LSU Pivotal Football Moments
pivotal college football moment: A decision by a coach or athletic director that changes the momentum of a program or an action by a player that changes the momentum of a game.
1908: Tigers Pass Their First Test
The much-anticipated 1908 football season began with two games that today would be called "rent-a-wins": 41-0 over the Young Men's Gymnastic Club of New Orleans and 81-5 over the Jackson Barracks Soldiers.
The season began in earnest with a game against Texas A&M in New Orleans at newly-opened Pelican Park, home of the New Orleans Pelicans minor league baseball team. The Tigers wanted revenge for the 11-5 defeat they suffered in College Stadium the year before. The '08 Aggies were 1-1, having beaten Trinity (TX) 6-0 before losing to Baylor 6-5. (Touchdowns were worth five points in 1908.)
"Foot-Ball" fever (as the name of the sport was spelled in the 1909 LSU yearbook) swept the LSU campus located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge. The Baton Rouge Daily State-Times the day before the game: "Ask any student at the University what he is thinking about and he will say, 'About the trip to New Orleans tomorrow.' Ask the topic of conversation among the congregated groups of students and the answer will be: 'The trip to New Orleans.' This is the all-absorbing question under discussion here. Every student is aglow so enthusiastic is he about the trip."
A special train of eight coaches transported 800 passengers – including the LSU team – from Baton Rouge at 7:30 AM Saturday morning for the 4 PM game. Showers that fell at intervals during the afternoon didn't dampen the spirits of the 1,500 fans.
Following the rule of the day – you prefer the opponent to have the ball deep in his side of the field than to possess it yourself deep in your own end, especially on a wet field – the first half descended into a punting duel between Louis Hamilton of A&M and LSU star junior QB George "Doc" Fenton from Scranton PA. Teams often punted right back on first down.
Doc FentonR. F. Stovall, LSU 1908R. O. Gill LSU
L-R: Doc Fenton, Rowson Stovall, Bob Smith, Reuben Gill
Midway through the half (which was not divided into quarters), Fenton punted over the goal line to give the Aggies the ball on their 25. But they immediately kicked the pigskin back. After two runs gained a first down, Fenton threw a pass to HB Rowson Stovall from Dodson LA that lost four with Doc being slightly hurt on the play.
Forward passes had just been legalized in 1906 to open up the game and reduce injuries. If no one touched an incompletion, the ball was turned over to the defensive team.
When senior HB Bob Smith from Albion MI failed to gain, Fenton punted beyond Texas's goal again but with a different outcome. An Aggie touched the ball, making it a fair game. Senior E Reuben Gill from Ruston fell on the ball across the goal line for a touchdown to make it 5-0 after eight and a half minutes of action. (The term "end zone" was not used at that time.)
The Tigers quickly capitalized on another A&M miscue to score another touchdown. After the kickoff, the Aggies lost the slippery ball on their 30. Gill made a nice end run but hurdled, which cost LSU 15y. Fenton immediately made up the lost ground around left end. After an offsides penalty, sophomore HB Michael Lally from Jessup PA skirted left end for 30y to the 10. Successive plunges by Bob Smith and his brother Clarence and Fenton pushed the ball across, and Doc place-kicked the point to make it 11-0.
Mike LallyLSU T Oren Noblett
L-R: Michael Lally, Clarence Smith, Marshall Gandy, Oren Noblett
LSU chose to receive the kickoff following the touchdown. The ensuing exchange of punts greatly favored the Tigers, as Fenton returned the Aggie boot 30y behind splendid interference to the A&M 15. Lally, described as heavier than Fenton but just as speedy and a great blocker, romped 12y around left end, and Marshall "Cap" Gandy added five through the line. After senior Oren Noblett from Denham Springs failed to budge the line, Lally fumbled the ball away. A&M tried to punt out on first down, but the kick was blocked, LSU taking over on the 25. Fenton immediately booted a field goal at the 17 minute mark. Louisiana 15 Texas 0
The scoring flurry put the game on ice for LSU. The Tigers added 11 second-half points while holding the Aggies scoreless to win 25-0.
The victory set the tone for a fabulous undefeated season for the Tigers, who won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship with a 10-0 record.