Tiger Bowl Games – 1950 Sugar Bowl

Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice

Kenny Konz

T. P. "Skipper" Heard

Charlie Pevey

Billy Baggett

Ray Collins

Allen Hover

Darrell Royal

LSU's Season
  • The 1949 Tigers were referred to as the "Cinderella Team of the South" because they were not rated very highly going into the season.
  • Gaynell "Gus" Tinsley's first season in 1948 replacing legendary head coach Bernie Moore had ended with a 3-7 record, including a 46-0 thrashing by Tulane in the annual finale.
    The LSU Board of Supervisors' first choice to replace Bernie was Baylor coach Bob Woodruff. However, Woodruff could not secure a release from his contract. The Board then turned to an "LSU man." Tinsley was as surprised as everyone else that he was selected since he had no head coaching experience at the college level.
  • Tinsley was considered the best player who ever wore the Purple and Gold. He made the consensus All-American teams at E in both 1935 and 1936 before playing three years with the Chicago Cardinals, during which he set or tied NFL single-season records for receptions and receiving yards.
  • After serving in the Navy in World War II, he was an assistant to Moore in 1947. Gus's promotion to head coach brought him the princely salary of $12,500 per year. But that was approximately four times the average income in the U.S. at that time.

Tinsley and his staff, Ed McKeever (backfield), Norm Cooper (line), Alf Satterfield (line assistant), and Ben Enis (ends), arguably got more out of the 1949 team than any LSU staff has coaxed from a team before or since.

  • After 1948's disaster, little was expected of the '49 Tigers. In fact, they were generally picked to fight with another group of Tigers at Auburn for last place in the SEC.
  • To start with, the daunting schedule included three opponents that would win their conference championships that year: Rice (Southwest Conference), North Carolina (Southern), and Tulane (SEC). However, eight of the ten games would be played in 45,000-seat Tiger Stadium, the crown jewel of the SEC at that time.
  • The season turned on the fifth game when North Carolina and its All-American HB Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice came to Baton Rouge. Sitting at .500 after losses to Bear Bryant's Kentucky Wildcats and Georgia sandwiched around wins over Rice and Texas A&M, the Tigers didn't seem to have the capability of upsetting the Tar Heels, winners of 20 straight. But that's what they did, holding Justice to just 48y on 11 carries to prevail 13-7.
    A "mistake" by a grounds crew member helped the LSU defense. After a team manager turned on the sprinkler system when the Tar Heels finished their workout Friday evening, someone turned on the sprinklers again Saturday morning.
  • The Tigers finished with five more victories, including four in the conference. The crowning glory was the revenge triumph against Tulane in the finale, 21-0. The sparkplug was S Kenny Konz, who returned the Green Wave's first punt 92y to pay dirt and intercepted three aerials. The win was the Tigers' sixth against a school that had defeated them the season before
  • The victory propelled the 8-2 Tigers to the #9 ranking in the final AP poll - the highest of any SEC team - and made them the Sugar Bowl's choice instead of the 7-2-1 Greenies. However, some strings had to be pulled first. The SEC had a rule that required a member team to win at least 75% of its league games to be eligible for bowl competition. LSU's 4-2 conference mark fell .083 short of the requirement. LSU AD T. P. "Skipper" Heard began phoning conference members the day before the Tulane game to lobby for the rule to be waived should the Tigers win their final contest. Within a few hours of Saturday's victory, the SEC unanimously waived the rule.
    Heard was motivated to seek relief for his team by the fact that he bore responsibility for the "suicide" schedule the Tigers had faced.
  • Anyone looking at statistics would wonder how LSU managed to win eight games. Senior QB Charlie Pevey ranked ninth in the conference with 521y on 36-of-86 passing. The ground unit averaged 237.5 ypg, second in the SEC, with no dominant back. 165lb HB Billy Baggett led the team with 481y on 57 attempts, ninth best in the league. 17 different players scored at least one of the team's 34 TDs.
  • The secret, if there was one, lay in the defense, which surrendered only 74 points in ten contests. T Ray Collins (Shreveport) anchored a solid forward wall. Tinsley later called Collins "the best defensive tackle I ever coached" and "the only player you could classify in the 'great' category" on the 1949 team. The AP polled sportswriters and coaches in the SEC. Collins and fellow Bengal Tiger Allen Hover (Hamilton OH) tied for best defensive lineman in the conference.
    Six of the 1949 Tigers would play in the NFL: Billy Baggett, Ray Collins, Ken Konz, Joe Reid, Zollie Toth, and Ebert Van Buren. Oklahoma boasted seven future pros on its roster.

Tinsley thus became the first Sugar Bowl player to return as coach.

  • He was a member of the 1936 and 1937 Tiger teams that lost to TCU and Santa Clara in the New Year's Day classic.
  • Gus hoped to become the first LSU coach to win the Sugar Bowl. Moore went 0-3 in the Midwinter Sports Association classic before coaching the school's lone victory in the Orange Bowl following the 1944 season.
  • The LSU Athletic Department announced December 2 that they had received more than 100,000 requests for the 12,000 tickets it had available.

The Tigers took two weeks off before starting bowl drills December 12.

  • Most of the first week was devoted to conditioning work and brush-up on fundamentals.
  • LSU had sent scouts to the early season Oklahoma-Texas A&M game to watch the Aggies, the Tigers' opponent the following week. However, Tinsley told the press, We just don't know very much about them (Oklahoma). We can't find out much either.
    An incident that occurred at the end of the month made many think back to Tinsley's remarks and wonder if he resorted to subterfuge to get a line on the Sooners.
  • A&M was the only common opponent of the two teams, and the comparative scores boded well for the Tigers, who pasted the Aggies 34-0 a week after Oklahoma beat them 33-13.
  • The Tigers would face OU without starting DE Jess Yates, who suffered a broken shoulder during a scrimmage six days before the game.
LSU 1949
Texas A&M
North Carolina
Ole Miss
Mississippi State
Southeastern Louisiana 48-7

Gaynell Tinsley

Bud Wilkinson
Oklahoma 1949
@Boston College
Texas A&M
Texas (Dallas) 20-14
Kansas 48-26
@Nebraska 48-0
Iowa State 34-7
@Kansas State
Santa Clara 28-21
Oklahoma A&M 41-0

The Opponent

  • Bud Wilkinson's third Oklahoma team, champions of the Big Seven Conference for the third straight year, finished second in the final AP poll to another undefeated team, Notre Dame. Led by 13 seniors, the Sooners came to New Orleans with a 20-game winning streak that included a 14-6 victory over North Carolina in the 1949 Sugar Bowl.
  • The speedy Sooners ran the Split T formation, an offense that Wilkinson learned from Don Faurot at Missouri during World War II. Senior Darrell Royal satisfied Bud's call for a split T QB "who is smart, who can pass, and who can run." LSU had never played a team that ran the split T.
  • Led by swift HB George Thomas and burly FB Leon Heath, OU ran up 3,202y rushing compared to just 556 for their ten opponents. The Sooners spread their backs more than in the standard T but didn't split the linemen any more than LSU did.
  • Even though the relaxed substitution rules adopted by the NCAA during World War II still prevailed, Wilkinson eschewed the offense-defense platoon system. Instead, he alternated lines in half quarter intervals with each group playing both ways. The first unit forward wall was led by All-America T Wade Walker and co-captain E Jim Owens.
  • The Sooners left December 27 for Biloxi MS where they continued their workouts until heading to the Crescent City the day before the Monday, January 2 game. They would spend the night before the game at the Algiers Naval Station.
  • Arriving in Biloxi, Wilkinson sounded like a typical coach trying to motivate his team, which didn't seem excited about a second straight trip to the Sugar Bowl. All year my boys have thought they were better than they are. I wish they would either stop that or get better. He also compared this Sugar Bowl trip to the previous one. It's different this year. Our boys came here last year thinking about the football game. This year, they're thinking about the trip and not the football game. ... We'll work them lightly ... getting them ready for a physical battle ... The only thing that worries me is the enthusiasm for the game. ... If I could be as sure they'd be as peppery about the game as they are about the trip, I'd feel a lot better. ... That's going to be my hardest problem - getting these boys to get their mind on the ball game and to realize we are going up against a team that can trim us if we're not at our best. The boys who play on LSU's team are as fine a group of boys as any that play anywhere.
  • A former LSU player, on his own or at the behest of his alma mater, gave Bud what he needed to solve his motivation problem.

    When the Sooners bussed to New Orleans Sunday, January 1, Wilkinson revealed that a spy had been discovered the day before secretly observing his squad's closed drills in Biloxi. The man in question was Walter "Piggy" Barnes, a former LSU lineman who currently played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Barnes was caught standing between two garages on a ladder about 5' above the ground. Wilkinson: He had a good view of our practice field over the fence we had erected. He was screened from the field by the blanket stretched between the two garages. ... The interloper saw every card in our hand. When your entire offense and defense is known by persons who scout your practice, then your chance of winning any game is damaged materially. Bud said he had received a tip from Biloxi residents that three men had scouted OU drills Thursday and Friday. So the coach sent two men from his traveling party to confront the spies. They brought a Biloxi photographer and a local policeman, who turned out to be John "Baby Grand" Scafide, who played G for Tulane in the 1931 Rose Bowl. They came upon the man from behind. When he saw them, he hid behind one of the garage doors and, becoming profane, threatened to smash their camera if they tried to photograph him. Scafide, big enough to contend with an NFL lineman, grabbed the man, who tried unsuccessfully to hide his face as the photographer took a picture. Barnes then ran away with a pair of binoculars and some notes he taken but no camera. Wilkinson: I was very agitated at the discovery. We had worked a month on a new offense for the Sugar Bowl and had rehearsed several times the special defense we will use against LSU.

    When the OU coach arrived at Antoine's Restaurant Saturday night for the annual Sugar Bowl dinner, Ben Enis, an LSU assistant coach offered his hand. I don't shake hands with spies, replied Bud. Hearing the remark, LSU AD Heard cornered Wilkinson and began a heated argument. The LSU coaching staff doesn't send out spies, Heard said and charged Wilkinson with taking his "Coach of the Year" title too seriously. Skipper vowed that LSU would teach Oklahoma a lesson on the field. Wilkinson shook hands with Tinsley later that evening.
    One of the other men who had been seen observing OU practices, "Goober" Morse, an LSU fan who had served in the Navy in World War II with Wilkinson (and who would later become a good friend of Billy Cannon), insisted to his dying day that he and Barnes were merely scouting prospects for Eagles coach Earl "Greasy" Neale. LSU didn't have a thing to do with it. We just thought it would be a good idea to look 'em over. We could've gone in the main gate, maybe. We didn't exactly scout like we were supposed to.

George Thomas

Leon Heath

Wade Walker

Jim Owens

The Game

82,289 fans jammed Tulane Stadium in weather more befitting early fall than winter - clear, high of 70°. The majority, LSU fans, saw their heroes start like they had played all season long, battling the eight-point favorite Sooners on even terms in the first period.

First Quarter - Video narrated by Harry Wismer

  • Oklahoma won the toss and elected to receive.
    Ken Konz kicked off into the checkered EZ. Three runs gained only 8y and, after a delay of game penalty, Royal punted out of bounds on the LSU 41.
    After two Ebert Van Buren runs netted 2y, Lee Hedges took a lateral around RE but missed the first down by 2'. Van Buren punted poorly to the OU 31.
    Oklahoma, not running anything different from what they had used all season, tried both flanks but gained only 6. On 3rd down, Collins stopped Lindell Pearson just short of the first down. After a 5y penalty, Royal punted to Billy Baggett who returned 10y to the LSU 35.
    The Tigers gained the initial first down of the game when Pevey rolled right on 3rd-and-4 and threw a jump pass to Baggett in the right flat. Billy made an off balance catch and raced to the OU 36 where Ray Powell ran him out of bounds. After a 1y run, the Tigers tried three straight passes, Baggett snagging the last one from the other HB, Hedges, but advancing only to the 29 to turn the ball over on downs.
    The Sooners moved the chains on their second snap when Thomas took a pitchout around LE to the 40. On 3rd-and-4, Thomas fumbled when hit by E Armand Kitto, and G Nick Bradley recovered for the Tigers on the OU 45.
    The program listed Kitto at 170lb, but that was generous. He was closer to 155. E Sam "Egg" Lyle recalled: The athletes today are so much bigger, stronger, and faster than the athletes when we were playing ball. With the weight rooms they work out in, they take a totally different attitude toward training. When we were in school, if the coaches caught you lifting weights or in the swimming pool, you could be dismissed from the team.
    Hedges threw a HB pass to Lyle who made a fine catch as he fell on the 34. Then Pevey tossed to Baggett to the 19 for another first down. But the defense rose up and the Tigers found themselves facing 3rd-and-16. Pevey threw poorly to Lyle in the EZ. Then Royal knocked down Charlie's pass that fell far short of Lyle in the EZ to stop the threat.
    The possession started strong for the Sooners as Thomas gained 7 behind a good block by FB Leon Heath. Then it was Leon's turn to tote the leather. He got 8 for a first down at the 40. But three more runs netted a mere 1y. So, after another 5y penalty on 4th down, Royal, getting a good roll, kicked out on the 14.
    Not chancing a pass, the Tigers ran the ball three times, and Konz kicked out on the OU 46. Thomas gained 4 as the period ended.

Lindell Pearson finds heavy going against the Tigers.
Second Quarter- Video
  • Given excellent field position, the Sooners drove deep into LSU territory. On third down, Pearson took a pitchout and threw to Robert Goad behind the defenders on the 8 to set up first-and-goal as Konz made a TD-saving tackle. Thomas ran over RT for 3y before being swarmed by Tigers. With LSU employing an eight-man line, G Jim Shoaf and HB Jimmy Roshto stopped Pearson on the 4. Thomas tested the center of the defense again but gained just 1. On 4th down, Royal tried a keeper at LE but was stopped inches short of the goal line by Collins.
    Taking no chances, Konz immediately punted out against the wind to the 45 where Buddy Jones caught the ball and returned 8y. Given even better field position this time, the Okies were not to be denied. On third down, Pearson took a pitchout and threw down the middle to the other HB, Thomas, who pivoted the other way and took the ball in over Van Buren at the 3 into the EZ. Ken Tipps booted the PAT. Oklahoma 7 LSU 0
    Lyle took the ground ball kick on the 35 but, carrying the ball loosely, fumbled after several strides, and Delton Marcum recovered for OU on the 37. Royal went for the jugular right away, but Roshto and Chester Freeman knocked down his long pass over the middle. After Van Buren stuffed Heath, Thomas took a delayed pitch over RG to the 21. Pearson tossed a perfect pass to Thomas standing in the EZ. With a defender closing in, George dropped the ball as he turned toward the goal post. But that merely delayed the inevitable. Heath skirted RE for 6. Pearson drove over the left side for a first down on the 8. The Sooners again dodged a bullet when Thomas fumbled a lateral, but Royal recovered on the 6. DB Billy West stopped Heath after a 1y gain. Then Thomas took a pitchout and raced around LE to the coffin corner for the second Okie TD. Oklahoma 14 LSU 0
    Konz ran the kickoff back 20y to the 26. With the OU defense hitting its stride, the Tigers netted -2 on three plays.
    Starting from the 45 after the punt, the Sooners could not make a fi rst down. So Royal punted out on the 26.
    Pevey hit Lyle to the 38. On the next set of downs, facing 3rd-and-1, the Tigers lost 7 on a pitchout to Baggett.
    Starting from their 31 after the punt, the Sooners struck quickly as Pearson took a pitchout and rambled to the LSU 48 before being tackled by Roshto. After Heath gained 7, Pearson went through a big hole at LT to the 31. But Konz ended the threat by intercepting Pearson's pass on the 2, falling forward to the 8.
    LSU ran out the clock with three runs.
    The Rangerettes from Kildore Junior College in Texas preceded the Oklahoma and LSU bands during the halftime show, which drew effusive praise from sportswriters.

Darrell Royal gains around end for Oklahoma.

Third Quarter - Video

  • T Ed Coyne took Tipps's short kickoff on the 40 and returned to the 45. With a chance to get back in the game, the Tigers went backwards on Owens's 10y sack of Pevey. So Konz kicked from the 42 to the 14.
    On the first play, Heath took a short pitch and raced straight through the middle of the line behind a trio of blockers. After he broke into the clear on the LSU 35, Armand Kitto chased him all the way to the EZ. Oklahoma 21 LSU 0
    Heath's 86y run was the longest in Sugar Bowl history at that point. It remains the second longest after Raymond Brown of Ole Miss scooted 92y in the 1958 classic.
    On the next possession that started at the 25, Pevey was reduced to throwing left-handed to no avail. A holding penalty put the ball back on the 10. After Hedges got 4 at LG, backup QB Carroll Griffith fumbled on the 9, and Tipps recovered.
    On the first play, Pearson lobbed a pass into the EZ that Konz intercepted. Behind good blocking, he ran up the left sideline, sidestepped tacklers, then head to the middle of the field on a sensational return to the LSU 31.
    Zollie "Tugboat" Toth, unused in the first half, ran twice for a first down on the 41. Then Baggett fumbled a handoff, and Bert Clark fell on it for OU on the 44.
    But Royal fumbled right back, Kitto grabbing the pigskin.
    Pevey threw a long pass to E Aubrey Anding, who grabbed the ball in stride just before stepping out on the OU 28. But Tiger hopes were dashed on the next play when Buddy Jones cut in front of Pevey's pass down the middle on the 15 and returned to midfield where Pevey downed him after Baggett warded off blockers to slow down the ball carrier.
    In three plays, the Sooners gained a first down at the LSU 38 thanks to Thomas and Pearson. But, hamstrung by an incompletion and several penalties, Oklahoma had to punt.
    With LSU unable to move the Sooner line, three Toth runs gained 8. So Konz dropped back to punt. Tipps partially blocked the punt, and the ball rolled across the sideline on the LSU 40.
    Roshto burst through on first down but missed a tackle on Thomas deep in the backfield. The fleet back made it to the 36. Then Collins dropped Royal for a 13y loss. Ray almost made another great play on the next snap but couldn't quite corral an INT on a slow-developing screen pass. Royal booted to the 8, Baggett returning to the 20.
    The OU defense continued its domination, tossing ball carriers for 4 and 8y losses. After a 5y delay penalty, Konz punted from the EZ to Royal on the LSU 40, but T Charles Cusimano downed Darrell in his tracks.
    Thomas fumbled into the air, and Pearson caught it but lost 14. Three plays later, Royal punted to the 10.
    An incomplete pass by Griffith and a 7y gain brought the period to a merciful end. LSU gained a net of 40y and made only two first downs.

HB George Thomas runs as FB Leon Heath blocks.

Fourth Quarter - Video

  • LSU tried an end around to Lyle, but Mel fumbled when hit hard, and Jones recovered on the LSU 14.
    Van Buren stopped Pearson for a 1y loss at LE. Offside on LSU moved the ball to the 10. After Thomas gained 6, Royal broke over C into the EZ. Oklahoma 28 LSU 0
    Griffith continued at QB on LSU's next possession. He hit E Warren Virgets for 5 and then connected with the 6'3" terminal again between two defenders on the 29. But Clark stepped in front of the next pass, delivered while falling backward under duress, on the 44 and returned it 15y.
    With Wilkinson playing some fresh players, George Brewer carried a pitchout wide left but, hemmed in, reversed his field for a 5y advance. Repeating his TD from the first half, Heath broke over RG and raced to pay dirt without a hand laid on him. Oklahoma 35 LSU 0
    The rest of the game produced a comedy of errors.
    Lyle took the short kickoff on the 30 and gave Tiger fans a thrill by running down the sideline to the EZ. But the officials ruled he stepped out on the LSU 35. West rambled around RE for a first down on the OU 41. After Billy gained 3, Griffith threw the ball right into the hands of Owens, dropping off the line, on the OU 35. The big E ran 10y before he lateralled to Charles Dowell, who continued to the LSU 38. However, the Sooners were penalized back to their 45 for a forward lateral.
    Still in the game, Heath got 5, then, on the next snap, broke away to the LSU 40, where he fumbled, and Konz recovered.
    But three plays later, Oklahoma was back in business when Jones intercepted Pevey's jump pass on the OU 40 and returned it 16y. It was Charlie's third turnover of the afternoon.
    But backup QB Claude Arnold and Heath, still on the field, couldn't make connections on a handoff, Red Baird covering for LSU on his 45 - the 14th and final turnover of the afternoon.
    Jim Barton got some playing time at HB, gaining 5 on two runs before West just missed the first down. On fourth down, Konz tried a fake punt but lost 10 to the 37.
    More new players entered, and OU reached the 12. But two plays lost 5 before the final whistle mercifully ended the game, which produced the largest margin of victory in Sugar Bowl history.


  • Heath won the Warren V. Miller Memorial Trophy as the game's Most Valuable Player thanks to his gaining 176y in 15 tries with three TDs.
  • LSU completed only 9 of 20 passes for 121y with 2 INTs. Oklahoma did even worse through the air - 2-for-11 with 4 INTs and 74y.
  • But the Sooners dominated on the ground, 256-38.

Wilkinson was gracious after the game. "If we played LSU a dozen times, we'd never play that well against them again or score that many points. They’re too good a team."

1949 Tigers who played pro football: HB Billy Baggett, T Ray Collins, DB Ken Konz, LB Joe Reid, RB Zollie Toth, LB Ebert Van Buren

Lee Hedges

Ebert Van Buren

Armand Kitto

Sam Lyle

Jim Shoaf

Jim Roshto

Buddy Jones

Carroll Griffith

Zollie Toth

Aubrey Anding

Charles Cusimano

Chester Freeman

Warren Virgets

Billy West

Claude Arnold

Red Baird

Jim Barton




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1936 Sugar Bowl

1937 Sugar Bowl

1938 Sugar Bowl

1944 Orange Bowl

1947 Cotton Bowl

1950 Sugar Bowl

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1960 Sugar Bowl

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1963 Bluebonnet Bowl

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