CONTENTS

First Appearance of Mascot Mike

Faust Fever

Profile: Alvin Dark - I

Profile: Alvin Dark - II

"LSU is not a class team"

Saban's First Rematch - I

Saban's First Rematch - II

Saban's First Rematch - III

But Did He Beat Tulane? - I

But Did He Beat Tulane? - II


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 – VII

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 – VIII
First Appearance of Mascot Mike

The defending national champion LSU Tigers opened their 1959 season with a nationally-televised Saturday afternoon game with the Rice Owls.

  • Mike the Tiger's cage was rolled onto the field before the game as had been done many times before.
  • The gate swung open, and a striped figure bounded out. The initial fear of having a tiger loose in the stadium changed to cheers of approval when everyone realized that this Mike was an LSU student dressed in a tiger suit.
  • The idea of using a stand-in for the real Mike was suggested by LSU band director Thomas Tyra. The LSU Band bought a tiger suit from a New York costume maker and Mike, the band mascot, has delighted fans every since.

The human Mike's reign in Tiger Stadium got off the an excellent start as LSU extended its winning streak to 13.

  • With most of its stars returning from the 11-0 '58 aggregation, LSU was ranked #1 in the initial AP poll on September 14. Surprisingly, only 45,000 turned out for the opener.
  • The Tigers got off to a slow start in the sweltering 87° heat. In fact, LSU didn't record a first down until the game was 16 minutes old. Paul Dietzel's crew trailed at the half 3-0 thanks to a 46y FG by Gordon Speer following a fumble recovery at the LSU 40. Two Rice 3-point attempts earlier in the half had failed.
  • A major reason for the Tigers' sluggish play was the fact that Dietzel used his #1 "White team" sparingly, relying on the "Go team," his offensive specialists, and the "Chinese Bandits" for defense.
LSU-Rice 1959
Rice punts in the first half.

The real football Tigers showed up in the second half.

  • The White team began a 66y drive when QB Warren Rabb, a tackler hanging on his arm, passed to HB Billy Cannon for 14y. Moments later, Rabb connected with FB Donnie Daye to the 35. Then a tricky reverse-pitchout left Rabb carrying the ball to the 17. On the next play, Cannon's looped around RE behind a wall of blockers for a TD with 10:11 left in the period. Wendell Harris converted for a 7-3 lead the Tigers never relinquished.
LSU-Rice 1959
Warren Rabb (12) runs as Billy Cannon (20) blocks for him.
  • The Go team and the Bandits took over for the rest of the quarter but were frustrated by penalties on five consecutive long-gaining plays.
  • Finally, the White team returned late in the period and moved the ball to the Owl 23. From there, Harris booted a FG on the first play of Q4 to extend the lead to 10-3.
  • Midway in Q4, Merle Schexnaildre intercepted a pass from Rice QB John Schnable on the Owl 35 and returned it to the 20. After several thrusts through the line, Tommy Neck plunged over from 2y with less than five minutes remaining out to finally put the Owls away. QB Darryl Jenkins passed to Schexnaildre for the 2-point conversion to make it 19-3.
  • LSU soon got the ball again on the enemy 41. With the ball on the 32, Rabb passed to Schexnaildre on the 10 and he raced over the goal with 30 seconds left. Cannon ran for another 2-point conversion to make the finally tally 26-3.
LSU-Rice 1959
Merle Schexnaildre runs against the Owls.

The Tigers would extend their nation's best winning streak to 19 before losing at Tennessee 14-13 to end their dream of a repeat national championship.

Notre Dame Coach Gerry Faust
Gerry Faust
LSU Coach Jerry Stovall
Jerry Stovall
1981 Notre Dame-LSU Program Cover
Notre Dame QB Blair Kiel
Blair Kiel
LSU QB Alan Risher
Alan Risher
LSU RB Eric Martin
Eric Martin

Faust Fever

Opening paragraphs from Herschel Nissenson's Associated Press article Sep­tember 16, 1981:

The Notre Dame football guide calls it "The Gerry Faust Era." A bet­ter term might be "Faust Fever."

It has swept the Notre Dame campus since Gerry Faust showed up last winter, fresh from 18 years at Moeller High School in Cin­cinnati, to succeed Dan Devine as head football coach.

When Nissenson wrote those lines, the Faust Era consisted of exactly one game, a 27-9 victory over LSU. The loss was number 2 for Jerry Stovall's second Tiger team.

  • A week earlier, LSU fell to Alabama in a night game moved from No­vember 7 to the beginning of the season for ABC-TV.
  • The third largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history, 78,066, saw the Crim­son Tide overcome two early mistakes to run up a 17-0 halftime lead on their way to their 11th straight win over the Tigers, 24-7.
  • Despite a month's preparation time, the Tiger D couldn't stop Bear Bry­ant's wishbone O, which gained 270y on the ground in the first half alone, converting all seven third-down attempts in the first 30 minutes.
  • The home team's only score came on backup QB Timmy Byrd's 7y pass to Malcolm Scott with 13 seconds left in the game. The tally was set up by the only penalty called on Alabama all night, an interference call in the EZ.

The Tigers traveled to South Bend for another nationally-televised game, this one on the USA Network.

  • On Friday night, Notre Dame staged a pep rally that had to be moved outdoors to accommodate the 10,000 or so who showed up. It was the first outdoor pep rally since Ara Parseghian's days (1964-74).
  • The throng cheered Faust's every utterance and chanted, "Gerry, Gerry, Gerry." The new coach cried in his highpitched voice:

Notre Dame stands for many things. It stands for excellent academ­ics, great alumni, subway alumni, a great band, great faculty, great students. The team is doing it all for the university and for you stu­dents out there. LSU played Alabama last week but Alabama was not the important game as far as they were concerned. The important game is tomorrow. I'm asking each and every one of you who will be in that stadium to rock that stadium the whole game. We need each and every one of you to give us 120 percent. If you do that, we'll get our first victory on the way to 12 and the national championship.

In that environment the next afternoon, LSU got off to another bad start.

  • The #4-ranked Irish capitalized on turnovers to explode for three TDs in the first quarter and a half.
  • Notre Dame's D frustrated LSU throughout the contest, intercepting two passes, recovering two fumbles, and recording five sacks.

The scoring went like this.

  • ND QB Blair Kiel hit Larry Morarity on a 7y pass five plays after DE Kevin Griffith recovered QB Alan Risher's fumble at the LSU 23 on the opening series of the contest.
  • Phil Carter finished the Irish's next possession when he ran over from the 1 with 7:43 left in Q1. The plunge was set up by TB Greg Bell's 41y scamper.
  • Notre Dame marched 69y in 10 plays to score on Tony Hunter's plunge from the 1 with 8:33 left in Q2 for a 20-0 lead.
  • LSU finally threatened late in the half, but Risher bobbled a pitchout on 4th down from the 2.
  • QB Tim Koegel, who played for Faust at Moeller High, came off the bench to hit high school teammate Dave Condeni on a 6y pass in Q3 to cap the Irish scoring.
  • LSU's points came on a 23y FG by David Johnston early in Q3 and a 23y scoring run by freshman RB Eric Martin with 23 seconds left in the game.
Blair Kiel's nephew, Gunner, a highly-rated QB from Columbus IN, committed to LSU in December 2011 but didn't attend.

The Notre Dame euphoria after the drubbing of an SEC team was inflated be­cause the '81 LSU team turned out to be the worst in Baton Rouge in 15 years. The 3-7-1 season ended with a humiliating 48-7 trouncing by Tulane in the Su­perdome.

Faust Fever eventually turned from the excited kind to the disease form.

  • Gerry's initial Irish team finished 5-6 and didn't play in a bowl for the first time since Notre Dame reversed its policy of not playing in post-season games following the 1969 season.
  • After seasons of 6-4-1, 7-5, 7-5, and 5-6 (the last ending with a 58-7 rout at the hands of Miami), Notre Dame did not renew Faust's five-year con­tract.
  • Still, ND's Gerry lasted longer than LSU's Jerry. Stovall was fired when his '83 squad went 4-7.
Profile - Alvin Dark I

 

Alvin Dark
Alvin Dark

Alvin Dark roared across the LSU firmament like a comet, an atmospheric phenomenon that lasted only one year. But what a year it was!

  • Born in Comanche OK in 1922, Alvin moved with his family to Lake Charles at an early age.
  • His first love - although arguably not his best sport - was baseball. When filling out career questionnaires in elementary school, he always wrote "Professional Baseball" as his first choice and left the other choices blank.
  • In his autobiography, he wrote:

At ten, I was playing in a city league with nineteen-year-olds. They stuck me in RF ... At eleven, I was the SS on a Legion team with guys fifteen and six­teen.

At Lake Charles High, Dark played football and basketball since the school didn't field a baseball team.

  • As a senior, he made the all-state and all-Southern football teams at TB.
  • He was the playmaking G and captain on the basketball team.

Basketball was probably my best sport then and got me the most attention.

Colleges vied for his services.

  • He first accepted a basketball scholarship to Texas A&M.
  • Three days before he was set to leave for College Station, an LSU coach came to his house and invited Al to play basketball and baseball for the Tigers.

I had already turned down an LSU football scholarship. Even though I was then a respectable 165 pounds, I figured I had been living a charmed life. I didn't want football injuries to delay my ascent into baseball.

  • With his dad's approval, Alvin came to LSU for the 1941-2 school year.
It didn't take him long to realize the priority that football enjoyed on campus.

The football players were downstairs eating steaks and baked chicken, football players' food for building bodies, and I was up there with a bunch of skinny basketball players and track men, eating wieners and sauerkraut and pieces of roast beef you could see through. I decided to go out for football.

  • With freshmen ineligible for varsity play, Dark asked the freshman football coach, who was also the baseball coach, if he could try out. He instantly agreed.
  • The Baby Bengals used the Notre Dame box, the same offensive scheme Alvin ran in high school.
  • With only one day of practice, he got a chance in the first frosh game.

The first two times I carried the ball - the only two times I carried the ball - I ran for TDs. One for 45y. I threw four passes and completed two. After that there was no turning back. I was an LSU football player, betrayed by his appetite.

Tiger Stadium 1939
Tiger Stadium as it looked when Dark played there

The following year, Dark lettered in football, basketball, and baseball, "dashing from field to field."

I got the chance to try a little golf for the first time. I would have gone out for track, too, but LSU took a dim view of athletes who couldn't work the classroom into their schedules. Football, of course, was what turned Louisianians on, and under Coach Moore we had a good team.

  • Dark earned All-SEC honors at TB for the '42 Tigers, who won 7 and lost 3 with all defeats on the road.
  • In Game 2, the school Alvin almost attended came to Tiger Stadium. According to the AP article on the 16-7 Tiger victory over the Aggies before 23,000 fans under the lights,

Sophomore Alvin Dark, fleet Lake Charles, La., back, reeled off as neat a scoring run as ever seen in Tiger stadium midway of the second pe­riod to break an impasse ... Dark slipped through RT and eluded tackler after tackler with slithery side steps on a 27y TD play. Dark converted the EP. ...

Diminutive Dark, whose kicking helped spell doom for the Aggies, slick­ed one off his toe out of bounds on the Texans' 6y line in the third peri­od and this led to LSU's safety.

  • After a loss at Rice, the Tigers hosted defending SEC champions from Mississippi State. AP story on Tigers' 16-6 triumph:

Led by scrappy sophomore Alvin Dark, LSU's Tigers came from be­hind in the trail of Dark's accurate pass tossing to take the lead at the half ... Giving LSU fans chills on several occasions with his daring ma­neuvers, Dark arched the ball far down the field for both Tiger TDs.

The passes went to tall Jack Fulkerson for 35y and to 23y to Woody Holland. Dark also kept the Maroons at bay with his punting.

It was the next game that produced Dark's most memorable moment in Tigertown. Let him tell the story.

I have to set the scene a little. The LSU kicking coach was a man from Texarkana named Joel Hunt. ... I had a 42y punting average that year, but Hunt wasn't turned on by how far or high a ball could be kicked. He believed the beauty of a punt was dramatically diminished by a good runback. So every day at practice he put us on our own 42y line and had us aim for the flags at the goal. The object was to kick out of bounds, as close to the flag as possible. ("Coffin corner," it used to be called.)

LSU's arch rival is Ole Miss ... As the starting TB my sophomore year, I ran for two TDs [70y and 42y] ... and we beat Mississippi, 21-7. But what stands out in my memory of the game was three punts. The first was a 74y quick kick. We were backed up to the 10y line and I had to kick it from the goal. Then, later on, I was in punt formation on the Ole Miss side of the 50y line. Both teams were lined up. The referee was right behind me. I said, "If I hit the flag, where do you put the ball in play?" "Right there," he said. "Right on the one-foot line." And so help me, my punt hit the flag. One of those things you couldn't do again in two lifetimes of punting.

One more kick and the story's done. Ole Miss had a punt-return specialist [Ray Woodward] who scared everybody that year. All week Coach Hunt had been reminding me, "Don't kick it to him whatever you do. Kick it out of bounds. A 35y kick out of bounds is better than a 60-yarder he gets his hands on."

We were working on a shutout when I went back to kick from the EZ late in the game. And I got off a textbook shot, a lovely spiral, high and far, and smack dab in the middle of the field. The guy I was supposed to keep the ball away from ran it back for a TD. I could hardly wait to get to the sidelines to hear Coach Hunt tell me what a lunkhead I was. [Alvin forgot that the TD was called back because of a clipping penalty.]

 Alvin Dark running for LSU
Alvin Dark running against Auburn

To be continued ...

Reference: When in Doubt, Fire the Manager: My Life and Times in Baseball,
Alvin Dark & John Underwood (1980)
Tiger Den Archives | Top of Page
Alvin Dark II

 

Alvin Dark, Boston Braves
Al Dark, Boston Braves

Alvin Dark, New York Giants

Oakland manager Al Dark
Al Dark as Oakland manager

 

 


Part I

After his outstanding sophomore season at LSU in 1942, Al Dark faced a serious decision like so many young men during World War II.

  • Knowing that the draft was imminent, he joined the Marine Corps' V-12 program for future officers.
  • The program allowed Dark to continue his education for another year, but it had to be at a school that offered the V-12 program. So he was sent to Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette. Steve Van Buren replaced Dark as the TB at LSU for 1943.

Dark: "I don't think there were many colleges with a better football team than the Marines put together at Southwestern Louisiana."

  • The SLI Bulldogs included three future NFL players who transferred from Rice in G Weldon Humble (Browns), C Bill Blackburn (Chicago Cardinals), and G John Magee (Bears). Another future pro came from Tulsa: E Saxon Judd.
  • Word quickly spread about the strong Bulldog team in Lafayette. Dark:

It got to be a joke. Nobody wanted to play us. The athletic officer would call up LSU or Rice or somebody, tell them we had a team, and ask for a game. No. Sorry. A "scheduling problem." We tried to play Tulane. We tried to play Notre Dame. We tried to play Fordham. We wound up with eight games [actually six, counting the bowl], mainly against other bases, and went undefeated. One of the teams we beat, Randolph Field, beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl that year. We were told we would have gotten the Sugar Bowl invitation if they had found somebody willing to play us. A bowl game was created for us - the Oil Bowl in Tulsa. We won, in ankle-deep mud.

The joy for me was running behind Humble and Blackburn. I'd never seen such blocking. Humble must have been six feet four, 220 pounds [actually 6-1, 221], Blackburn six feet six, 240 [228], and they were both as fast as I was. Faster, maybe. To give you an example, I ran a punt back for a touchdown in one game and it was called back because we were offside. The other team punted again, and I ran that one back for a touchdown. Nobody touched me either time. A fellow could play into middle age with that kind of protection.

 Alvin Dark running in the Oil Bowl
Alvin Dark running in the Oil Bowl against Arkansas A&M
  • Dark received a call fromr Colonel Earl Blaik, the coach at West Point. Blaik told him he could play two more years of college football there. But, when Al asked how many years he'd owe the Army after that, Earl said four. Dark replied, "Colonel Blaik, as soon as this war is over, Lord willing, I'm going into professional baseball. I can't afford four years."
  • The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Dark in 1945, but he wasn't interested in pro football. They had to be content with Van Buren, who forged a Hall of Fame career in the City of Brotherly Love.

After finishing basic training at Camp LeJeune, Dark received his commission in January 1945.

  • He was eventually sent to Saipan and assigned to a machine-gun unit. But the very first day he arrived, he got orders to go back to Pearl to play football.
  • He did come close to combat in December, 1945, after the war was over, in China, where the civil war between the Nationalists and Communists raged. His unit, part of occupation forces, returned to the States after four months.

A scout from the Buffalo Bills of the new All-America Football Conference contacted him, but Al still had his sights set on baseball.

  • The Boston Braves gave him an astounding $45,000 bonus. He played 15 games at the end of the 1946 season.
  • After a season at AAA Milwaukee, he returned to the Braves to become ML Rookie of the Year as a SS in 1948 and help Boston win the pennant.
  • He played 14 seasons in the majors, appearing on World Series teams with the New York Giants in '51 and '54.
  • After retirement, he managed pennant winners in both leagues: the San Francisco Giants in 1962 and the Oakland Athletics in 1974, the latter winning the World Series.

Reference: When in Doubt, Fire the Manager: My Life and Times in Baseball,
Alvin Dark & John Underwood (1980)
Top of Page

"LSU Is Not a Class Team"
Those were the words of Ole Miss's NG James Jordan after LSU's 30-8 victory in a regionally-televised game in Tiger Stadium on No­vember 4, 1978. He continued:

They are a record-breaking team. They go after all the ink. All they want to do is score a pile of points and get Alex­ander the Heisman. When they loosened up, they've got Alexander, who weighs 214 and runs like he weighs 350. And their average linemen, once they get the mo­mentum, they play like All-Americans.

Tiger splitback Mike Quintella expressed the emotion on the LSU side.

Well, one time a guy did step on my chest. But I want to clarify things. I have nothing against those Ole Miss guys personally. What I hate is what they stand for. Like what we do and everything, we stand for LSU football. They stand for Ole Miss. And that's what I don't like.

That summarizes the Ole Miss rivalry in that era. In an age when Alabama has become LSU's biggest rival, it is good to remind ourselves that throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Tiger fans hated the Rebels the most. As Marty Mule wrote in his column after the '78 game:

Tulane notwithstanding, The Game to LSU is Ole Miss. The Rebels just seem to bring out the best in the Ti­gers; lately, although they haven't recently kept up their end, a reverse of the trend in the 1960s.

Charlie McClendon's squad brought a 5-1 record into the contest, although some observers felt the team hadn't lived up to its po­tential.

  • They began with two lackluster home victories, 24-17 over Indiana and 13-11 over Wake Forest.
  • Road victories at Rice and Florida preceded a disappointing homecoming loss to Georgia. Then a ho-hum 21-0 win at Kentucky.

McClendon thought his squad's performance against Steve Sloan's Rebels deserved a championship grade. "And if my coaches don't grade them that way, then I'll do it."

  • The Tigers racked up 424 total yards, 243 rushing, and 22 first downs. Charles Alexander gained 172y and scored three TDs, one on a 64y run and another on a 25y pass. That gave him a career total of 38, one short of Stanley Morgan's SEC record.
  • The D held the Rebs to 220y, 77 rushing, 12 first downs.
  • LSU returned seven kicks for 124y while Ole Miss returned one for 5.
  • Reserve QB Steve Ensminger threw nine consecutive com­pletions, and LSU went 7-for-7 on third down conversions.
  • Even the punter pleased Charlie Mac. Facing the Rebs' Jim Miller, the '87 N CAA punting champion, the head coach told DE John Adams that he had to outkick Miller. Final averages: Miller 46.4 on eight kicks, Adams 46.5 on two. "That's what I call following orders," chortled Mac.

During the first half, Ole Miss got possession five times, none of them further out than its own 30.

  • That pattern continued for the first four exchanges in the second half.
  • LSU led 10-0 at the half, then struck early in Q3 when Mar­cus Quinn returned an INT 36y to the 8. Alexander scored on the next play.

When the game was out of reach, the Rebels got the ball on the LSU 45 and scored their only TD with 1:44 remaining.

  • That TD was engineered by freshman QB John Fourcade from Gretna LA. Relieving starter Roy Coleman, John completed 4-of-12 for 51y and ran seven times for -25. But he visibly perked up the O when he entered the game in Q2 and drove his unit 55y until a missed FG ended the threat. Four of the visitors' 12 first downs came on that drive.
  • "He's a heckuva athlete and is going to be a fine player for them before he's through," said Coach Mac, who recruited Fourcade hard.

LSU RB Charles Alexander
Charles Alexander

LSU Coach Charlie McClendon
Charlie McClendon

Ole Miss Coach Steve Sloan
Steve Sloan

LSU QB Steve Ensminger
Steve Ensminger

Ole Miss QB John Fourcade
John Fourcade

Saban's First Rematch - I

LSU WR Michael Clayton
Michael Clayton

LSU QB Rohan Davey
Rohan Davey

Kelly Washington 70y TD
Kelly Washington completes 70y TD

Travis Stephens Scores TD
Travis Stephens over the top forTD.

LSU WR Josh Reed
Josh Reed

The BCS Championship Game in January 2012 was not the first time Nick Saban got a do-over.

The 2001 Tigers, Nick's second squad at the Old War Skule, met Tennessee on September 29.

  • The game was originally intended to be the fourth of the season. However, 9/11 forced postponement of the Auburn game originally set for September 15 to the first Saturday of December.
  • Since September 22 was a scheduled bye week after victories over Tulane and Utah State to open the season, the Tigers had three weeks to prepare for their trip to Knoxville.
  • The 2000 Tigers had given their fans a taste of what the new regime would accomplish when they upset the Vols 38-31 in OT in Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers started well before 108,472 at Neyland Stadium.

  • LSU took the opening kickoff and moved smartly into enemy territory until Davey fumbled when sacked on a blitz.
  • After UT punted, freshman WR Michael Clayton broke free behind the secondary and hauled in a pass from QB Rohan Davey for a 67y TD with less than five minutes gone in the game. The Vol D, best in the nation in yards allowed coming into the contest, then shut down the Tigers until Q4.
  • The Tigers thwarted the Vols with two Q1 interceptions. Then Alex Walls booted two FGs in Q2 to make the score 7-6 at the break.

The second half would install a new member in LSU's Hall of Infamy, Vol WR Kelly Washington.

  • UT took the second half kickoff and drove 82y in 16 plays and 7 1/2 minutes, culminating on a 3y QB draw by Casey Clausen. The Vols picked up 6 first downs on the march, one fewer than they managed the entire first half. Washington made several third down catches on the drive. A 2-point conversion try pass was batted down.
  • On its next possession, Tennessee struck quickly on a 70y pass from Clausen to Washington. The PAT made it 19-7.
  • UT went another 70y but in 10 plays this time as RB Travis Stephens did the honors from the 1 with 11:46 left in the game.

Down 26-7, the Tiger O finally came to life.

  • Davey directed a 75y drive in 6 plays, using up just 75 seconds. The score came on a 30y strike to WR Josh Reed. The same combination put 2 more on the board to make it 26-15 with 10:13.
  • Another Tiger drive reached the 8 before bogging down. Needing a FG as well as a TD, Saban sent out John Corbello to boot a 25y FG with 3:12 on the clock to bring the Tigers within 8.
  • LSU got one last chance, taking over on its 20 with 30 seconds left. But Davey's Hail Mary into the EZ from the UT 43 a few plays later fell incomplete as the clock expired.

Washington had an All-American night.

  • The 22-year-old freshmen, who had played pro baseball for four years, had 11 receptions, every one of which gained a first down.
  • Kelly's 256y set a school record.
  • "We just couldn't get Washington covered," Saban moaned. "We tried about every way you could try."
  • Davey finished 21 of 43 for 356y.
  • To illustrate LSU's ineptitude on the ground, the leading rusher was LaBrandon Toefield with just 20y. The team finished with only 29y on 20 carries.

Video of entire game on YouTube

The Tigers went from the frying pan into the fire the following week.

  • Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators came to Tiger Stadium and laid a 44-15 whipping on the Tigers.
  • LSU bounced back with two straight conference road wins: Kentucky 29-25 and Mississippi State 42-0.
  • When Ole Miss scored 14 unanswered points in Q4 to win 35-24 at Tiger Stadium, any Tiger hope of winning the SEC West seemed dashed with three conference losses.

But the Tigers listened to Saban's mantra of playing every play and every game no matter what happens.

Continued below ...

Reference: The Fighting Tigers 1993-2008, Scott Rabalais, 2008
Top of Page

Saban's First Rematch - II

After the 2001 Tigers fell to Ole Miss at home, many fans gave up hope to winning the West.

  • Nick Saban recalled after the season that, in considering the LSU job, "the worst thing I heard was about the negativism of the fans."

I think one of the big problems here, and I saw it after the Ole Miss game is, are the people going to be fans, or are they going to be supporters? If they're going to be supporters, we can have a good team all the time. If they just want to be fans and every time something doesn't go exactly right, get tremendously negative about it and not be supportive, then I can see things spiraling negatively so badly that the tailspin could kill you ...

Although LSU was not mathematically eliminated from the championship, they would need the dominoes to fall exactly their way.

  • They had to win their remaining three conference games to finish 5-3. That would mean knocking off Alabama and Arkansas, both tied with the Tigers at 2-3.
  • 3-1 Ole Miss would have to lose not once, not twice, but three times since they held the tie-breaker over LSU.
  • Auburn, at 4-1, would also have to lose twice, but LSU could take care of one of those defeats on December 1 in the rescheduled contest postponed because of 9/11.

LSU did its part, beating Alabama 35-21 in Tuscaloosa on the traditional first Saturday in November and Arkansas 41-38 the day after Thanksgiving. Saban recalled after the season:

It's Judgment Day ... that's what I told our players when we went to Alabama. This season is going to get defined on how we play in this game, whether we're going to improve and have a good football team, have more success, go to a bowl game and still have a chance to win the championship.

  • Meanwhile, Ole Miss collapsed after losing at home to Arkansas 58-56 in a record seven OT game. Georgia thumped the Rebels 35-15 before Mississippi State gleefully knocked off their in-state rivals 36-28.
  • Auburn defeated Georgia 24-17 but lost to Alabama 31-7.

So every contingency went the Tigers way to set up Auburn's belated visit to Death Valley. An LSU victory would tie them for the West crown, with the head-to-head result sending LSU to its first-ever appearance in the SEC championship game.

  • Even though Gerry DiNardo had been the coach at the time, many Tiger players and certainly all the fans remembered the last visit of Tommy Tuberville's squad to Baton Rouge in 1999.
  • The host Tigers entered their second game of the season a nine-point favorite but put up no battle at all. Auburn led 17-0 before LSU managed even a first down.
  • Six turnovers contributed to a 41-7 meltdown that ended with Tuberville and his players lighting victory cigars on the sidelines in the last minutes.

The oddsmakers installed LSU as a 7-point favorite.

  • The visiting Tigers had a week off to lick their wounds from their humbling home loss to their archrival. To make matters worse, star freshman RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams was lot for the season with a broken collarbone.
  • Tuberville was concerned about his D's late collapses, having been outscored 55-14 in the second half of the three losses. Fatigue also showed in the O-line, which gave up five sacks to the Tide.
  • On the other side, LSU boasted the nation's leader in receiving yards per game in Josh Reed with 149.4.
  • One question uppermost in the minds of Tiger fans was which Rohan Davey would show up for the 6:45 game on ESPN. The QB had fired 13 TD passes in the last six games but also threw a career-high 4 INTs against Arkansas to keep that game close. But Rohan had a personal score to settle with Auburn, having been humiliated in his first SEC start two years earlier when he was only 4-of-11 with 2 INTs before being replaced.

The emotions of the evening didn't take long to spill over.

  • Some LSU fans, still smelling the smoke from Tuberville's victory cigars, shook the Auburn bus as it delivered the squad to Tiger Stadium.
  • Perhaps in reaction to that event, Auburn players stomped on LSU's "Eye of the Tiger" logo at midfield before the game, drawing a 15y unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the opening kickoff.

Given a chance to kick\ from the 50, Saban set the tone right away.

  • He ordered an onside kick that WR Michael Clayton recovered on the 36.
  • Six plays later, LSU led 7-0 when RB LeBrandon Toefield went over from the 2 with only 2:18 gone. His 16y run on the second play from scrimmage sparked the drive. Then Davey hit Reed on a slant in to the 4.
  • Clayton struck again on the ensuing kickoff, nailing the returner on the 15. However, with Tiger Stadium rocking, QB Jason Campbell connected with WR Tim Carter down the sidelines for 72y to stun the crowd and tie the game.
  • Tuberville tried to give Saban a taste of his own medicine with an onsides kick, but LSU recovered. After an exchange of punts, LSU cranked up another drive. The Davey-Reed combo stuck again for a 32y pass and run, then a 17y gain to the 30. But the march ended with John Corbello missing a FG.

LSU kept up the pressure.

  • Jeremy Lawrence intercepted a tipped pass at the Auburn 48 with four minutes left in the opening period.
  • With Tuberville's D taking away LSU's running attack, Davey-to-Reed took up the slack. Rohan hit Josh down the middle for 37y to the 17. Three plays later, Reed broke free over the middle, and Davey lobbed it to him in the EZ to give LSU a lead it would never relinquish.
  • Later in the period, Davey hit a well-defended Reed to the 10. That set up Dominick Davis's 7y burst up the middle to make it 21-7.
  • With Gary Gibbs' D putting the clamps on Campbell & Company, LSU took the 14-point lead into the locker room.

Just as the first half was preceded by an unusual situation, the second half started on the heels of another bizarre incident.

  • As kickers customarily do, Auburn's David Duval and his snapper and holder came out a few minutes before the rest of the team to warm up in preparation for the kickoff.
  • The LSU band ended its halftime show by marching off to the south EZ where Duval was practicing. Instead of moving out the way, the Auburn players stayed put, leading to some pushing and shoving with Tiger band members.
  • Sitting in the SW corner of the stadium that chilly night, I joined the crowd in venting our rage at Duval in defense of our beloved band - another "only in Tiger Stadium" moment.

The Tiger team, of course, was unaware of what had happened as they took the field, but they continued their dominating play.

  • After LSU received the kickoff, Toefield broke loose for 48y to the Auburn 11 to set up Corbello's 21y FG with only 2:41 elapsed. Later in the period, Duval missed a 29y FG to the great delight of the Tiger faithful in the south end zone. He would also throw an INT to Demetrius Hookfin on a fake FG. (When the Tiger band assembled for practice the following Tuesday, the band director read them a letter of apology from Tuberville.)
  • The score stayed 24-7 into Q4 until Davey pulled away from two rushers and flipped the ball on the run to Jerel Myers for a 18y gain to the 14. That led to another Corbello 3-pointer, this one from the 12, with 10:39 remaining to make it 27-7.
  • Auburn made the game look closer with a late TD. As the minutes ticked down, Tiger fans all over the stadium lit victory cigars in violation of campus regulations, and LSU players gave Saban a Gatorade bath. As I walked down the ramp after the game, I looked up at the haze of smoke hanging over the stadium and smiled. "You reap what you sow, Tommy!"
  • Davey redeemed himself with 16-for-34 for 245y. Saban was pleased that the ground game got untracked with 188y to Auburn's 116 to contribute to a 431-293 margin in total O.

The 27-14 triumph sent LSU to Atlanta for a rematch with Tennessee, which upset Florida in Gainesville that afternoon 34-32 in what would prove to be Steve Spurrier's last home game as coach at his alma mater.

Video highlights of LSU-Auburn 2001

Continued below ...

Reference: Tiger Turnaround: LSU's Return to Football Glory,
Nick Saban with Sam King (2002)

Michael Clayton
Michael Clayton

LSU RB LeBrandon Toefield
LeBrandon Toefield

Josh Reed vs Auburn 2001
Josh Reed catches one of his 10 passes against Auburn in 2001

LSU K John Corbello
John Corbello

Tiger D Swarms Auburn Ballcarrier
Tiger D swarms the Auburn ballcarrier

LSU WR Jerel Myers
Jerel Myers

QB Rohan Davey after Auburn game 2001
Rohan Davey swarmed after game


Top of Page

Saban's First Rematch - III

 

 

 

Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer
Phil Fullmer

LSU Coach Nick Saban
Nick Saban

 

 

 

 

 

LSU QB Rohan Davey
Rohan Davey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Mauck vs Tennessee
Matt Mauck

 

 

LSU O-coordinator Jimbo Fisher
Jimbo Fisher

 

 

Tennessee QB Casey Clausen
Casey Clausen

Demetrius Hookfin breaks up a pass.
Demetrius Hookfin breaks up a pass to Kelly Washington

 

 

LSU Kicker John Corbello
John Corbello

LSU met Tennessee for the 2001 SEC Championship in the Georgia Dome.
  • The match was the second of the season for the two teams, Tennessee having won 26-18 September 29 in Knoxville.
  • The Vols had won the East Division by upsetting 17-point favorite Florida in Gainesville in the season finale postponed to the first Saturday of December by 9/11.
  • UT fans entered the Georgia Dome carrying orange roses because their beloved Vols were ranked #2 behind Miami. Defeat a team you had already beaten on September 29, a team that Florida had clobbered 44-15 in Baton Rouge, and a spot in the national championship game in the Rose Bowl was all yours.
  • Even Coach Phil Fulmer, who had zero tolerance for trash talking or taunting by his players, wore a rose in his lapel as the Volunteers boarded the plane for Atlanta.

LSU coach Nick Saban conceded nothing.

I told our players on Monday, that I felt like everybody who went to Tennessee [earlier in the season] thought we could win. ... Then, I asked everybody who thought we should have beaten them the first time and believe we can beat them now to stand. Just about everybody stood.

We actually felt, in a lot of ways, we should have won the first game. We felt pretty good as a team. I think, most of the time, when our team is confident it can win, it's a good sign for us.

We ... watched game film for the Tennessee-Florida game, and Tennessee ran through Florida like crazy; we felt like they couldn't run it that well against us. They couldn't run that well against us in the first game and if we didn't give them the big plays, we would be fine.

The Tigers followed up their resolve with hard work to correct the errors from September 29.

  • LSU had been burned by WR Kelly Washington, who had 11 catches for a school-record 256y, including a 70y TD. Saban:

We practiced hard all week. We defined what we had to do in the game - the big game. The whole emphasis was to cut off the receivers. ... "We don't care how many short balls they catch in the flats. That's OK, but don't get the ball thrown over your head. Keep them cut off all the time. Bail out on them early ... do whatever you have to do to keep them cut off in the deep part of the field."

  • The Tigers also used the talk about being just a stepping stone on Tennessee's road to Pasadena as motivation. QB Rohan Davey four days before the game:

People are talking like Tennessee is already going to the Rose Bowl and that we're just a tune-up, which makes me sick. Then again, we've been underdogs in every big matchup.

LSU faced adversity early in the contest.

  • LB Kenyon Whiteside hit Davey hard in the ribs on the sideline with just 3:30 gone. Although Rohan was clearly out of bounds, no flag was thrown.
  • Rohan left the Dome in an ambulance, finished for the evening with a broken rib.

In came backup QB Matt Mauck, who hadn't played since mopup duty against Mississippi State on October 20.

  • Matt was a 22-year-old redshirt freshman from Jasper (IN) High School who had played baseball in the Cubs organization for three years.

I was coming off my second state championship [in baseball], and I couldn't resist going for it in baseball. I said I"d give myself three years with the Cubs to see what happens.

  • Saban had signed Mauck to play football for Michigan State. So when Matt decided that major league baseball wasn't in the cards and that he couldn't wait any longer to return to football, he contacted Nick.
  • Since his contract with the Cubs required them to pay for his college education, Matt didn't cost LSU a scholarship. Nick explained:

He was a pretty good athlete coming out of high school, and I thought if we couldn't use him at QB, he'd make a decent DB. Also, when it came to character, Matt was as good as it gets.

  • That character would now be tested in the Georgia Dome. When Mauck ran onto the field, the Tennessee fans, who greatly outnumbered the LSU contingent, felt even more confident. After all, Matt's statistics for the season read as follows:

13-for-26 passing for 157y, 0 TD, 2 INTs, 30y rushing

  • A straight A student in high school, Matt majored in pre-med at LSU. Although known as the hardest worker on the team, studying more film than anyone else, he had spent more time the week of the game studying for final exams than preparing for Tennessee.
  • Matt's parents had come down from Santa Claus IN, where they lived on Christmas Lake, to watch the game. His mother admitted afterwards,

To tell you the truth, we were just happy to be here.

  • As Matt entered the game, his father thought:

Oh, boy - whatever you do, kid, don't fumble, don't embarrass yourself.

Mauck continued the drive that Davey had started.

  • Facing third-and-four on the UT 35, Matt used his 4.5 speed to gain 5 and move the chains on his first play.
  • Three plays and three Volunteer penalties later, he ran a QB draw up the middle for a 4y TD, the first of his college career.
  • When Matt returned to the sideline, he spoke with offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. Jimbo recalled:

I expected him to get on the phone after that and start talking a million miles a minute. But on the other end of the line I hear, "Hey, coach." The kid was totally cool. Then it was, "We can do this, and let's maybe try that, and what about this?" At that point, I knew we were in great shape.

Then came Q2, and the nightmare of September 29 recurred.

  • QB Casey Clausen connected with Washington on a 31y scoring strike and a 47y pass to the LSU 3 to set up another TD. Saban:

We were playing really well in the first quarter. Bang! We gave up a big play and a touchdown. The next time they get the ball ... Bang! Big play and it set up a touchdown. We were not keeping them cut off.

  • To make matters worse, LSU lost starting TB LeBrandon Toefield to a sprained left knee. Domanick Davis would have to bear the brunt of the running attack the rest of the evening.

Then "the dumbest decision" that Nick Saban had ever made as a coach actually created a turning point in the game.

  • Facing fourth and an inch at his 29, Saban shocked even himself by going for it. Nick explained afterward:

It's 14-7 and momentum is going to hell in a handbasket. I said, "If we punt it back to them again and they score, it's over."

  • But LSU didn't make it, causing Saban to kick himself. Mauck fumbled the snap, which threw the timing of the QB sneak off.

It was the dumbest decision. Even Terry [Mrs. Saban] told me that. She said, "That was the dumbest thing I've ever seen you do in all the time you've been coaching." For the next three or four minutes of the game, I was in shock - total shock. I felt like I had screwed our team up. But the defense went in there and we sacked them. They still ended up kicking a FG, but we moved them back a little bit and it was our best series, probably.

  • The LSU players on both sides of the ball appreciated the faith their coach had shown in them. Saban:

You know what some of the players told me after the game? They said, "That decision made us think we could win because you had enough confidence in us to go for it on fourth-and-inches on our own 29-yard-line."

  • Showing remarkable poise, Mauck led a drive that culminated in John Corbello's 45y FG with 0:29 left to make it 17-10 at intermission.
  • In the locker room, Saban kept his team focused on the ultimate objective.

Guys, you've got 30 minutes. Every one of you has to go out there and do the best he can if you are to have a lifetime memory of what can be accomplished. It's worth it. You've got to do all the things we've talked about, play together, be tough, be responsible for your job. Compete. You've got to be relentless for 30 minutes, for only 30 minutes ... Go play to play the best you can because we can beat this team!

  • In the press box, LSU AD Skip Bertman didn't have as much confidence. Covering all bases, he lobbied Outback Bowl officials to take his team despite the 8-4 record they seemed destined to finish with.
 Elusive Matt MauckDominick Davis on the move
L: Matt Mauck eludes a Vol defender; R: Dominick Davis on the move

Matt Mauck exults
Matt Mauck exults

 

 

 

Tigers Celebrate 2001 SEC Championship
Tigers celebrate 2001 SEC Championship


Top of Page

The second half would propel the Tigers to a better bowl game.

  • Making adjustments at halftime and encouraged by their stand after Saban's dumb call, the defense held the Vols to a measly FG. LB Bradie James recalled several years later:

One of the things about Nick's defense was he would adjust. At halftime we might throw out the whole game plan and do somethign different.

We stopped Travis Stephens, who was Tennessee's big-time running back. We stopped their running game, they had to pass the ball, and we won. They overlooked us.

  • Mauck benefitted from his anonymity since the Vols had spent the week studying Davey's passing game. Fulmer said after the game:

We knew Mauck was mobile. We hit him a lot, and he kept getting back up.

  • LSU also took advantage of the special skills that Matt brought to the table. Saban:

We did a nice job featuring our personnel. Matt is a different type of QB, a good athlete, a runner. It actually worked in our favor. We did some formation things they weren't ready for. It neutralized their defense.

  • Fisher had put in the QB draw play just that week in case the vaunted UT D line - John Henderson, Albert Haynesworth, Deterin Veal, and Will Overstreet, the anchor of Jon Chavis's D, brought too much pressure. Mauck:

We didn't have it [the draw] the entire year. It wasn't until Tuesday or Wednesday the week of the game when Jimbo came in and put it in the offense. We practiced it 20 or 30 times all week.

The Tigers chipped away at the deficit with two Corbello FGs in Q3 (47 and 45y).

  • Early in the final period, DT Byron Dawson recovered a fumble at the UT 39. Five plays later, Mauck scored on a 13y draw, then threw a 2-point conversion to WR Josh Reed for a 24-17 lead.
  • After Tennessee kicked a FG, LSU moved deep into enemy territory. Mauck exhorted his troops in the huddle as the Tigers approached the goal line.

C'mon, guys. We can close this thing out right here!

  • Saban decided to go for it on fourth down again, but this time it was on the UT 1. Davis leaped over the pile to put the upset on ice, 31-20, with 2:26 remaining. The drive had consumed 6:04, keeping the dangerous UT O on the sidelines.

I just felt like they [UT] could drive the ball and tie the game or win. But, if we scored a touchdown, it would be sticking a stake in their heart. They would have to score twice with only a couple of minutes remaining.

  • LSU fans threw sugar packets on the field to celebrate their impending trip to New Orleans as SEC champions for the first time in 13 years.

Mauck won the MVP trophy.

  • He completed just 5-of-15 passes for 67y but ran for 43y, most of them in crucial situations. Davis gained 78 more as the Tigers outrushed the Vols 134-50.
  • DE Overstreet said of LSU's second string backfield stars:

They played great. They lost two of their big players, but they just seemed to play better.

  • Mauck credited his baseball experience with helping him play well.

I've been waiting my time. Having played a professional sport, I realize that sports is a business. You hve to be composed for yourself and your team.

References: The Fighting Tigers 1993-2008, Scott Rabalais (2008)
What It Meant to Be a Tiger, Ray Glier (2009)
Game of My Life LSU: Memorable Stories of Tigers Football, Marty Mule (2006)
Tiger Turnaround: LSU's Return to Football Glory, Nick Saban with Sam King (2002)
"Merry Christmas," Kelley King, Sports Illustrated 12/17/01
But Did He Beat Tulane? - I

LSU Coach Irving Pray
Irving Pray

Dana X. Bible 1934
Dana X. Bible

From 1919-22, LSU had two head coaches, Irving R. Pray and Branch Bocock. Pray coached the 1919 and 1922 seasons, with Bocock in charge in between.
  • Pray, a native of Massachusetts who learned football techniques while a student at Harvard, actually became head coach for one game in 1916. He started the season as assistant to E. T. McDonald. (The latter name is sometimes given as "McDonnell.")
  • McDonald began his third season at LSU in '16 with a 10-6-1 record. He had survived his first season despite losing to Texas A&M 63-9 in what would stand as the worst defeat in school history until 1993 when Curly Hallman's team lost to Florida 58-3. But McDonald was given a reprieve because the Tigers tied archrival Tulane 0-0 to end the season 4-4-1.
1914 LSU Football Squad
1914 LSU football squad; Coach E. T. McDonald is at far left in Colgate sweater

 1914 LSU-Tulane Game
Notice the helmetless players
  • McDonald's 1915 squad finished 6-2, including a 12-0 victory over the Green Wave.
  • The '16 Tigers won their first four games, including 13-0 over A&M. Then Sewanee beat LSU in New Orleans 7-0. McDonald's star HB Thomas J. Henry left the game early with an injury, and Sewanee scored the game's only TD on an INT.
  • Despite the extenuating circumstances, the defeat didn't sit well with the Tiger faithful. The Baton Rouge State-Times explained the real reason.

It is estimated that the disappointment of the Louisiana Tigers over that game in New Orleans Saturday aggregated in round numbes about $3,000, of which at least $10 was contributed by no less a personage than Ruffin G. Pleasant, Governor of Louisiana.

  • Pleasant, one-time LSU football captain, had lost a bet with the mayor of Shreveport, a Sewanee grad.

Three days after the game, McDonald was fired.

  • He confirmed that the university president and athletic officials had demanded his resignation.
  • With a game the following Saturday against Arkansas at Shreveport, LSU needed a coach fast. So Pray was promoted until a permanent replacement could be found. After quelling a threatened walk out by the players, he traveled with the team to Coushatta to prepare for the Razorbacks.
  • Called "the coachless wonders" by the press, the Tigers won 17-7, the only Hog score coming after Pray pulled the regulars.
  • Before the next game, Irving fulfilled a previous commitment by setting sail for Cuba in time for the sugar cane grinding season on a plantation. LSU had "borrowed" Dana X. Bible, an assistant at Texas A&M, for the 1916 campaign. So the future Texas coach took the helm for the last four games of the season, which ended with a tie against Tulane.
  • Wayne Sutton steered LSU to a 3-5 mark in 1917. The school fielded no team in 1918 because of World War I.

Pray came back from Cuba to coach the 1919 Tigers for $1,200.

  • Pray's squad compiled a 6-2 record. Most importantly, they upset the Tulane Goats (as the team was known at that time).
  • Knowing the importance of the final game, Pray switched his top lineman, Tom Dutton, from C to T and developed a game plan around power runs by 210 lb FB Joe Bernstein, who, like Dutton, had returned to gridiron action following the war. (Bernstein had already become the first ex-Tiger to play pro football in 1915. Henry joined him in 1916.)
  • Pray was so confident of victory that he wrote a large "21" on the blackboard and told the team that's how many points they were better than 6-0-1 Tulane.
  • Running behind Big Tom, Bernstein smashed through the Greenie line for two Q3 TDs to extend LSU's 7-6 halftime lead on the way to a 27-6 victory.
  • Pray was the toast of Baton Rouge because the Tiger fans who traveled on the "football special" train to New Orleans returned with pockets full of money won gambling on the Tigers.
  • Three days after the game, the LSU cadets held a funeral ceremony on campus. At the end of the game in the Crescent City, they had rushed across the field, dismantled a scaffold, and taken the casket that Tulane fans planned to use to bury a mock tiger. The cadets placed a "goat" in the casket and took it on a procession through downtown Baton Rouge to its burial place.
 1919 LSU Funeral Procession
1919 funeral procession to bury the Tulane goat
Despite his hero's status, Pray quit as coach to return to Cuba and "settle down and work 52 weeks at my profession" (sugar chemist).
Continued below ...

Reference: The Louisiana Tigers: LSU Football, Dan Hardesty (1975)
The Fighting Tigers II: LSU Football, 1893-1980, Peter Finney (1980)
Top of Page

But Did He Beat Tulane? - II

In 1920, LSU needed a new coach for the fifth time in the last decade.

  • They again looked eastward, hiring Branch Bocock of Georgetown. He quickly gained a reputation as an orator. Students rimmed the practice field daily to hear his midfield lectures to the squad.
  • His first season produced a 5-3-1 record. However, two of the losses came at the end of the campaign against Alabama and Tulane by identical 21-0 scores.
  • The Tigers' best players both had colorful nicknames: HB-P Clarence "Fatty" Ives from Baton Rouge and E Newton "Dirty" Helm from Bunkie.
An excellent sprinter, Helm received his nickname from track coach Tad Gormley.

He had a pair of white shorts he liked to run in, and he was never able to keep 'em clean. So right away we started calling him "Dirty." Besides, it sounded better than "Newton."

Bocock improved the record to 6-1-1 in 1921.

  • But the one defeat came at the hands of Tulane, again by the substantial margin of 21-0. The tie occurred against Alabama.
  • Bocock hadn't helped his cause when he told a reporter before the Tulane game:

I really don't care which team wins. All I'm interested in is how we conduct ourselves on the field.

  • Even a season-ending 17-14 victory over Mississippi State, in which Ives averaged 55y punting and kicked the winning FG, didn't assuage the alumni. So Bocock was given his walking papers.

LSU Football Action 1921
LSU Football Action 1921
LSU-SpringHill Action 1921
The bottom picture is from the Spring Hill game

LSU Coach Branch Bocock
Branch Bocock

Clarence "Fatty" Ives
Clarence "Fatty" Ives

LSU E Newton "Dirty" Helm
Newton "Dirty" Helm

LSU lured Pray back from Cuba with an offer of $2,500, more than twice what he earned in 1919.
  • With the exception of Helm, Irving found the cupboard mostly bare for 1922. Six of the seven starting linemen had graduated.
  • After beating Louisiana Normal (now Northwestern State) 13-0, the Tigers absorbed four straight losses, starting with a 7-0 setback against Loyola of New Orleans and continuing with road disasters at SMU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas by a combined 138-3.
  • After defeating Spring Hill 25-7, LSU dropped three more: Rutgers in the Polo Grounds in New York on the first visit to the East by a Tiger team, Alabama, and Mississippi State.

So the Bengals entered the season finale against Tulane with a 2-7 record, their worst ever.

  • New coach Clark Shaugnessy's Green Wave (the Goat nickname having fallen by the wayside) sported a 4-3 record. As a result, Tulane was a decided favorite.
  • 2,280 automobiles entered Baton Rouge for the Thanksgiving game. The Tulane backers joined the LSU supporters in a big downtown parade in the morning.
  • Refusing to forsake the old nickname, Tiger fans led 11 live goats through the streets while Tulane fans pulled a "dead tiger" in a wooden cage. A group of LSU cadets stormed the cage, which they tore to pieces in the struggle with its defenders.
  • An overflow crowd of 10,000 jammed State Field for the game. Some fans with reserved seat tickets were miffed that they had to stand along the sidelines.

Pray enjoyed surprising Tulane, a chief reason he never lost to them.

  • A creative strategist, he moved his fastest players, Helm and A. D. Warner, to LB and gave them specific instructions for defending Tulane's star HB Alfred "Brother" Brown: Don't try to tackle him on sweeps. Just run with him and force him out of bounds.
  • Pray also worked with his successor, Mike Donohue, to install the "line-divide" formation that Donohue had used with great siccess at Auburn.
  • Showing the same confidence he displayed before the 1919 upset of the archrival, Pray bet his entire salary at 10-to-1 odds. He told the team:

Boys, if you win, I'm driving out of Baton Rouge in the biggest car I can find. If we lose, I'll leave on a freight train.

  • As the LSU team lounged on the floor of the old gym before the game, Shaughnessy walked through on his way to the field. Pray told Clark:

Go on ahead. We'll be out soon to give you a licking.

LSU-Tulane action 1922
1922 LSU-Tulane Game - 1
1922 LSU-Tulane Game - 2

When the game started, it looked like the Tigers would not reward Pray's confidence in them.

  • Brown swept both ends as Tulane marched right down the field for a 7-0 lead. But, with their new formation confusing the defense, LSU came right back with a TD of them own, then another right before the half to take a 12-7 lead.
  • The Tigers poured it on in Q3. They took the kickoff and marched to another TD and a 19-7 lead. Then they pounced on a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. On the first play, Roland "Chesty" Kizer from Monticello AK sprinted 28y to pay dirt.
  • A 40y punt return by Brown as the sun was setting made the final score more respectable.
  • Times-Picayune sports writer (and future Congressman) F. Edward Hebert summarized the game in the eloquent style of the day.

A torn, patched and badly battered Tiger from Louisiana State University crawled from out of its lair early this afternoon, dragged itself onto State Field, and plunged into the waters of the Green Wave of Tulane to come forth healed and cured by a soothing 25-14 victory. Instead of a Tiger with drooping head, a proud stalwart Bengal marched with eyes straight and head forward into its den tonight with the first victory over the Olive and Blue in three years. Amen

With Pray now finished with coaching for good, Donahue took over for $10,000 a year.

Reference: The Louisiana Tigers: LSU Football, Dan Hardesty (1975)
The Fighting Tigers II: LSU Football, 1893-1980, Peter Finney (1980)
Top of Page