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 Orange Bowl vs Texas A&M: Van Rips Aggies
The five bowls that existed at the time–Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, and Sun–faced slim pickings. Due to the fact that World War II drained college-age manpower, 150 colleges aban­doned football for the 1943 season. Only four of the twelve SEC schools fielded football teams: LSU, Tulane, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.
With Steve Van Buren the drawing card, the Orange Bowl arranged a rematch between #20 LSU and 6-2-1 Texas A&M. LSU Coach Bernie Moore was pleased with the bowl bid. "All we hoped to do when the season started was keep football alive."
The Tigers had played Texas A&M October 9 in Baton Rouge and lost 28-13. The Aggies won seven of their first eight games, tying the other one against North Texas. They finished the regular season with a 27-13 loss to archrival Texas. The loss knocked the #16 Aggies out of the Associated Press Top 25.
14-to-15-point underdogs, the Tigers hoped to exact revenge on the Aggies and win their first bowl game after three failures.
Nagata Moves to Fullback
Moore and his staff knew they had to do something different from the first meeting to help Van Buren get loose. So they moved 165 lb wingback from Eunice, Joe Nagata, to fullback. They didn't do this because of Nagata's blocking. The plan called for Joe to take direct snaps from center in LSU's version of the Notre Dame box. Joe stepped forward, pivoted left or right, and handed the ball to Van Buren. The intent was to freeze the A&M linebackers for a moment to give Steve an extra step. The plan called for Nagata to occasionally keep the ball and run up the middle.

L-R: Steve Van Buren, Joe Nagata, Carroll Griffith, Charley Webb
Van Buren injured his ankle in the Georgia Tech game but was expected to be in top form by the New Year. The Aggies would play without the nation's top receiver in terms of yardage, Marion Flanagan. He injured a knee in the Thanksgiving game against Texas.
An overflow crowd of 25,203 witnessed the action, and listeners around the world heard Ted Husing's call on Armed Forces radio. Counting servicemen let in free, over 30,000 saw the game.

Van Buren (far right) throws to Griffith, who will lateral to Webb.
(Louisiana State University Gumbo Yearbook Class of 1944)
Special Plays Spark Tiger Offense
Moore wasted little time in deploying his new offensive scheme. The result was two touch­downs before A&M awoke.
After neither team went far on its first possession, the Bengals started at their 41 with a brisk wind at their back. The Tigers pulled one of several fancy plays they had prepared for the rematch. Van Buren passed 15y to Carroll Griffith who, as he was being thrown to the ground, lateralled to E Charley Webb who rumbled to the A&M 32.
Two plays later, Steve faked a pass and skirted left end to the 15. But the Aggies gave ground grudgingly, and the Tigers found themselves facing fourth down at the 11. Moore sent in QB Charley Barney with instructions to run another special play the Tigers had prepared. Nagata took the snap and handed to Griffith running left. Griffith then put the ball into the hands of Van Buren heading the opposite way. Steve raced untouched around right end across the goal. The extra point attempt failed due to a fumbled snap. LSU 6 Texas A&M 0
Fumble Sets Up Second Touchdown
When LSU got the ball back, Van Buren unleashed a 51y rolling quick kick that "Red" Bur­nitt unwisely tried to pick up only to fumble it. Webb wrestled it away from him at the A&M 22. After two running plays gained only 2y, Barney reentered the huddle with more instruc­tions from the sideline. Van Buren rolled right, stopped, and passed across the field to Burt Goode who snagged the ball as he crossed the goal. Steve's PAT try failed. LSU 12 Texas A&M 0

Burt Goode snags Van Buren's touchdown pass.
(Louisiana State University Gumbo Yearbook Class of 1944)
With Van Buren taking a rest, the Aggies wasted little time getting back in the game. They took the kickoff and, starting from their 30, unleashed the aerial attack that had knocked the Tigers for a loop in Baton Rouge. After three straight completions and a 15y roughness penal­ty, A&M found themselves on the LSU 20. TB Jim "Babe" Hallmark passed to Burnitt, who made a nice grab just inside the end zone to atone for his earlier miscue. LSU 12 Texas A&M 7, which was the halftime score.
Van Buren Extends LSU's Lead
The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter.
On the third snap after the kickoff, Big Steve showed his All-American form by breaking loose for 62y through the entire Aggie team. This time he converted. LSU 19 Texas A&M 7

Van Buren breaks into the clear. (Louisiana State University Gumbo Yearbook Class of 1944)
After punting, the Aggies got a break when Nagata fumbled, and Butch Butchofsky re­covered for A&M on the 25. On third down at the 18, Hallmark shot another one to Marion Settegast running across on the five, and the big end did the rest himself. The extra point reduced the margin to five again. LSU 19 Texas A&M 14
The fray settled into a defensive battle the rest of the way. Neither side came close to scor­ing the remainder of the third quarter, with the Aggies passing or trying to pass on most downs while the Tigers, with poor field position, stuck to the ground. A&M's best chance came when LSU punted from the end zone only to the 30 as third quarter ended
Tiger Defense Preserves Victory
With the Aggies filling the air with passes, the LSU secondary came through with four interceptions to seal the victory. The culprits were Bill Schroll, Red Knight, Diego Pardo, and Knight again.
The rushing numbers told the story. While the A&M cadets gained 199y passing to 100 for LSU, the Tigers stuffed A&M to the tune of -15 net yards while amassing 210 themselves.

L-R: Bill Schroll, Red Knight, Diego Pardo