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.
1939 Vanderbilt: Kavanaugh Strikes Again and Again
The 3-1 Tigers traveled to Nashville as 1 to 3 favorites to spoil Vanderbilt's homecom­ing and hand the Commodores their fourth straight defeat. LSU had to avoid looking ahead to the following week's clash with #1 Tennessee.
Experts expected an aerial battle, and they got one. A total of 50 passes were thrown–an almost unheard of number in 1939. Bob Wilson Sports Editor of the Knoxville News-Senti­nel, praised the LSU passing duo of Leo Bird to All-American E Ken Kavanaugh. "The famous Dixie-Howell-to-Don-Hutson combination that carried Alabama to the Rose Bowl a few seasons ago had nothing on the LSU battery."
The Tigers started strong, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80y in less than three minutes. On the first play, "dead-eye" Bird, "one of the coolest and most accurate passers that I have seen since Bobby Dodd finished at Tennessee," faded back and fired a long pass downfield to "glue-fingered" Kavanaugh, "undoubtedly the world's greatest pass snatcher," who leaped high and caught the ball at midfield for a gain of 30y. After several runs put the ball on the 15, Bird found Kavanaugh on the three, and he went across for the touchdown. A bad snap sabotaged the extra point attempt. LSU 6 Vanderbilt 0

L-R: Leo Bird (LSU Gumbo Yearbook Class of 1940), Junius "Doc" Plunkett, and Roy Huggins
(Vanderbilt Commodore Yearbook, Class of 1940)
Nursing a lead, the Tiger offense cut down on the passing and didn't score again in the half. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt showed they could throw the pigskin too. Undaunted by the ball being on his own 16, southpaw Junius "Doc" Plunkett completed passes of 21, 39, and 17y to put the ball on the LSU seven. Three plays later, Roy Huggins plowed into the end zone from the 6" line. The PAT failed, keeping the score tied at 6-6.
In the last minutes of the half, Plunkett's passes carried the Commodores to LSU's two where time ran out. Halftime score: LSU 6 Vanderbilt 6
Unleashing its passing attack again, LSU began the second half as it started the first with a touchdown drive. Starting from their 30 after the kickoff, the Tigers overcame a 15y pen­alty to retake the lead.
The first big gain came on Bird's pass to Kavanaugh for 18y to the Vandy 29. Bird gained three on first down but was dumped for an 8y loss on second down. But just when it looked like the Commodores had taken the steam out of the advance, Leo escaped a bevy of rushers and tossed a beautiful pass toward Kavanaugh, who snagged the ball on the 12 and rambled into the end zone. The extra point again went awry. 12-6 LSU.
Vanderbilt trekked to the LSU 21 in the third quarter before being stopped.

LSU linemen stop the Vanderbilt ball carrier. (LSU Gumbo Yearbook Class of 1940)
The Tigers went into their shell again and didn't mount a drive until the final minutes of the game. After receiving a punt on the Commodore 45, a flock of LSU reserves reached the five mostly on running plays. However, a penalty on HB Ashford Simes for slugging set the Tigers back, and the game ended with the ball under the shadow of the Vandy goal posts.
Led by Charles Anastasio, "one of the hardest running backs in Dixie," the Tigers dom­inated on the ground with 210y rushing to Vanderbilt's 74. The Commodores completed 13 of 29 passes for 152y while LSU hit on 11 of 21 for 154y. LSU led in first downs 14-13.
Unfortunately, the Tigers lost their last four games to finish the 1939 season with four wins and five losses–their first season under .500 since 1923.