't was I knew he'd get the LSU job."

As Dietzel says in his autobiography, "The game created considerable interest among Tigers fans who were still angry with me for leaving LSU and returning to West Point."

  • Two South Carolina assistants went to New Orleans for a summer vacation in 1966. They related a story that exemplified the local animosity toward their head coach. They were at Pat O'Brien's bar in the French Quarter, where the piano player asked people to call out their home states. She would then play an appropriate song. When one of the coaches called out "South Carolina!" she belted out, "Go to Hell, Paul Dietzel! Go to Hell!"
  • Unfortunately, the venom went too far. Paul's wife Anne "started getting crazy phone calls from some demented person saying that he was going to blow up the plane and kill everyone on it." Not wanting to bother her husband as he prepared for the game, she spoke to a neighbor who was an FBI agent. He arranged to tape incoming calls and assigned agents to stay in the home while the Dietzels were in Baton Rouge. Further, the FBI would guard the chartered plane and have agents on board.
  • After the USC contingent arrived in Baton Rouge, one of the Dietzels' good friends from their LSU days brought a cake to the motel to celebrate Paul's birthday. The FBI agents confiscated the knife and would not admit her until the Dietzels vouched for her.

McClendon couldn't hide his emotions. After Thursday's practice, he exclaimed:

I've never wanted to win a football game more than this one. You can't imagine how it's been, coaching in the shadow of that guy. I've had the monkey on my back for four years. I've tried to be realistic about this game, but I can't. I've never been so worked up over anything. I've tried to keep from overcoaching and getting the boys wound up too much.

For the first time, Dietzel approached a game in Tiger Stadium as the visiting coach.

  • Paul knew that LSU coaches wanted the visiting team to enter the field first so that they would feel the wrath of the crowd.

For a while, I thought we might be playing the game at midnight because Coach Charlie McClendon held his team in. Finally, the Tigers made their entrance and at that instant, so did the Gamecocks. I had warned our team that the LSU cheerleaders place Mike the Tiger just outside the visitors' dressing room and get him to roar to scare opponents. I told them not to worry because Mike can't get out of his cage.

  • Paul had predicted that he "would receive the longest standing boo in LSU history." However, it never materialized because most fans cheered the Tigers rather than boo the Gamecocks.
South Carolina Coach Paul Dietzel
Paul Dietzel, USC Coach

LSU Coach Charles McClendon
Coach Charles McClendon

Each team scored on its first possession.
  • Junior Tiger QB Nelson Stokley, fully recovered from the knee surgery after the Cotton Bowl game, led a 14-play TD drive. Sophomore TB Trigger Allen, starting because of injuries to the #1 and #2 TBs in practice, ground out key yardage to keep the chains moving.
  • Senior HB Gawain DiBetta's block freed Stokley on a sweep for 14y to the 11.
  • Stokley called the same play to the opposite side, and DiBetta and Allen sprung him into the EZ. Steve Daniel booted the PAT.

South Carolina took the kickoff and methodically marched 76y to a TD.

  • QB Mike Fair, operating from a shotgun spread at times, mixed runs and passes.
  • Jimmy Killen scored from the 1.
  • Mike Robichaux blocked the EP, leaving the Tigers in front 7-6.
  • That essentially was the end of the Gamecock O for the evening.
South Carolina's first TD
South Carolina scores its first TD.
LSU scored again in Q2.
  • This time the march took 16 plays.
  • DiBetta scored from the 1. The kick failed, making the score 13-6 at halftime.
Tommy Allen runs against USC
Tommy "Trigger" Allen runs against South Carolina
Each team scored in Q3.

  • Instead of punting on third down, as he often did at LSU, Dietzel waited until fourth down to punt. A bad center snap caused the punter to try to kick the ball on the run, and Junior T Jack Dyer blocked it. Sophomore LB George Bevan recovered the pigskin in the EZ, the first of many big plays in his All-American career. The Tigers went for 2 with Stokley passing to Allen to move the tally to 21-6.
  • Later in the period, Bobby Bryant gathered in a Tiger punt and sailed 77y to paydirt. Oddly, Dietzel went for two, but the run was stopped short. Instead of being down 8, SC trailed 21-12.
Gawain DiBetta and Fred Haynes
Gawain DiBetta (21) leads Fred Haynes (11) vs Alabama

With the Tiger D making life miserable for Fair and Company, the Gamecocks never threatened in Q4.

  • The period would have ended scoreless except that Carolina gambled on a fourth-down pass on its own 18 and failed.
  • The short drive ended with backup QB Freddie Haynes running over from the 2 on the last play of the game. Ronnie Manton booted the point to make the final score 28-12.

The home team dominated the statistics.

  • The Tigers led in first downs 19-10, although only four came in the second half.
  • Throwing the ball only 7 times, completing just 1, LSU amassed 283y on the ground. Again, they rang up the vast majority, 205, in the first 30 minutes.

Both teams were exhausted after the emotional contest.

  • One of LSU's captains, Mike Pharis, gave Coach Mac the game ball. "You're our coach. We've forgotten all about Paul Dietzel."
  • A Tiger assistant said, "It's been a long time. Five months we've worked for tis one and put everything we had into it. Now it's over, and we've won it."
  • Dietzel praised his team. "I've never had a bunch of boys fight harder for me than this team did tonight ..."
  • Asked about the fans and the "super boo" that never came, Paul replied: "The fans were wonderful. We played at many placeswhle I was coaching LSU where we were treated a lot worse."

McClendon had finally stepped out of Dietzel's shadow. However, as so often happens after an emotional win, the Tigers came out flat the next week and lost to Rice, 17-15.

LSU would play South Carolina in Columbia in 1973 when Dietzel was still the coach. But that's a story for another day.

References: Call Me Coach: A Life in College Football, Paul F. Dietzel (2008)
LSU: The Louisiana Tigers, Dan Hardesty (1975)
Tiger Den Archive
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LSU QB Nelson Stokley
Nelson Stokley
Profile - Bert Jones - I

Bertram Hays Jones, the middle child of seven, grew up immersed in football.

  • His dad, William "Dub"Jones, played for the Cleveland Browns, making all-pro the year Bert was born (1951).
  • After Dub retired as a player in 1955, the family lived in Ruston for seven years until he returned to the Browns as O coordinator from 1963-7.
  • Bert remembers "my first grade teacher asking everyone, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' ... My response was that I was going to be a professional football player. And the retort to that was, 'Well, what if you can't?' And I said, 'Well, I'm going to be!'"
  • Little Bert was a ball boy for the Browns. "I used to hide in Jim Brown's locker all the time, and jump out and pretend that I had scared him, and he played along with it. ... I knew Leroy Kelley like he was my brother, for five or six years."

Bert began playing football in the seventh grade.

  • His father didn't pressure him. "My father was the exact antithesis of what you would think a professional athlete would be, as it relates to his son. His theory was, if you haven't got anybody to throw to, I'll catch for you. But never once can I ever recall him saying, 'Hey, you need to go throw the football, so you can become a good thrower and be a player.'"
  • Bert also played baseball and basketball and ran track in junior high. "I was a talented baseball pitcher. But for some distorted reason, I made the conscious decision that I did not want to choose between football and baseball. And so I stopped playing baseball when I was a sophomore in high school." Bert gave the excuse that he quit to run track and get faster for football.
  • Bert played at Ruston High School under the same man, Hoss Garrett, who coached his father. Also like his dad, Bert didn't become a starter until his junior year in high school. "I've never felt the pressure of being 'the son of.'"

QB Bert Jones
Bert Jones, LSU

Coach Charlie McClendon
Coach Charlie McClendon

The recruiting process was not that intense for Bert.

  • "I wasn't that good a football player in high school, and I didn't have a whole lot of signs of interest from college recruiters. I also came out the same year that Joe Ferguson came out of high school. ... He was highly recruited and regarded as probably the best QB in the country. And he was just fifty miles down the road" (Woodlawn High School in Shreveport).
  • "I went on just two recruiting trips - Tulane and LSU," which happened to be the two colleges his father played for during World War II. "I only had a few schools that offered me a scholarship opportunity. I took the one that played the toughest football there was, and that was LSU."
  • "I did not regard college as anything other than the next step to get to pro ball."

That attitude caused problems for Bert in Tigertown.

  • "I was not a good student in college. I graduated with a 2.7 or 2.8 grade point average from the School of Business at LSU. But towards the end, I realized how important academics was." He took the last six hours needed to complete the degree after his rookie season in the NFL.
  • His coaches caused him the most frustration. "The LSU coaching staff was not sophisticated at all. They were old school and not very smart at either understanding or adapting."
  • "At LSU, I was in a system that adapted the players to the system. They were playing two QBs all the time, primarily a run-option type QB. That just wasn't conducive to my style."
  • "They told me that I would be calling the plays, and then I didn't. But that wasn't any big deal. I played only half the time while I was at LSU."
  • "I may have one NCAA record. I'm the only QB in the history of 1A college football who only played half the time and was second string, who made consensus All-American, and who was a first-round NFL draft choice."
  • Coach Charlie McClendon said after Jones left LSU: "Bert came to LSU strong-armed and strong-willed. Bert wasn't the most coachable player I've ever had."

To be continued ...

Reference: Real Football: Conversations on America's Game, Stephen H. Norwood
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Profile: Bert Jones - II

LSU went 27-8-1 in Bert's three years (1970-71-72), playing in a bowl game each season.

  • Jones tore a cartilage in his knee right before his sophomore season began. The training staff did the best they could to prepare him to play each week. The injury didn't help the gawky 6'3" QB gain the smoothness and quick footwork he needed to develop as a passer. Bert spent the season as a backup to Buddy Lee, then underwent a knee operation the day after the season ended.
  • He played with several family members. His cousin Andy Hamilton, a year ahead of him, caught numerous passes from Bert, especially in the 28-8 trouncing of Notre Dame in Tiger Stadium in 1971. Coach Mac made the decision to start Bert in the dressing room before the game. Jones had lost the starting job to little Paul Lyons after throwing three INTs in the season opener against Colorado.
  • Younger brother Ben played SE as a sophomore in Bert's senior season.

Before that campaign began, Sports Illustrated put "The Hat" on Bert and the Tigers by picking LSU to finish #1. SI cited Bert's sensational finish to the '71 season when he completed 60-of-90 with 9 TDs and 0 INTs in the last six games.

  • Jones had a big game against Auburn, going 10-for-14 as LSU coasted 35-7. His 3 TD passes that day tied Y. A. Tittle's career record of 23.
  • Bert's most famous TD pass in his Tiger career came against Ole Miss. Trailing 16-10 on the 10 with 1 second showing on the clock, Bert hit RB Brad Davis at the front left pylon to pull out the victory. When the Rebels called timeout before the final play, Bert came to the sidelines. McClendon said, "He was completely unruffled. After he got the play, he gave me one of those 'don't worry, coach' looks, winked, and ran back on the field. It was really something."
  • The 8-0 Tigers' dream of an undefeated season went down the drain the following week when they lost to Alabama 35-21 in Birmingham.
  • Two weeks later, Florida held the Tigers to a 3-3 tie in the rain to make the final regular season record 9-1-1. Bert's college career ended with a disappointing 24-17 loss to Tennessee in the Bluebonnet Bowl.

The Baltimore Colts made Bert the second pick in the 1973 NFL draft after trading DL Billy Newsome to the Saints to move up.

  • Jones played nine seasons for the Colts. His best season was 1976 when he led the NFL with 3,104y passing. The Associated Press named him the MVP and the Offensive Player of the Year.
  • The following year, Bert topped the league in completions with 224. Baltimore won 31 games over the three seasons from '75 to '77.
  • He missed most of the '78 and '79 campaigns with a severe shoulder injury. He started every game in both '80 and '81 but could not recapture the magic and lead the Colts to a winning season.
  • Bert played four games for the Los Angeles Rams in '82 before a neck injury forced him to retire.

Jones runs a business near Ruston and does TV commentary for outdoors programs and football.

Reference: Real Football: Conversations on America's Game, Stephen H. Norwood
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Andy Hamilton LSU
Andy Hamilton

Brad Davis
Brad Davis
Bert Jones, Colts

Largest Crowd in SEC History

1939 LSU-Tennessee Program Cover

 

 


QB George Cafago, Tennessee
George Cafago

November 4, 1939, the largest crowd ever to see an SEC game to that point, 45,000, packed Tiger Stadium to watch LSU take on Tennessee.

  • Bernie Moore's fifth Tiger team had won four in a row after losing to Ole Miss 14-7 in the opener.
  • General Robert Neyland's Vols were embarked on one of the most amazing seasons in football history. They were 5-0.
    • @North Carolina State 13-0
    • Sewanee 40-0
    • @Chattanooga 28-0
    • Alabama 21-0
    • Mercer 17-0
  • Notice something about those scores? All shutouts. Is it any wonder UT was ranked #1 in the AP poll for the second week in a row.
Tiger Stadium for 1939 Tennessee Game
Tiger Stadium for 1939 Tennessee game
And no wonder the contest was one of the most hyped and anticipated in the 46 years of LSU football.
  • The fired up Tigers fought the visitors to a standstill in the first period. Included was a stirring goal line stand on the 2 early in the period. RT Irving Campbell (Fayette AL senior) and C Bernie Lipkis (sophomore from Fortier High School, New Orleans) were the mainstays of the D that turned back the best QB George Cafego, RH Bobby Foxx, and the other hard-charging Vols could throw at them. (Remember that, in those single wing days, "QB" really meant "blocking back.") The Tigers then punted out of danger. During the period, Cafego uncorked an 82y punt.
  • Moore substituted the second team to start Q2 as did Neyland. It quickly proved to be a fateful decision as a low pass from C on the first play of Q2 was recovered by Tennessee on the 8. On the very first play, Johnny Butler threw "a perfect pass" to Bob "Breezer" Aldridge to give the Vols a 7-0 lead.
Tennessee's First TD
1939 LSU-Tennessee action1939 LSU-Tennessee Action
R: Tennessee
T Leonard Coffman makes tackle vs LSU

 

 

 

 

Ken Kavanaugh

 

  • In Q3, Aldridge's INT of a Leo Bird pass put the Vols in Tiger territory. "Bad News" Cafego completed a 15y pass to Sam Bartholomew. George then ran the remaining 15 on the next play "with half of the Tigers clawing at him in a frantic effort to bring him down." Cafego plunged over for the EP as well. 14 points was a deep hole against a team that had yet to yield a single point.
  • A fumble recovery on the LSU 35 put the Vols in business in Q4. FB Joe Wallen and Butler alternated on the march until QB Buist Warren pushed over the goal. FB Fred Newman, who had run in the first conversion, fumbled on this try to keep the score 20-0.
The statistics were closer than the final score.
  • The Tigers tied in first downs at 9 and led in passing yardage, 54-9. The vaunted combo of Leo Bird and Ken Kavanaugh connected on three of LSU's six completions.
  • UT piled up 156y rushing to 83 for LSU.
  • What produced the 20-point margin were turnovers. The Vols intercepted 6 passes and recovered 4 fumbles. All three TDs were set up by turnovers.
  • As a result, LSU never advanced further than the Tennessee 40.

The teams went in opposite directions the rest of the year.

  • The Tigers never won another game in 1939, losing to Mississippi State, Auburn, and Tulane to finish 4-5, Moore's first losing season.
  • The triumph was the 19th in a row for Tennessee. The Vols not only won their remaining four games but preserved their shutout streak to earn a bid to the Rose Bowl.
  • On January 1, 1940, in Pasadena, USC scored a TD in Q2 and another in Q4 to end the Vols winning streak, 14-0.
  • It was the second straight year the Trojans met and defeated a team that had not allowed a point all season. Howard Jones's team had beaten Duke 7-3 in the closing minutes in Pasadena.
Win One for the Bear

LSU's 1952 team is best known for the unique letter-number system on their jerseys.

  • The brainchild of Assistant AD Jim Corbett, the scheme identified ends as E1, E2, etc, tackles as T1, T2, ... G for guards, C centers, Q quarterbacks, L left halfbacks, R right halfs, and F fullbacks.
  • Even though the unlimited substitution rules instituted during World War II prevailed for one last year, no letters were assigned for linebackers, safeties, d-linemen, and so on.
  • Corbett would become the LSU AD in 1955 and, with new coach Paul Dietzel, lead LSU football to heights never seen before. However, the letter-number system was one of Jim's worst ideas. Expected to spread throughout college football, it died in Baton Rouge after one season.
1952 LSU Squad
1952 LSU Fighting Tigers

Gaynell Tinsley's fifth Tiger team finished 3-7. One of the highlights of the forgettable season was a 34-7 pasting of Kentucky in Lexington the week after a 27-7 victory over Rice in Houston. (The third victory came 16-0 in the finale at Tulane.)

  • Bear Bryant's seventh Wildcat team was 1-1-1, having defeated Texas A&M the week before, 10-7, after losing to Villanova 25-6 and tying Ole Miss 13-13.
  • The week of the game, Bryant was in the hospital with "a hot appendix" to quote Bear's autobiography.

The team was all primed to win one for me (or in this case, without me), just like in the movies. My physician said it was no sense my begging to go because it was impossible. He removed the appendix on Thursday night, and Harry Jones, one of the Jones twins who played so great for us ..., came by to see me on Friday.

As he walked out, Harry said, "Coach, you'll be there tomorrow, won't you?"
Not "Will you?" or "Can you?" but "You will."
I said, "Yeah, Harry, I'll be there."
And when the time came I dragged myself out of bed and went, just as I'd seen John Wayne do a hundred times. And the sight of me being delivered to them, held up on either side by attendants, was such a shock that my players forgot all their plays and got murdered 34-7. I had to be taken back to the hospital immediately after the game, so weak and sore I could hardly move. If I'd stayed in bed to begin with, I'm convinced they would have won.

The United Press wire story said that "even with the aid and inspiration of Coach Paul Bryant," Kentucky could not handle the "young and eager Tigers" and their "band of explosive backs."

  • Norm Stevens, senior QB from Picayune MS whose father had played for LSU in the 1920s, found Kentucky's pass defense gaping on the first play the Tigers ran from scrimmage. HB Al Doggett gathered in the 20y toss on the sideline and raced 60y more for a TD.
  • Before Q1 ended, LSU scored again when Stevens threw a pass to Jerry Marchand in the right flat. The Catholic High product ran the last 6y untouched.
  • The visitors added two more tallies in Q3, marching 70y in 11 plays with the second half kickoff. Doggett's 17y gallop on a double reverse to the 7 set up Willard Rachal's sweep. A few minutes later, LSU came right back on a 75y march with Marchand pounding over from the 3. Cliff Stringfield's third conversion made it 27-0.
  • Kentucky's only score came late in the period after recovering Stringfield's fumble on the 26. Freshman Dick Shatto raced to the 10, then hit Steve Meilinger in the EZ on the next play.
  • FB Sal Nicolo from Saugus MA capped the scoring with a TD in Q4. The game wound up in a bit of confusion as Stringfield's FG attempt was taken in the EZ by Dick Rushing, who ran it back for an apparent TD. But time had run out, and the score was not allowed.
  • The Tigers attempted 28 passes, a large number for that era, completing 16 for 239y. They won the first down battle 22-14.

The 27-point defeat was the second worse Bryant suffered in his nine years at Kentucky, only one point behind the 28-0 pasting at the hands of Tennessee the year before.

Reference: Bear: The Hard Life & Good Times of Alabama's Coach Bryant,
Paul "Bear" Bryant with John Underwood (1974)

RB Al Doggett 1953
Al Doggett

RB Jerry Marchand
Jerry Marchand

QB Cliff Stringfield 1952
Cliff Stringfield

FB Sal Nicolo 1952
Sal Nicolo

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Tigers in the Pros - Ken Kavanaugh, Sr. - I

 

Ken Kavanaugh, LSU
Ken Kavanaugh, LSU

Coach George Halas, Bears
George Halas

Ken Kavanaugh, Bears
Ken Kavanaugh, Bears


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Growing up in Little Rock in the 1930s, Ken Kavanaugh didn't know that pro football existed.

  • The 6'3" 205 lb E with great speed (9.9 for 100y) had a sterling career at LSU from 1937 to 1939.
  • He made All-SEC all three years and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting his senior year. He also won the Rockne Trophy given by the Washington Touchdown Club.
  • During his sophomore year, Ken received a letter from the Paterson (NJ) Panthers. The American Association club wanted to know if he was interested in a pro career. That was the first inkling he had that you could get paid for playing football.

Unknown to Kavanaugh, the Chicago Bears chose him in the second round of the 1940 NFL draft held on December 9, 1939.

  • There were no agents in those days, and NFL clubs did not actively seek to sign their draft choices until the summer.
  • Ken was occupied that summer playing 1B for the St. Louis Cardinals' farm club in Kilgore TX.
  • He got a call from George Halas, owner-coach of the Bears. As Ken recalled:

In those days you didn't hear too much about the pros because you didn't have television. All they had was radio in those days, and you were lucky to get on radio.

I'd never heard of George Halas. I didn't know anything about him. He said, "I'm George Halas." I said, "So?" He said, "Chicago Bears; it's a professional football team."

  • Halas asked if Ken planned to play in the Chicago Tribune's College All-Star game at Soldier Field on August 29. Kavanaugh replied that his baseball season wouldn't be over by then.

The next day, Ken received another long distance call from Chicago.

  • This one came from Arch Ward, the Tribune sports editor who founded the All-Star game. He asked the same question Papa Bear asked and got the same response.
  • "You're going to have to play in the All-Star game," said Arch. When Ken said he didn't, Ward insisted, "If you're going to play professional football, you have to play in the Tribune All-Star game." Ken replied that he didn't know if he wanted to play pro football.
  • Several days later, Halas called back and again asked if Ken wanted to play. "Yeah, I'd like to but I can't." Halas told his draftee to see if he could get out of his contract with the Cardinals.

Kavanaugh was able to get to Chicago for the game.

  • During practice at Northwestern University, Halas offered Ken $100 a game, which he refused.
  • George came back a week later and upped the ante to $200. "That's as far as I can go." The Tiger still refused.

He came back again and went up to $250 a game. I thought, well, I'll get 300 out of him. In those days, you didn't know what to ask for. I didn't know what anybody was making on the Bears.

Halas said, "There's no way I can pay you 300." I said, "Okay, I've got to go to practice anyway." The next day, he's again up in my dormitory room at Northwestern. I just stayed at $300 a game. I said, "You can talk all you want to, but that's it." And he said, "Okay, but nobody makes that kind of money around here."

  • The rookie didn't know it, but his contract put him among the highest paid in the league.
Reference: Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football, Robert W. Peterson (1997)
Tigers in the Pros - Ken Kavanaugh, Sr. - II

Ken found the transition to the pro game difficult.

The pros were so much bigger and better. There was no comparison. You could score in college, and you'd think, we're doing all right, but in the pros they'd come right back at you, they'd score right after you.

QB Sid Luckman, Bears
Sid Luckman

Still, he proved he was worth every cent Halas paid him.

  • Kavanaugh added another potent weapon to the Bears' T-formation attack led by QB Sid Luckman. Ken again:

We had 2,300 plays in the playbook. I counted them up when I was a rookie. Now that's counting a play in which a guard pulls one way and a separate play that is basically the same except that the guards pulls the other way.

Halas would never let you make a play up. Once I and Scooter McLean, a HB, were inventing pass patterns that weren't in the playbook, and we'd score with them. George called me into the office and asked what we were doing. I said, "I'm going down and doing this and Scooter is doing that." George says, "Where is it in the playbook?" I said, "It's not in the playbook." He says, "Don't you know you're not supposed to call any plays that aren't in the playbook?" I said, "I know, but it works; it was good for a TD." He asked me to draw it up for him. I did, and he finally put it in the book.

  • Kavanaugh led the Bears with 12 receptions for 276y, an astounding 23.0 average. The 1940 season culminated with the Monsters of the Midway pasting the Washington Redskins in the championship game, 73-0. Ken caught the only TD pass in the contest.
  • In '41, he snared 11 balls for 314y to up his average/catch to 28.5.

Ken's career, like those of so many players, was interrupted by military service.

  • He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942.

Believe me, I knew nothing about an airplane. I didn't know a rudder from an aileron, but I said to myself: "There's no way I"m ever going to dig a foxhole. I'll get killed before I ever get the thing dug, so I'm going to try flying."

  • He piloted bombers in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
  • After training to fly B-24 and B-18 bombers, Ken moved to England where he flew 25 missions over Germany. "I never lost a man," he boasted.

Discharged just before the 1945 season, Kavanaugh rejoined the Bears.

  • With Halas passing more than before the war, Ken caught 25 for 543y and 6 TD.
  • The following year, he received an offer to join the Los Angeles Dons of the new All-American Football Conference.

I think I was making $8,000 with the Bears, and they offered me $20,000 to go with the Dons. I said, "No, I don't want to do that. I'll stay with the Bears because they were a solid outfit ... I did tell George Halas what I was offered, and he did raise my salary up to $12,000 or $14,000.

  • Ken played five more years, reaching his peak in 1947 with 32 catches for 818y and a league-leading 13 TDs.
New York Giants Coaching Staff 1958
New York Giants Coaching Staff 1958
Front: Vince Lombardi, John Dell Isola; Back: Tom Landry, Jim Lee Howell (head coach), Ken Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh then went into coaching.

  • In 1955, he joined the Giants as one of four assistant coaches, two of which were Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry.
  • Ken stayed with New York for 15 years, then spent the 30 years, into his 80s, as a scout focusing on ends. His prize find was TE Mark Bavaro.
  • Ken Kavanaugh, Jr., followed in his father's footsteps in Tigertown, lettering at E in 1969-70-71.

Enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1963, Ken Sr. died in 2007.

Reference: Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football, Robert W. Peterson (1997)
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David Ray, Alabama
Billy Ezell, LSU
Billy Ezell
Ezell Holding for Moreau
Ezell holding for Doug Moreau
QB Steve Sloan, Alabama
Steve Sloan
QB Pat Screen, LSU

Why Didn't He Go to Florida?

David Ray was all set to sign with Florida until Alabama rescinded its scholarship offer. If you're puzzled by that sentence, read on.

  • In high school in Phenix City AL, Ray served as PK, DB, and RB. And he could play other positions if necessary.
  • Gator Coach Ray Graves had been courting David for three years. So when he traveled 300 miles to the Ray household, Graves was certain he would bag an outstanding recruit.

However, something happened to change David's mind. Alabama informed him that it was withdrawing the scholarship offer it had made. Let Ray explain:

I had about made up my mind to go to Florida because they were going to let me play football and baseball and be more of a HB in football. Coach Graves came to my house to sign me. Then I got a call from [Alabama] assistant coach Elwood Kettler, who told me they were going to withdraw my scholarship offer because he said Coach Bryant said he didn't think I could play at Alabama. Well, I changed my mind and signed with Alabama ... to prove them wrong.

  • Of course, Graves was not happy, and neither were David's parents. "They didn't really care which school I played for, but I had told Coach Graves I was going to sign with him, and he was there in the house. ... As it turned out, I made the right decision."

The game Ray remembers most from his Bama career was the 1964 clash with LSU in Birmingham.

  • The two schools had not met on the gridiron since 1958 when the national championship-bound Tigers won Bear Bryant's opening game at his alma mater, 13-3. As it turns out, the teams have met every season since 1964.
  • Alabama entered the game 7-0 and ranked #3 while the 5-0-1 Tigers held down the #8 position.
  • Charlie McClendon would meet his own college coach for the first time as LSU head man.

Ray recalls:

We knew LSU was going to be a tough team to play ... Going to Birmingham to play them made it a big game for me. I used to get the biggest thrill playing at Legion Field.

The 68,000 (largest crowd to witness a game in the state of Alabama) who jammed Legion Field saw a surprising first half filled with more O than anyone expected.

  • LSU scored first by taking advantage of a Tide fumble. After going nowhere with the opening kickoff, the Bengals punted. However, Johnny Mosley bobbled the ball and LB Richard Granier recovered.
  • Billy Ezell, who alternated with Pat Screen under C because of the latter's injury, directed an eight-play drive that culminated with a 13y pass to Doug Moreau, who got between two defenders in the EZ. Doug then missed the PAT.
  • Bama came back on Steve Bowman's 1y buck. Ray's kick made it 7-6 going into Q2.
  • Moreau's 35y FG gave LSU a 9-7 advantage at halftime.

The defenses finally took over after intermission.

  • Neither team could muster much of a drive in the early going of Q3. Bama made it clear it had given up trying to run on the Tiger line, which outweighed the Tide forward wall 25 lbs per man.
  • QB Steve Sloan passed to Ray Ogden for a first down that gave the Crimson a spark. The Tide moved the ball to the LSU 24 but then lost 3y on the next play to make it 4th-and-4. Ray booted a 37y 3-pointer on the first play of Q4 to regain the lead, 10-9.
  • Bama salted it away with 7:44 to go when Hudson Harris picked off Screen's pass and raced 33y down the right sidelines for the TD. The reliable toe of Ray made it 17-9. Harris had stood to be the goat because of his fumble on the LSU 3 to end an earlier threat.
  • In the final minutes, the Tigers drove twice to the Alabama 11 but could not score - the second time with 30 seconds to play. Ezell fired a pass into the EZ, but the ball was deflected by Frank McClendon (no relation to the LSU coach) and intercepted by Ray to preserve the victory.

LSU won the statistical battle, for what that was worth.

  • First downs: 16-12
  • Total yards: 275-222 (178-74 passing advantage for LSU)
  • However, Bama's 3 INTs trumped LSU's 2 fumble recoveries.

The victory clinched another SEC championship for Bear's Boys.

  • Bama would win their final two games to finish #1 in the AP poll before losing to Texas in the Orange Bowl.
  • The Tigers went 7-2-1 to earn a Sugar Bowl berth, beating Syracuse 13-10.

Reference: Game of My Life: Alabama, Tommy Hicks (2006)

No Married Players

This article appeared in the Times Picayune in 1940.

Baton Rouge, La., Oct. 15 - Wade Stonecipher, varsity Louisiana State university end from Haynesville, dropped out of football today, Coach Ber­nie Moore revealed this afternoon.

Stonecipher, letterman as a sophomore last year, was a first-string wing­man this season, starting all the L. S. U. games thus far.

Coach Moore said Stonecipher told him this morning that he had been se­cretly married since early last summer. The athlete said he had tried to make ends meet this fall while playing football, but over the week-end he and his wife decided that it was best for him to drop out of the university, get a job and try to support them.

In view of the circumstances and also considering that L. S. U. had a set rule against married men on the varsity squad, Coach Moore advised Stoneci­pher that his resignation was his only move.

Stonecipher's action came as the Tigers prepared to play the Mercer Bears in Tiger Stadium October 20. LSU was 2-2 at that point.

  • Louisiana Tech 39-7
  • Ole Miss 6-19
  • Holy Cross 25-0
  • at Rice 0-23

The Tigers beat Mercer 20-0 on their way to a 6-4 season. The rest of the schedule played out this way.

  • Vanderbilt 7-0
  • at Tennessee 0-28
  • Mississippi State 7-22
  • at Auburn 21-13 (Birmingham)
  • Tulane 14-0
The first six games, including the one at Rice, were night contests. The last four took place in the daytime.

LSU Coach Bernie Moore
Bernie Moore

 

 

1940 LSU-Auburn Program