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.
1944 Alabama: Tittle's First Game
LSU started the season by playing host to Alabama, which was making its first visit to Tiger Stadium since 1930. That was Wallace Wade's last year as head coach before moving to Duke and turning the reins over to his assistant, Frank Thomas. Thomas, who played for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, led the Crimson Tide to four bowl games, including two in Pasadena.
Alabama was one of eight Southeastern Conference schools that didn't field football teams in 1943 when military manpower needs created a shortage of players. But the Tide were back for 1944. As with LSU, Bama's team consisted primarily of players who were either too young or physically unable to enlist in the military. Coach Thomas later referred to this squad as his "War Babies."
Both the LSU and Alabama single wing offenses would rely on freshman tailbacks – Y. A. Tittle for LSU and Harry Gilmer for Alabama. Gilmer enjoyed "unusual peripheral vision and poise, a strong and unerring arm, and the spectacular ability to fire the ball while leaping."
The game was billed as power vs. speed since LSU was the bigger team, especially in the backfield where they held a 19-pound edge, and Bama the faster. However, the visitors had 230lb C/LB Vaughan Mancha who was mobile.
Tittle looked forward to playing Alabama in the opener because their tailback, Harry Gilmer, was regarded as the finest forward passer in the nation. Y. A. wrote in his autobiography: "I was eager to see just how good he really was. Gilmer turned out to be everything they said he was. Not only could he pass, but he could run - something I wasn't very good at."
34,000 fans saw a high-scoring game that left neither side satisfied.

L-R: Y. A. Tittle, Rip Rowan, Willard Landry, Clyde Lindsey
(Tittle and Landry from 1944 LSU-Tulane Game Program,
Rowan and Lindsey from LSU Gumbo Yearbook Class of 1945)
Rowan Strikes Quickly
After Alabama went three-and-out, FB Elwyn "Rip" Rowan electrified the crowd by ex­ploding through the middle for a 76y touchdown on LSU's first offensive play of the season. Andy Lay's PAT made it 7-0 LSU.
Bama capitalized on a break to tie the score. Ray Coates fumbled on the Tiger 16, and Jim Pearl recovered for Alabama. Gilmer slanted off tackle for 4y, then passed to Lowell Tew for two more to the 10. Then Gilmer started around the right side but handed to Tew coming from the opposite direction on a reverse into the end zone. LSU 7 Alabama 7

L-R: Frank Thomas, Harry Gilmer, Vaughn Mancha
(Alabama Corolla Yearbook Class of 1945)
LSU Retakes the Lead
In the second quarter, LSU took advantage of a poor Gilmer punt to retake the lead. Start­ing from the LSU 41, Tittle connected with FB Willard Landry and then E Clyde Lindsey for a first down on the Tide 34. From there, Tittle dropped back a good 12y and heaved the ball down the middle to freshman HB Dan Sandifer. Bama DB Jack Wade misjudged the ball, and Sandifer snagged it behind him at the four and stepped into the end zone to put LSU back in front again, 14-7.
After an exchange of punts, Bama drove 63y to tie the game again. Undeterred by a clip­ping penalty that moved the ball back to the 33, Tew ran around left end for 14y to the Bama 47. Then Gilmer threw across the field to the right to QB Harold Self to the LSU 23.
After the Tide got a free 5y when LSU called too many timeouts, runs by Tew and Nor­wood Hodges put the pigskin on the 17. Gilmer called for the reverse again with Tew head­ing around the left side and eluding a tackle by Rowan into the end zone. Hugh Morrow's PAT knotted the score at 14.
After stopping the Tigers, Bama took possession at the LSU 43 after Tittle's punt sliced out of bounds. A Gilmer pass and a Hodges run gained 11 for a first down. Then Gilmer, back for another throw, found clear sailing down the right side of the field. Two Bengals tried to stop him inside the ten, but he zipped between them into the end zone. Alabama 21 LSU 14 at the half.

L-R: Jim Pearl, Lowell Tew, Harold Self, Hugh Morrow
(Alabama Corolla Yearbook Class of 1945)
Blocked Punt Touchdown
Midway through the third period with the ball on the Bama 26, T Earl Tullos blocked a Tide punt. The ball bounded back a long way with several would-be coverers from both teams hav­ing a chance to corral it until LSU G Felix Trapani grabbed it at the goal line. Lay's placement tied the score again at 21 but not for long.
Gilmer took Jerry Bertucci's kickoff on his four and, after slanting to the left, broke into the clear at the 35 with just one Tiger in his path. Harry swept by him, got a timely block at the LSU 35 that the Tigers thought was clipping, and continued into the end zone. This time, Morrow missed the extra point to keep the score at 27-21.
After a poor punt by Gilmer and aided by a pass interference penalty, LSU marched deep into Tide territory, but Bama stiffened and took over on the 15.
Tittle punts that went out of bounds on the Alabama three and six kept the visitors at bay.
Second Blocked Punt Ties Score
Neither side scored again until four minutes remained in the game. With the ball at the Bama 35, LSU T Fred Land charged through and got a hand on Gilmer's punt. Lindsey grabbed it in midair and ran untouched into the end zone. With a chance to put the Tigers ahead, Lay missed his placement. LSU 27 Alabama 27
The Tigers launched a last minute scoring threat that reached the Bama 21. But Hodges intercepted Tittle's pass on the nine to salvage the tie.
The tie turned out to be one of the major upsets of the college season.

L-R: Dan Sandifer, Earl Tullos, Felix Trapani, Fred Land
(1944 LSU-Tulane Game Program)
Y. A. Tittle was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Harry Gilmer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.