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The 1937 Tigers were victimized by one of the most famous trick plays in college football history.
Commodore Surprise

The 1937 LSU Tigers were on a roll.
  • Bernie Moore's juggernaut had won 13 SEC games in a row, the last loss coming to Tennessee 19-13 in the final conference game of the 1934 season under Coach "Biff" Jones.
    The SEC was often referred to as the "Big 13 Conference" in newspaper articles during this period.
  • Also, since the 10-7 loss to Rice in the 1935 season opener, Moore's first game as head coach, the Tigers had gone 23-0-1 in regular season games.
  • Included in Moore's streak were two victories over Vanderbilt: 7-2 in 1935 and 19-0 in 1936, both in Nashville. Coupled with a 29-0 trouncing of the Commodores in 1934, also in the Tennessee capital, LSU sported a three-game winning streak over Vandy.
  • Despite deploying a squad that was almost 80% sophomores and having to replace 13 of his first 22 from '36, LSU began Bernie's third season with four straight shutouts:
    Florida 19-0, Texas 9-0, @Rice 13-0, Ole Miss 13-0.
  • The result was a #6 ranking (with two first place votes) in the first Associated Press poll of the season.

Next up were the Commodores in Nashville.

  • Vanderbilt had suffered its first losing season in 22 years in 1936 in the second season after coach Ray Morrison took over from the legendary Dan McGugin.
  • But the '37 'Dores had matched LSU's 4-0 start, with three shutouts of their own.
    Kentucky 12-0, Chicago 18-0, @Southwestern (TN) 17-6, @SMU 6-0
  • The news of a resurgent squad in Nashville had gained national attention, as evidence by Vanderbilt's listing in a three-way tie for 20th in the AP rankings.

Tired of losing to LSU, Morrison thought he had to dream up something, in the words of Commodore LT Greer Ricketson years later.

This was a special game for the reason that they were highly ranked. According to Morrison, LSU was going to be particularly tough because they hadn't lost a game since the year before. We had not lost a game but had not done as well as LSU. I think he realized that if it was just straight football that we weren't going to win.

So Morrison decided to install a trick play that was suggested to him by his assistant, Henry Frnka.

  • On the Friday night prior to the Vandy-SMU game in Dallas the week before, Frnka asked Morrison to accompany him to watch Henry's former Greenville High School team play a game.
  • Frnka asked the current coach to run a hidden ball play that Henry installed in 1933 when the team won the state title.
  • The play worked for a TD, which convinced Morrison to install it for LSU.

After the Commodores returned victorious to Nashville, they began preparations for the Tigers.

  • Morrison kept the eleven starters after practice and made all the other players leave the field. In secrecy, Frnka installed the trick play.
  • Later in the week, Henry visited the starters in their dorm rooms and continued to work on the play.
  • The Vandy line coach didn't want to run the play because it was too risky and might backfire. To placate him, Morrison named the play after the name the players called the line coach - "Pig Eye."
  • The plan called for using "Pig Eye" on the second play of a possession when Vandy had the ball near midfield on or near the right hashmark.

Coach Moore was wary of the Commodores.

  • I'm expecting the unexpected, he said.
  • His Tigers entered the fray at full strength
  • Unlike 1934 when Huey Long led a trainload of Tiger supporters, including the entire band, on a parade through downtown Nashville to the stadium, the colorful brigade of the cadet corps, band, cheerleders, mascot Mike, and other units was not making the trip.

Dudley Field (1922)
Saturday, October 23, 1937, dawned overcast and chilly (36° dropping 2° by game's end) in Nashville with a brisk wind blowing from the northwest.
  • Afraid an official might blow his whistle and stop the secret play, Morrison explained the plan to the referee during pregame warmups.
  • Ten minutes before kickoff, the Vanderbilt marched out and played the national anthem for the crowd of 18,000 in Dudley Field.
  • Vandy captain Carl Hinkle and LSU captain James Warbrod, appointed for the game because he hailed from Tennessee, met for the coin toss. Hinkle won and chose to defend the north goal to have the wind at his back. LSU decided to go on defense first.

Quarter 1

  • Jimmy Huggins returned Guy Milner's kick 27y to the 33. When the Commodores failed to gain a 1st down in three tries, Huggins boomed a 61y punt to the 12.
    When two runs gained only 4, Pinky Rohm punted to Huggins who returned it 4y to the Vandy 44.
    Following Huggins's run to midfield, Vandy decided to pull their secret play. In the huddle, QB Dutch Reinschmidt said the magic words, "Pig Eye."
    When the team broke the huddle, Reinschmidt told the referee, "This is it."
    On the sidelines, Coach Morrison couldn't watch. He put his hands over his eyes and told assistant coach Willie Geny, Tell me when it's over.
    Dutch moved up from his usual single wing position to a spot under C as in the T formation. When the ball was snapped to him, he spun completely around, paused a moment, then ran around LE behind three blockers. Known for its pursuit, the entire LSU defense raced toward him. Reinschmidt faded back to draw the defense in still further. Even the officials, who knew about the play, went to the left. In the meantime, senior LT Greer Ricketson began running downfield with the football. By the time the defenders gave chase, no one could pull within 20y. Teammate Preacher Franklin was the closest to him as Greer crossed the goal. FB Joe Agee booted the all-important extra point. Vanderbilt 7 LSU 0 with less than five minutes gone.

    Greer Ricketson runs unimpeded for a TD with the "hidden ball."
    What happened? When Reinschmidt received the snap, he placed the ball on the ground behind LT and LG. Let Ricketson take it from there. I switched from tackle position to guard and pulled out like a running guard back in the backfield. Then I did a fake stumble and fall. The guard and the tackle on the left side were to block still and not let anybody break through. They didn't charge into the defense, they tried to make a wall. My assignment was to stay on the ground to the count of three. ... I picked up the ball and ran straight down the field, which was wide open. ... I thought I'd be tackled any instant and didn't learn until later LSU had no idea where the ball was until it heard the roar of the crowd. Following the game, the question arose as to whether my knee was touching the ground when I picked up the ball. It wasn't.
    Ricketson was chosen to run with the ball for two reasons. First, he was the fastest offensive lineman. Second, playing end the year before gave him experience carrying the ball.
    Vanderbilt was one of a minority of schools that filmed its games. The footage of the play was run and rerun to determine if Ricketson's knee was on the ground when he picked up the football. In today's lingo, no incontrovertible evidence was found to reverse the call on the field. When Morrison distributed a copy of the LSU film to opponents, the hidden ball play was removed.
    Vandy tried the play twice more that season. Morrison: We tried it the following week against Georgia Tech, and it didn't work. Then we tried it on Tennessee, and it backfired. One of their linemen jumped over our guard and fell on the ball.
    Eventually, the NCAA made the play illegal.
    On LSU's next possession, Milner gained 20y on a reverse, but the Tigers soon had to punt.
    The Tiger woes continued when Milner took a shanked punt at his 40 and returned to midfield only to fumble the ball back to Vandy.
    The period ended with the Commodores playing 3rd-and-9 at the LSU 20.
    Vanderbilt 7 LSU 0
    Raymond Johnson wrote this for The Nashville Tennessean the next day: Probably not a half dozen persons out of the massive throng really knew how the play occurred. The writers, who packed the press box, had various views of it. Scouts from a number of schools were still trying to figure it out last night. No one, except the Vandy coaches and the players, knew exactly how the play was executed.
    As an example, Harry Martinez's description of the play in the Times-Picayune contained a number of errors.

Quarter 2

  • After an incomplete pass, Agee attempted a FG from the 30 but it failed.
    Vanderbilt's strength was its line, led by Ricketson and fellow T, 252-lb Buford Ray. With the entire front seven playing all 60 minutes, the Commodores continued to thwart the Tiger offense at every turn.
    Sophomore sensation Young Bussey quick-kicked on 3rd down to the 25, but speedy Bert Marshall ran it out to the 41.
    After an exchange of punts, the Commodores pushed all the way to the LSU 13. Junius Plunkett tried to drop kick a FG from the 20 to no avail.
    The Tigers never got out of their own territory the entire quarter.
    Vanderbilt 7 LSU 0

Quarter 3

  • The teams exchanged fumbles, then punts.
    The Tigers finally moved into enemy territory to the 32. but a fumble once again ended the thrust.
    The teams changed ends with Vandy on the LSU 33.
    Vanderbilt 7 LSU 0

Quarter 4

  • The Commodores again penetrated deep into Tiger territory, reaching the 9 before a 2y loss set up another FG try. But Ray Andrus missed from the 20.
    Still in the game thanks to defensive stands and missed field goals, the Tigers finally mounted a drive into what today is called the "red zone." Milner made a beautiful catch of a pass from Bussey and ran to the 25 for a gain of 50y. Hardy Housman made a touchdown-saving tackle.
    The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate writer singled out Milner for his fine play. Milner was simply superb. He blocked with venom, he tackled like a madman, he ran hard, caught passes, barely missed tossing a touchdown pass, beat the ends down under punts, kicked off and heaven knows what else.
    Two plays later, Young sped around RE behind Milner's blocking for a 1st down at the 12. But two running plays gained only a yard, and Bussey failed to connect on successive passes into the end zone to sophomore E Ken Kavanaugh and senior E Jack Gormley to turn the ball over on downs at the 20.
    Vandy ate up valuable time by moving to the LSU 34 with the aid of an unnecessary roughness penalty. But the Tigers stopped Marshall at the 29 three yards short of moving the chains on 4th down to get one last shot at tying the game.

    Lunsford Hollins tackles Charles LeMak after a 5y run in Q4.
    Bussey found Kavanaugh who fell as he caught the ball at the 47. After an incompletion, the sophomore TB gained 14 around RE and was bailed out when Ken recovered his fumble on the 37. A long pass fell just out of Jabbo Stell's reach near the goal line. After a Vandy timeout, Gormley and a Commodore leaped to catch Bussey's pass. When Jack fell to the ground, an official called interference. The penalty put the ball on the 17. From there with less than two minutes left, Bussey dropped back and fired to Stell who caught it at the 5, was hit at the 3, but fell over the goal line.
    Barrett Booth set up to kick the tying point with Bussey holding, but C Warbrod centered the ball before Young was set. The ball went through his hands and rolled to the 20 where Commodore G Ed Merlin fell on it.
    Under the rules of the day, the team that had just been scored on could kick or receive the kick. Naturally Vandy chose to receive. Booth kicked to the 10, Ralph Hinton returning to the 25. The 'Dores ran two end sweeps to kill the clock.
    Thus did Vanderbilt defeat LSU for the first time since 1910.
    Vanderbilt partisans rushed onto the field. Scrappy Tiger G Jake Messina grabbed the game ball before Vandy Captain Hinkle could claim it. But as Messina tried to run off with the souvenir, a Commodore knocked it out of his hands, and Hinkle seized it.
    Fans carried some of their heroes off the field on their shoulders, then snake-danced through the campus to the business sector a mile away.

The game was not as close as the score indicates.

  • First downs: Vanderbilt 16 LSU 9
  • Total yards: Vanderbilt 109 LSU 97
  • Yards rushing: Vanderbilt 238 LSU 90
  • Yards passing: LSU 148 Vanderbilt 65
A note in the Nashville Tennessean the next day: In the hotel where L.S.U.'s team and most of its supporters were staying, the gloom hung heavier than a mountain fog. There was the man who wandered through the lobby in a daze. At intervals he would start, his lips would move, and dolefully would come the words - "Seven to Six." With a shake of his head he would move on.
And there was the L. S. U. student, whose voice pierced the lull in the babble of conversation: "Ray Morrison may have coached those birds," he moaned, "but Houdini must have had something to do with it."

LSU would not win the 1937 SEC championship but neither would Vanderbilt.

  • The Commodores jumped up to #5 in the next AP poll while the Tigers fell to 17th.
  • But Vandy's lofty ranking didn't last long. One week later, Georgia Tech upset them 14-0 in Atlanta.
  • However, wins against Sewanee (the 13th member of the SEC until 1940) and Tennessee put Morrison's squad in position to win the conference if they could beat 8-0 Alabama at home in the finale.
  • With the winner of the game rumored to be in line for a bid to the Rose Bowl, the Crimson Tide edged the 'Dores 9-7 and did indeed travel to Pasadena, where they lost to California 13-0.

    Alabama-Vanderbilt Action

Meanwhile, the Tigers won their remaining five games to finish the regular season 9-1.

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Tiger Den Archives – I

First LSU Football Game
One-Game Sensation
Tigers Invade Ebbets Field
Dazzling Debut: Tommy Hodson
Streak Buster: LSU vs Alabama 1993
Dazzling Debut: Cecil Collins
Tiger First: Notre Dame Game
Memorable Game: Alabama 1945
Tiger First: UAB Game

Tiger Den Archives – II

Origin of the Chinese Bandits
Leave Coach Dietzel Alone!
Six Straight TD Catches
How Addai Ended Up at LSU
LSU AD on His Coaches
Pro Football Hall of Famers
Streak Buster: UNC 1949
Streak Buster: Alabama 1982

Tiger Den Archives – III

First College Replay
Memorable Game: Tulane 1949
Profile: Robert Dugas
First Big Ten Opponent
Profile: Michael Mahtook
Memorable Game: Tulane 1965
Profile: Alvin Roy
Memorable Game: Ole Miss 1959
Interesting Story: Andre Lafleur

Tiger Den Archives – IV

Firsts: Victory, Home Victory, Winning Season
You Can't Keep a Good Man Down
First NFL Draftee
It's a Miracle!
Dazzling Debut: Alvin Dark
Dazzling Debut: Charlie McClendon
Memorable Game: Tulane 1972
Memorable Game: Tennessee 2000
Dynamic Duo

Tiger Den Archives – V

LSU Lost a Game and a Coach
The Night Big Ben Came to Tiger Stadium
Profile: Tommy Casanova
Profile: Richard Dickson
Memorable Game: Oregon 1932
Buckeyes First LA Invasion
From Braces to All-America
Memorable Game: Georgia 1935
"The Year of the Extra Point"
Brodhead Takes Over

Tiger Den Archives – VI

First Southern Team to Fly to a Game
Memorable Game: Florida State 1991
7-0 in 1973
Profile: John Ed Bradley
Super Bowl Bengals
Recruiting Tales
Memorable Game: Tulane 1937
Scoreless String
Profile: Dub Jones

Tiger Den Archives – VII

Dietzel Returns
Profile: Bert Jones
Largest Crowd in SEC History
Win One for the Bear
Profile: Ken Kavanaugh
Why Didn't He Go to Florida?
No Married Players

Tiger Den Archives – VIII

First Appearance of Mascot Mike
Faust Fever
Profile: Alvin Dark
"LSU is not a class team"
Saban's First Rematch
But Did He Beat Tulane?

Tiger Den Archives – IX

"Give Them My Regards in Baton Rouge"
"Football Is Strictly an Afternoon Game"
When Washington Came to Baton Rouge
Tigers vs Badgers I & II | Profile: Y.A. Tittle

Tiger Den Archives – X

Streak Buster: LSU @ Auburn 1970
Dazzling Debut: Coach Jerry Stovall
Profile: Leonard Fournette
Terry Bradshaw: "I know how it all got started."
Profile: Young Bussey I-VI

Tiger Den Archives – XI

Commodore Surprise
Incredible Five Quarters
Dietzel and McClendon
First Bluegrass Miracle

LSU Bowl Games

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