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.
1927 Auburn: Sixth Straight Shutout
A native of Ireland and a Yale graduate, Mike Donahue became the LSU coach in 1923 after 16 seasons at Auburn. His record was 99-35-5 and included six first place finishes in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Sportswriter Fuzzy Woodruff described Donahue as "a mouse-like little man with little to say, save when aroused, on which he was capable of utterances of great fire and fervor."
LSU had improved its record each year of Mike's tenure: From 3-7 in '22 to 3-5-1 in his first year, 5-4 in '24, 5-3-1 in '25, and 6-3 in '26. Included were 16 shutouts of opponents, including the last three games of 1926 against Arkansas (14-0), Ole Miss (3-0), and Tulane (7-0).
The 1927 campaign began with three more whitewashes: Louisiana Tech (45-0, South­western Louisiana (52-0), and Alabama (0-0).
The next foe was Auburn. Donahue had faced his former school twice while at LSU, losing to the Plainsmen 3-0 in 1924 and beating them 10-0 in 1926.
The Associated Press preview of Southern action summarized the battle between 2-0-1 LSU and 0-3 Auburn this way: "On paper, Auburn would seem easy for Louisiana State, but Mike Donahue, coach of the Bayou Tigers, knows differently. The Plainsmen, under Boozer Pitts, their new head coach and one of the most popular players ever turned out at Auburn, are expected to show a reversal of form at Montgomery."

L-R: Mike Donahue, Boozer Pitts, Broncho Brown, Babe Godfrey
The Auburn football team and the entire campus were in turmoil. The squad had been rocked right before the season started by President Sprite Dowell's expulsion of star quarterback Frank Tuxworth after he was caught sneaking into the women's dormitory following a night of drunken revelry. The Plainsmen's bad start, which included embar­rassing losses to lowly Stetson and Clemson, caused third-year Coach David Morey to announce his resignation at a pep rally the night before the Florida game, which resulted in a 33-0 trouncing.
A group of 24 junior and seniors plotted what they described as a "bolsheviki uprising" intended to out Dowell, a strict Baptist who had enacted a strong moral code at the school and was known to have contempt for college football. After Morey's resignation, school spirit turned into rage. Immediately following the pep rally, a bonfire was started in the middle of the street at Toomer's Corner, causing a great deal of property damage. Students went around campus posting placards that read, "To hell with Spright Dowell!"

L-R: Guy Nesom, Hank Stovall, Everett Haynes
The situation got the attention of the governor and the Auburn trustees. The day before the LSU game, a group of student leaders and Dowell were called to a special meeting of the Board. The students said "the cause of the unrest and disorder" was not football, but Dowell's poor relationship with faculty students. In his own defense, Dowell claimed his opponents were primarily driven by football interests and should not be taken seriously. Governor Bibb Graves, who had taken office after Dowell's appointment, forced the president's resignation within a month.
When the LSU squad, 26 players strong, arrived by train Saturday at 8 AM, they walked out of the station between lanes of curious citizenry anxious for a first glimpse of the team that had tied mighty Alabama the week before. Auburn, led by Coach Pitts, had arrived Friday night. "I don't think the LSU boys will have such an easy time as they might think," said Boozer, who had been an All-Southern center for Donahue in 1913-14.
What to expect from the Plainsmen? Would the turmoil dissipate their energy or would it fire them up? The answer was the latter. If a team was flat, it was LSU coming off the exhilarating scoreless tie against the Crimson Tide. And the all-night ride in a "noisy Pullman" may have had an impact. In addition, LSU wasn't sure what to expect strategy-wise from the new Auburn coach.
With nothing to lose and the crowd of 9,000 behind them, Auburn played inspired ball, holding LSU to just two first downs in the first half, and the game was scoreless at halftime. Pitts had done an excellent job of preparing his warriors for combat.
The visiting Tigers should have scored in the third quarter when a drive that mixed passing and running put the ball on the one. The big gains came on a 22y run by freshman Broncho Brown and passes from QB Babe Godfrey to Guy Nesom for 17y and to Hank Stovall for 18y to the 20. The Tigers stayed on the ground from there to make it fourth-and-goal from the one. But the beleaguered defenders stonewalled Everett "Hinckley" Haynes from Lineville AL when he threw himself head first into the center of the line to take over on downs.
The scoreboard still read 0-0 with five minutes to play. Just when the orange and blue spectators began to congratulate each other on a scoreless deadlock with the team that tied Alabama, LSU drove to the Auburn 11 only to be pushed back to the 18. On fourth down from there, Nesom, the "giant right tackle," dropped back to the 25 and "swung his right leg confidently and lifted a placement through the Auburn goal posts."
Less than two minutes later, Donahue's men had the ball back at midfield after an interception by Charlie Mason. Godfrey shot a bullet pass to Haynes who took it at the 20 and ran into the end zone. Nesom's extra point try failed to make the final score 9-0.
The Tigers defeated Mississippi State the next week in Jackson 9-7, the scoreless streak ending in the fourth quarter. After that, the promising 4-0-1 season fell apart. Amid talk of dissension and training rules broken, the Tigers lost all four remaining games. The bitter ending caused Donahue to resign, proclaiming that he "had enough of coaching after twenty-four years."