"Give Them My Regards in Baton Rouge"

"Football Is Strictly an Afternoon Game"

When Washington Came to Tiger Stadium

When Idaho Came to Tiger Stadium

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Tiger Den Archives – IX

"Give Them My Regards in Baton Rouge"

LSU Coach Paul Dietzel 1956
Paul Dietzel 1956

LSU T Earl Leggett 1956
Earl Leggett

Jack Pardee

Texas A&M E Bobby Marks
Bobby Marks

Texas A&M QB Roddy Osborne
Roddy Osborne

Texas A&M HB Bobby Joe Conrad
Bobby Joe Conrad

Loyd Taylor

Ed Cassidy

LSU B Red Broadnax 1956
J. W. Brodnax

LSU QB M. C. Reynolds 1956
M. C. Reynolds

Texas A&M C Dee Powell
Dee Powell

Don Watson

LSU QB Win Turner 1956
Win Turner

Bill Sheehy

LSU B Merle Schexnaildre
Merle Schexnaildre

The 1956 Tigers opened Paul Dietzel's second season as head man against #11 Tex­as A&M in Tigertown.
  • From The Associated Press preview of the game:

Louisiana State opens the season against about the toughest foe it could have picked. LSU is considered to have a stone-wall-strong line featuring Earl Leggett, fabulous 265-pound tackle, but the Tigers' offense is of unknown quality. Texas A&M has both a fine line and hard-to-hold offense and the Aggies are two-touchdown favorites.

  • Bear Bryant's third Aggie team had opened its season the week before by beating Villanova 19-0 in College Station.
  • This was Bear's third visit to Tiger Stadium as a head coach, the previous two (1949 and 1953) having been with Kentucky. Bear won the first and tied the second.
  • A&M's top two players wouldn't be at full strength. FB-LB Jack Pardee injured a knee against Villanova while Heisman trophy candidate HB John David Crow, from Springhill LA, had a touch of the flu.
  • The game would mark the debut of LSU's new mascot, Mike II, from the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.
The previous December, Dietzel and Bryant had entered into a "gentlemen's agree­ment" whereby each school promised to respect commitments made to the other by football prospects. Any boy who signed an SEC grant in aid with LSU would be off limits to the Aggies, and anyone signing a Southwest Conference letter of intent with A&M would not be touched by LSU. Dietzel had served as an assistant to Bryant at Kentucky in 1951-52.
Tiger Stadium 1956
Tiger Stadium 1956
With the enclosing of the South End zone in 1953 to raise the seating capacity to 60,000, Tiger Stadium began its rise in the ranks of most feared places to play.
  • It was in conjunction with the 1956 visit that Bear made the following oft-quoted statement in the 1974 autobiography that John Underwood stitched together from dozens of hours of recorded conversations with Bryant:

Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world to be a visiting team. It's a dug-out arena, and you get all that noise. It's like being inside a drum. The officiating suffers because of it.

  • So when Bear recalled the '56 game at LSU, he talked about the noise from the record crowd of 61,000 when A&M got the ball.

Bob Marks [from New Orleans] ... intercepted a pass and ran it back to the LSU 14-yard line. You never heard such booing and carrying on [when the Aggies tried to run a play]. I wanted them to hold up play till it subsided, but I couldn't get the officials' attention. ...
On the next exchange we completed a pass out of bounds near our bench, and I ran over and grabbed the official, George Hecht. I said, "All I want is a fair deal. Make them keep that damn noise down."
The fans must have thought I was arguing about the pass being in bounds or something, because when George gave us the ball and a first down they nearly tore the stadium apart.

  • The pass Bear referred to was from Osborne to HB Bobby Joe Conrad, who jug­gled it as he fell out of bounds, finally dropping it. The side judge ruled the pass complete, but the referee overruled him and spotted the ball at the previous line of scrimmage. But after "consulting" with Bryant, the side judge ran in and insist­ed it was complete. So the referee gave the Aggies a first down on the 14.
  • One play later, Conrad took a pitchout from Osborne, faded to his left, and threw a 12y scoring pass to fellow HB Carlos Esquivel. Loyd Taylor's PAT gave A&M a 7-0 lead after eight minutes of play.
Texas A&M TD Pass
The Aggies moved the ball almost every time they had it but never penetrated the Tiger goal line the rest of the game.
  • From the United Press article: The faster Aggie team frequently threw LSU's slow-footed backs for losses, or held them to short gains, while A&M's horde of speedy backs went through and around the Tiger line.
  • The visitors dominated the first half, amassing 8 first downs to just 2 for the home team.
  • The first time LSU moved past midfield came when HB Olin Renfroe returned the kickoff following the Aggie TD 44y.
  • Later in the period, a bad punt by Osborne gave the Tigers possession at the A&M 36. Renfroe dashed 12y around end. But three plays later, he fumbled and Taylor smothered the ball at the 17.
 LSU-Texas A&M 1956
The Aggies missed a great scoring opportunity in Q2.
  • They moved relentlessly to a first down at the LSU 20 on a 14y run by Osborne.
  • Taylor got 2, then G Ed Cassidy dumped Osborne for a 3y loss. Taylor shook free to the 13 around LE.
  • On 4th-and-3, backup QB Jimmy Wright, Bryant's best passer, missed down the middle to end the threat.
  • Neither team threatened the rest of the half.

A&M scored again in Q3

  • The visitors drove with the kickoff to the Tiger 38, where sophomore FB-LB J. W. "Red" Brodnax recovered a fumble. But two plays later, M. C. Reynolds tossed an INT to Osborne on the Bengal 48.
  • But the LSU D, gaining confidence as the game progressed, forced a punt that went out of bounds on the 11.
  • Four plays later, Renfroe dropped back to punt. But C Dee Powell broke through and blocked it, the ball bouncing through the EZ for a safety. LSU would need two scores to win now.
  • Sloppy tackling enabled little Don Watson to run back the free kick from his 19 to the Tiger 47. But A&M couldn't move, and Osborne puned out on the 9.
  • QB Win Turner scampered around RE for 18y. The Tigers couldn't produce ano­ther first down but at least were able to punt deeper, Renfroe's boot traveling to the Aggie 15.
  • E Bill Sheehy intercepted an Osborne pass to put the Tigers in business at the A&M 36.
  • After Turner gained 4 on a keeper, he missed on two heaves down the field. Dietzel went for it on fourth down, but Turner misfired again.
  • On their next possession, the Tigers went for it on 4th down again from the A&M 42, but Reynolds gained only 1 when he needed 6.
1956 LSU-Texas A&M Action - 2
LSU-Texas A&M action - who's tackling whom?
Finally, the Tigers put points on the board in the last period.
  • Three plays after an Aggie punt to the 15, Turner kept for 24 to the 47.
  • Three runs, two by Brodnax, produced another first down at the A&M 42.
  • Two snaps later, Steve Thompson gained 11 on a draw play to the 28.
  • Turner kept for 8, and Brodnax added 5 for a first at the 15.
  • Red picked up 5 over LG, then took a pitchout and, behind good blocking, ran into the EZ as the clock showed 1:35. Bob DeCrosta missed the PAT, which meant a FG would only tie the game.
  • Sheehy tried an onside kick which rolled just over the 50y line before a host of Tigers fell on it.
  • Turner lost 7 when rushed heavily while trying to pass, then missed on a pass as he was being hit.
  • Reynolds came in and pitched 24y to Sheehy to the 30. After an incompletion, he hit Merle Schexnaildre to the 16 as the game ended.
  • Ironically, LSU had the two leading rushers on the evening in Brodnax with 58y and JC transfer Jimmy Taylor with 56. A&M's top groundsmen, Crow and Par­dee, played sparingly.
  • While disappointed with the loss, LSU fans felt some satisfaction that Dietzel was making the Tigers more competitive and that better days lay ahead.
Bear related a story that happened two days after the game.

The following Monday I got a call from the Touchdown Club of New Orleans, wanting to know how I felt about cheating LSU out of the game.
I said, "What do you mean, 'cheating'? If you had kept the damn students quiet, we would have won it in the first quarter."
He said, "The films show your LT was over the goal when you completed the touchdown pass. That made him an ineligible receiver downfield."
I said, "Well, I hope the hell he was downfield. Give them my regards in Baton Rouge." And I hung up.
I couldn't wait to go back and look at the films. Sure enough, when the re­ceiver caught the ball, one of our linemen, Ken Beck, who happened to be from Minden, Louisiana, was deeper in the end zone than the pass receiver. I was tickled to death. [The picture above of the TD pass shows an Aggie in the end zone beyond the receiver, but the player's number is not visible.]
That winter Dietzel invited me to speak at his banquet and I went down. When I got up to speak I got a few boos, and I thanked them all for inviting me. I said, "And I want you to know I'll be glad to come back any time and help Coach Dietzel with his officiating problems."

Reference: Bear: The Hard Life & Good Times of Alabama's Coach Bryant,
Paul "Bear" Bryant & John Underwood (1974)
"Football Is Strictly an Afternoon Game"
First-year Vanderbilt coach Bill Edwards brought his 4-2 Commodores to Tiger Stadium (also referred to as "LSU Stadium" or even "Bengal Stadium") for a night game November 5, 1949.
  • Except for an interruption during World War II (1941-4), LSU had met Vandy every season since the SEC began in 1933.
  • Gaynell Tinsley's second Tiger team entered the fray 4-2 also, with victories over Rice (14-7), Texas A&M (34-0), North Carolina (13-7), and Mississippi (34-7). The defeats came to Bear Bryant's Kentucky Wildcats (19-0) and Wally Butts' Georgia Bulldogs (7-0).
  • The Tigers sought revenge for the 48-7 shellacking Red Sanders' final Vandy team administered in Nashville during Tinsley's 3-7 maiden voyage.

The Associated Press article on the game began thusly.

Louisiana State outcharged and outplayed Vanderbilt here tonight to win a hard fought Southeastern Conference victory, 33-13.

An estimated 34,000 fans, shivering in nippy weather, were alternately thrilled by long gains and chilled by costly miscues. Vandy was unable to put together a ground game, but struck tellingly through the air, with quarterback Jamie Wade consistently hitting ends Bucky and Bud Curtis.

The LSU Yearbook summarized the game this way:

Tackling viciously, passing accurately under pressure and seizing opportunities, LSU's bruising Tigers repulsed invading Vanderbilt's air-minded Commodores ...

... the Bengals not only outclassed Vandy but handed the Commodores a physical beating that they are not likely soon to forget. Rugged line play marked the entire game, with LSU's mass-tackling defensive team winning honors as the night's most effective unit.
 1949 LSU-Vanderbilt Action - 2
Kenny Konz after a fumble on the Vandy 14 that set up LSU's first score
(Morning Advocate)
LSU struck swiftly in Q1 to convert two Vandy fumbles into scores.

  • It took LSU only three plays to score after DB Kenny Konz recovered a fumble on the 14. QB Carrol Griffith hit HB Billy Baggett in the EZ with a 13y scoring pass six minutes into the game.
  • Later in the quarter, Armand Kitto recovered a fumble on the 12. Once again, Griffith hit a third down pass, this one to E Sam Lyle at the goal line. Griffith's kick made the score 13-0.
Charley Pevey & Carrol Griffith 1949LSU RB Billy West
L: Charley Pevey holds for Carrol Griffith; R: Billy West runs against Kentucky
The Tigers added to their lead in the second period.

  • After a 32y punt out of bounds to start the quarter, LSU drove 43y in only four plays. Griffith tossed to Jim Roshto who rambled to the Vandy 23. After Baggett gained 2 up the middle, Billy West broke through C and ran to the 10 where he fumbled. But Ebert Van Buren (Steve's younger brother) saved the day, covering the pigskin on the half-yard line. Griffith then sneaked over.
  • An officiating error set up an easy Vanderbilt TD. After Lee Hedges intercepted a pass on the LSU 37, Baggett gained 1 and West 4. Griffith then threw to Hedges who made a spectacular catch before being pushed out on the Commodore 25. But the play was called back and the Tigers penalized 15y to the 27. Konz went back to punt on third down but was unable to handle the bad snap. He picked up the ball on the goal line but was downed on the 1. The officials, apparently counting the previous play that was nullified as a down, ruled it Vanderbilt's ball. QB Jamie Wade threw a jump pass to Bucky Curtis for the TD to change the scoreboard to 19-6.
  • The Tigers started a drive that reached the enemy 41 where Baggett lost a fumble. Passing on every down except one, Wade led Vandy to their second score, which came on 24y connection with Curtis who grabbed the ball right before he smashed into the goal post. He was knocked out but held on. The PAT made it 19-13, with all momentum in VU's favor as the teams went to their dressing rooms a few minutes later.

The Bengal D and additional turnovers combined to keep the Commodores off the scoreboard in the second half.

  • On Vandy's opening possession, Harold Voss recovered a fumble on the LSU 48. The Bengals then drove relentlessly to extend their lead to 13. Baggett gained 7, then 10 for a first down. Hedges took a pitchout and raced 20y to the 15. With four tackles in the D-line, two thrusts gained five but that was nullified by an offsides penalty. After an incomplete pass, Tinsley decided to go for it. Griffith passed to West who was stopped on the 5. The measurement showed first down by a foot. After two ground plays gained only a yard, Charley Pevey tossed to Hedges who made a fine running catch in the flat and ran in.
  • The Tigers salted the game away early in the final period. A poor punt late in Q3 allowed the Tigers to set up shop 40y from pay dirt. Three runs gained a first down before the teams changed ends. After two incompletions, Pevey connected with Lyle for a first-and-goal on the 8. From there, Hedges raced wide around RE and blasted over to make it 33-13 after the conversion.
  • Vanderbilt threatened when Wade flipped 36y to Nelson Burton who was pushed out on the 2. But Allen Hover recovered a fumble on the very next play to bail out the Tigers. The home boys had a final chance when Hover recovered another fumble, this one on a punt reception at the 26. But a fourth down run by West after trying to pass missed a first down by a foot.
1949 LSU-Vanderbilt Action
LSU-Vandy Action (1950 LSU Gumbo Yearbook)
LSU wore purple or gold jerseys at home in those days
The stats showed why LSU won.

  • The snarling Tigers held the visitors to a mere 23y on the ground and rushed for 173 themselves.
  • Wade completed only 13-of-31 passes for 177y.
  • The butter-fingered Dores fumbled eight times and lost six of them.

A week later, Coach Edwards announced that Vanderbilt would never play another night game if he had any say in the matter.

  • Edwards hastened to add that the 20-point defeat in Baton Rouge had nothing to do with his decision, which struck some as sour grapes.
  • Vandy had won its other evening clash, 22-17 over Florida at Jacksonville.
  • Bill explained his feelings.

Football is strictly an afternoon game. There's nothing attractive about a night game to coaches or players. When playing at night, the players loaf and meals come at the wrong time.

Edwards continued at Vanderbilt through the 1954 season.

  • His Commodores returned to Baton Rouge in 1951 and administered a 20-13 defeat to the Tigers.
  • "Bullet Bill" Wade (no relation to Jamie), future QB of the 1963 NFL champion Chicago Bears, fired three TD passes.
  • And, yes, the game was played under the lights.
  • LSU didn't play Vandy at home again until 1976.

Vanderbilt Coach Bill Edwards
Bill Edwards

LSU Coach Gaynell Tinsley 1949
Gaynell Tinsley

LSU HB Jim Roshto
Jim Roshto

LSU HB Billy Baggett
Billy Baggett

LSU E Armand Kitto

LSU RB Ebert Van Buren
Ebert Van Buren

LSU RB Lee Hedges
Lee Hedges

LSU E Sam Lyle
Sam Lyle

When Washington Came to Tiger Stadium
As this is written, the Washington Huskies will be making their second trip to Tiger Stadium in a few weeks (9/12). So it's fitting that we recall their first visit.
  • The date was September 24, 1983. The game was a one-shot deal with no return trip to Seattle for the Tigers.
  • Jerry Stovall's fourth LSU team lost at home to Florida State 40-35 in the opener before registering an unimpressive 24-10 victory over Rice in Houston.
  • The #9 Huskies sported a 2-0 record with both victories over Big Ten teams: 34-0 at Northwestern and then, more impressively, 25-24 over Michigan at home.

Stovall dusted off his Nebraska game plan for the Huskies.

  • Don James' powerful O had punted only once in two games. Senior QB Steve Pelluer, the Pac-10's Player of the Week, had hit 48 of 65 passes for 480y in the two triumphs.
  • That efficiency harkened Jerry back to the Orange Bowl when the Tigers lost to the Cornhuskers 21-20.

I told them this one can be won with the kicking game in the last two minutes. It's the same thing I told them before the Orange Bowl - that we would be in a position to win it at the end with a FG.

  • The LSU coach had been second-guessed for a decision he made in Q2 of the Rice game. He went for it on fourth-and-goal and failed. The Owls then drove for a FG and a 3-0 lead.

I made decisions against Rice I'd never make against Washington. On fourth-and-4 in almost every situation we will kick a field goal.

  • Coach James admitted he prepared his team to play in Tiger Stadium.

We can't let those fans beat us, or we're going to be in deep trouble.

A record crowd of 82,390 and countless more watching on TigerVision saw the LSU QB soundly outplay the heralded signal-caller from the Great Northwest.

  • Sophomore Jeff Wickersham, "who has been more tentative than confident in LSU's first two games ... cooly ripped the Husky D by running for three TDs and passing for another." (John Jones, Times-Picayune)
  • The result was a 40-14 romp in which the Tigers jumped to a 17-7 Q1 lead and never looked back.
 1983 LSU-Washington Game
LSU started the scoring on its first possession.
  • Throwing the ball with much more confidence than he exhibited against Rice, Wickersham drove his team 64y in 12 plays taking 4:58 off the clock. The key connection was a 16y third down pass to WR Herman Fontenot for a first down on the UW 21. RB Dalton Hilliard, healthy after playing only two snaps against Rice because of a leg injury, closed the march with a 4y scamper to make it 7-0 after Juan Betanzos kicked the point. After the game, O coordinator Morris Watts commented on the strike to Fontenot.

I knew when Wickersham hit that crossing route over the middle - the one he's been throwing too high - that he'd arrived.

  • A brilliant INT by roverback Jeffery Dale on the next Washington possession gave LSU another opportunity to score. Dale darted in front of TE Larry Michael at the UW 29. The Tigers bogged down at the 25, leading to Betanzos's 32y FG to make it 10-0.
  • The Bandits forced a punt, but a miscue gave the visitors their first scoring opportunity. The short, wobbly punt bounced off the leg of a Tiger blocker and was recovered by a Husky at their 43. Frustrated on the ground, Pelluer took to the air, the key strike being a 24-yarder to SE Danny Greene to the 2. TB Jacque Robinson took it in from there to temporarily quiet the Tiger Stadium faithful.
  • LSU struck back immediately with an 80y drive sparked by the running of Hilliard. After an incomplete pass, Dalton followed FB Gene Lang around RE, cut back inside the pursuit, got a sealing block from Eric Martin, and very nearly broke it all the way before being pulled down from behind by S Robert Leaphart on the UW 25. Three plays later after Hilliard's sidekick in the Dalton and James Gang, Garry James, carried inside the 1, Wickersham sneaked over to restore the 10-point lead.

The defenses controlled the second 15 minutes of action.

  • Each team missed a FG before Betanzos drilled a 37-yarder with just 20 seconds left in the half.
  • The key play in the drive was a 20y Wickersham pass to Martin for a first down at the Husky 26.

Any Washington hopes of getting back in the game in the second half when the Tigers scored first.

  • James did the heavy lifting on the 58y drive, gaining 36y in eight carries. However, it was a key third-and-18 pass from the UW 49 to Martin for 23y that kept the drive alive. Several plays later, with the ball on the 3, Wickersham play-faked to James, who was hit by seemingly the entire Washington D while Jeff bootlegged left and practically walked over the goal to advance the lead to 27-7 going into Q4. Coach James after the game:

Once they scored on the long drive in the third, and we were behind by 20, we were in real trouble.

  • LSU erased any lingering doubts that this was their game by driving 80y in 9 plays. The key play came on second-and-10 at the Husky 33 wen Jeff evaded the pash rush and fired deep for Martin. Leaphart deflected the ball, but Fontenot fell under it at the 5. Not even penalties could stop the Tigers as Wickersham hit Martin for an 18y TD to make it 34-7. It was Jeff's first TD pass of the young season.
  • Washington responded with an 80y, five-play drive of its own. Pelluer connected with Green for 36y to the 1 before running it in himself with 11:20 remaining to make it 34-14.
  • Wickersham ended the night's scoring with just over three minutes to go when he again bootlegged, this time from the 4. His 17y connection to Martin to the 28 sparked the advance.

Don James praised the Tigers afterwards, especially Wickersham (16-of-27 for 259y).

I've been around long enough to see sophomores play. His coaches gave him an offense to run and he ran it.

We were outhit, outhustled, and outcompeted. We were lucky it wasn't worse. Everyone on LSU's team ran harder and faster than us.

I'd compare LSU physically with Southern Cal and UCLA because of their size, strength, and speed.

A big key to the victory was the Bandits' stuffing the UW run game.

  • The Huskies averaged 196y on the ground in the first two games.
  • LSU held them to 28y on 25 attempts, including -1 in the second half when the visitors had to pass more to catch up.

The game turned out to be the anomaly of the 1983 season.

  • The teams' previous results didn't point toward a Tiger runaway. And the excitement the romp engendered in LSU fans dissipated in the face of three straight losses in SEC play.
  • After beating independent South Carolina, the Bengals lost the remaining three games on their SEC schedule before winning in the Superdome to close out 4-7.
  • The winless conference record cost Stovall his job. New AD Bob Brodhead hired Bill Arnsparger who coached the talent Jerry recruited to 26 victories over the next three seasons.

LSU Coach Jerry Stovall
Jerry Stovall

Washington Coach Don James
Don James

Washington QB Steve Pelluer
Steve Pelluer

LSU QB Jeff Wickersham
Jeff Wickersham

LSU WR Herman Fontenot
Herman Fontenot

LSU RB Dalton Hilliard
Dalton Hilliard

LSU WR Eric Martin
Eric Martin

LSU RB Garry James
Garry James

LSU K Juan Betanzos
Juan Betanzos

When Idaho Came to Tiger Stadium

RB Kevin Faulk 1998
Kevin Faulk

LSU QB Herb Tyler
Herb Tyler

WR Abram Booty
Abram Booty

LSU RB Rondell Mealey
Rondell Mealey

Hurricane Georges bore down on SE Louisiana as the Tigers prepared to play Idaho on September 26, 1998.

  • Gerry DiNardo's fourth LSU team stood 2-0 with victories over Arkansas State 42-6 and at Auburn 31-19.
  • The Tigers sat at #6 in the AP poll as they welcomed the 2-0 Vandals who boasted wins over Eastern Washington 31-14 and at San Jose State 17-12.
  • Idaho's coach Chris Tormey brought a game plan that contributed to the NCAA changing one of its rules.

Senior TB Kevin Faulk dominated the action before a crowd of 80,466.

  • Faulk's night didn't start well as he ended LSU's opening drive with a fumble at the Idaho 15, Ryan Skinner returning it 12y.
  • Unveiling an attack that included 12-18 players in the huddle, with all but eleven running off the field before the snap.
  • The confusion this tactic caused the LSU D to allow the Vandals to march downfield in ten plays, scoring on Joel Thomas's 10y run for a 7-0 lead.

Kevin more than made up for his miscue.

  • Several minutes later, Faulk gathered in a pass from QB Herb Tyler for a 50y TD with 6:43 left in Q1. However, Idaho blocked Danny Boyd's PAT to stay a point ahead.
  • That didn't last long as 1:28 later, Johnny Mitchell put the Tigers ahead for keeps with a 36y INT return. This time Boyd's try succeeded.
  • Another turnover led to a TD just 19 seconds later as Tyler connected with WR Abram Booty for a 26y TD. Tyler's pass for the two-point conversion failed.

The Tigers kept pouring it on in Q2.

  • 5:12 in, Rondell Mealey culminated a drive with a 12y run to make it 26-7.
  • Six minutes later, it was Faulk's turn again on a 1y plunge to make it 33-7 at the half.
Faulk wasn't finished his TD binge.
  • He scored from the 11 with less than two minutes into the second half to make it 40-7.
  • The visitors finally changed their side of the scoreboard on Thomas's 5y scamper.
  • 0:58 later, Kevin broke loose for an 81y scamper to restore the 33-point lead.

The Carencro Comet took the rest of the game off.

  • Idaho scored early in Q4 on an 8y pass from QB John Welsh to Jones. Welsh finished the evening 18-for-32 for 218y.
  • WR Larry Foster capped the scoring with a 50y punt return with 2:57 remaining. Boyd's kick made the final score 53-20.

Faulk's night enhanced his position as one of the greatest backs in SEC history.

  • He gained 178y on just 13 rushes.
  • He added 50y receiving and 40 on kick returns for a total of 265 for the evening, which was enough to put him atop the LSU career list, 71y ahead of Dalton Hilliard's 5,326 (1982-85).
  • That put him in third place in SEC history behind only Georgia's Herschel Walker (5,749) and Auburn's James Brooks (5,596).

Idaho's strategy of more than 11 men in the offensive huddle caused the NCAA to pass the rule that continues to this day whereby 12 or more players in the huddle results in a 5y penalty.

Tiger fans' excitement at the 3-0 start dissipated as LSU won only one of its last seven games.

  • The fact that Idaho registered 22 first downs and 410y against Lou Tepper's D should have been a storm warning.
  • Losses to Georgia and Florida tumbled the Tigers to #21 in the AP poll.
  • Another defeat, at the hands of Kentucky, dropped LSU from the poll never to return until the final game of the 2000 season, Nick Saban's first in Baton Rouge.

Since the 1998 LSU team included 23 future NFL players, the squad has been facetiously called the best 4-7 college team ever.

Tigers vs Badgers - I

1971 LSU-Wisconsin Program Cover

Wisconsin QB Neil Graff
Neil Graff

Wisconsin RB Rufus Ferguson
Rufus Ferguson

Charles McClendon
Coach McClendon at Wisconsin game with Jimmy LeDoux

LSU QB Paul Lyons

WR Jimmy Ledoux
Jimmy LeDoux

LSU TB Art Cantrelle
Art Cantrelle

LSU QB Bert Jones
Bert Jones

LSU DE Richard Picou
Richard Picou

Andy Hamilton LSU
Andy Hamilton






Top of Page

#18 LSU traveled to Madison to meet the Wisconsin Badgers for the first time on September 25, 1971.
  • The trip was the Tigers' second to the midwest in as many years after losing at Notre Dame 3-0 in 1970. The game also marked the first time LSU faced a Big Ten opponent since 1924 when the Bengals defeated Indiana.
  • The two-game series was originally slated to start over a decade earlier in 1957, but in July 1956 the Louisiana legislature passed a law banning all integrated sporting events in the state. Within days, the Badger AD announced cancellation of the series.
    Cries of "Racists, racists, racists" rained down on the Tigers from the Camp Randall stands fifteen years later when LSU took the field. LSU was still two years from its first African-American squad member.
  • With a forecast of fair skies and 70 degree temperature, a record crowd of more than 77,000 was expected at Camp Randall Stadium.
  • John Jardine's Badgers had a 1-0-1 record while Charlie McClendon's Tigers lost to Colorado 31-21 before downing Texas A&M 37-0.
  • McClendon planned to compete without All-American CB Tommy Casanova, who aggravated his muscle pull in the A&M game. Without Tommy, the Tiger secondary was even more youthful as senior RCB John Nagle joined sophomores Norm Hodgins (LCB), Frank Racine (SS), and Joe Winkler (S).
  • McClendon feared the Badgers' balanced attack led by QB Neil Graff, who led the Big Ten in passing in 1970, and 5'6",190-lb RB Rufus "Roadrunner" Ferguson, whom Mac called "one of the toughest men to bring down I've seen recently. He can start in one direction and change courses."
  • On offense, Charlie planned to continue his two QB system with Paul Lyons starting and Bert Jones taking his turn against UW's unusual 6-1 defense.

77,280, the largest attendance for an athletic event in Wisconsin, saw Lyons lead the Tigers to victory with a record-breaking afternoon.

  • The visitors started fast when little Jimmy LeDoux took the opening kickoff on his 10 and high-tailed it to the Tiger 49. Lyons reeled off 7 on a keeper but fumbled into the hands of a red-jerseyed defender. But the referee ruled the whistle had blown to the displeasure of the partisan crowd. TB Art Cantrelle chugged for 6 and a first down at the 38. From there, Paul rolled out and kept after faking beautifully and scooted into the EZ. Jay Michaelson's PAT made it 7-0 with only 1:35 expired.
  • The Badgers immediately drove to a TD but did it more through the air. Greg Johnson took the kickoff back 42y to midfield. Graff came out throwing as expected, completing a 16-yarder to Larry Mialik. Then Ferguson's second effort gained 7 before Graff hit Albert Hannah for 15 to the 12. It took four rushes to do it, but Ferguson carried over from the 2. The PAT made it 7-7 with 11:26 on the clock.
  • On its second possession, LSU drove to the Badger 25, but Michaelson's FG sailed wide right. Graff launched another drive that moved smartly into Bengal territory only to have Ferguson fumble to co-captain Richie Picou on the 24.
  • Jones replaced Lyons under C but got nowhere. So Ronnie Estay booted the game's first punt to the UW 47. On the very first play, Alan "A-Train" Thompson took a pitchout and didn't stop running until he crossed the goal line. The PAT made it 14-7 with 52 seconds remaining in the initial period.
  • The depleted Tiger secondary took another hit during the period when Nagle left with an injured knee.
1971 LSU-Wisconsin Action
The Tigers try in vain to catch the A-Train.
The defenses restored some order to the proceedings in the second period.
  • Lyons returned but couldn't move the ball. The Tigers lost in the ensuing exchange of punts, taking over on their 6. Jones' second series produced the first LSU completion, a 13-yarder to LeDoux at the Tiger 31. They kept the ball away from the Badger O for several minutes until Bill "Tiny" Poindexter crashed through to nail Jones for a 12y loss.
  • Wisconsin took the punt at its 32 and moved to the Wisconsin 34 before LB Wisconsin and DT Wisconsin made sparkling plays. This time John Krguman got a poor punt to the 19.
  • Lyons started the ball rolling by connecting with WR Andy Hamilton for 9. Four plays and one first down later, Lyons connected with Hamilton again to the 20. The first penalty of the game, offsides, set the Tigers back 5. Paul tried three passes in a row, but all were off target. So Michaelson came on and booted a 42y FG to make it 14-10 with 2:16 left until halftime.
  • Another good kickoff return, this one 35y to the LSU 48, gave the Badgers hope of adding to their point total before the break. But Jim Gainey burst through and threw Graff for a 12y loss. The home team's first infraction of the day, holding, set them back another 15. So the Tigers took the punt at their 25.
  • Jones began to move the Tigers, but they ran out of time near midfield.
1971 LSU-Wisconsin Action
Danny Lyons on the move against Wisconsin.
The Tigers wasted no time in taking the lead in Q3.
  • Wisconsin couldn't move after taking the kickoff, and Krugman blasted a 51y punt to the 11. Cantrelle burst for 15 on a quick opener, and Lyons kept for another 15. It was Art's turn again and he dashed 48y before being run out of bounds at the 11. Lyons made the TD look easy on the next play, rolling right, then cutting back up the middle. Michaelson's kick was true for a 17-14 lead with exactly 12 minutes left in the period.
  • Ferguson toted the kickoff back to the 37. Graff took to the air again to move to LSU 34. Thompson ran for daylight for 16. But the Chinese Bandits stiffened and, facing fourth-and-two at the 10, Roger Jaeger tried a 27y FG, but it missed to the right to preserve the visitors' lead.
  • A few plays later, Hamilton beat his man again, and Lyons hit him for a 55y gain to the 22. Lyons kept for 2 twice. Then the junior QB from Midland TX pulled out some razzle dazzle as he faked to Cantrelle and handed the ball to LeDoux, who rambled to the 11. After a 1y gain, Lyons fired a 10y strike to Hamilton in the EZ. Michaelson's kick made it 24-14 with 5:43 on the clock.
  • The kickoff bounced off a Badger out of bounds at the 25 to give UW its worst starting position of the day. Nevertheless, they marched to a TD with Graff aerials interspersed with runs by Ferguson and Thompson. The score came on a 22y throw from Graff to Albert Hannah to make it 24-21.
1971 LSU-Wisconsin Action
Tigers swarm a Badger ball carrier.  
LSU then started another scoring march that carried over into the final 15 minutes.
  • Lyons found Hamilton for 17 and again for 29 to key the 76y drive. Danny did the honors from the 3 to make it 31-21 with 13:47 to go.
  • But Wisconsin answered right back with a 68y thrust of its own. On third down, Graff's pass to Hannah sailed high, but the officials called Hodgins for interference to put the ball at the LSU 41. Graff then connected with Hannah for 10 before Ferguson rumbled for 5 more. After two incompletions, Hannah snagged a pass to the 7. That led to a Ferguson TD from the 4 to reduce the lead back to 3 again with 9:35 left.
  • Fortunately, Lyons wasn't through, guiding an 80y drive. Showing LSU's depth at TB, Chris Dantin did the heavy lifting with LeDoux contributing a reverse for 23 to the 20. After Lyons was thrown for a 5y loss, Paul came right back with a pass to Allen Shorey to the 2. From there, Dantin plunged over to restore the 10-point lead with 5:08 to play.
  • The Bandits corraled Graff and Company to force a punt. Then Jones directed a drive from the 29 to the 26 that ran out the clock - the only time in the second half LSU didn't score - to preserve the hard-earned victory.

Lyons finished with 139y on the ground and 165 through the air to break Sulcer Harris's total offense record of 279 set against Fordham in 1942.

  • The two teams totaled 991y from scrimmage, a nearly unheard of amount in that day and age. Fordham gained 31 first downs to 23 for Wisconsin.
  • Cantrelle broke the 100y mark by one, including 63 on the crucial go-ahead drive in Q3, while Hamilton totaled 129y on five catches.
  • The Roadrunner just missed the century mark by 3, but Thompson, with his two long runs, netted 109 on 13 carries.
  • Lyons said he was unaware he was on track to set a record. I try not to think about records. I think it hurts your performance when you do. Instead, he gave kudos to the Tiger D for stopping Wisconsin on their last possession. Nothing made me happier than to see our defense hold them in the fourth quarter.

The '71 Tigers finished the regular season 8-3 to earn a trip to the Sun Bowl in el Paso, where they beat Iowa State 33-15.

Continued below ...
Tigers vs Badgers - II
Can the Roadrunner, that plucky little bird of the desert, find happiness in Death Valley?

Thus did Will Peneguy begin his Times-Picayune article the day Wisconsin played its only game ever in Baton Rouge.

  • The Roadrunner was the Badgers' 5'6" 195lb RB Rufus Ferguson, who had amassed 1,222y in 1971, including 97 against LSU in Madison. Wisconsin AD Elroy Hirsch pushed his star for the Heisman. If he isn't Heisman, I'll eat my shirt.
  • Ferguson averaged 159 total yards and just over 7y per carry in his first two games of 1972, both 31-7 victories over Northern Illinois and Syracuse.
  • The Tigers, led by their own Heisman candidate, QB Bert Jones, also sported a 2-0 mark with home victories over Pacific (31-13) and Texas A&M (42-17). The Ruston Rifle had completed 19 of 34 attempts for 287y and 5 TDs.
  • However, the LSU D had allowed 240y on the ground, not an alarming number but more than Charlie McClendon was accustomed to giving up.
  • The Badgers played an unusual 6-1 defense in which the outside linemen play more like LBs than ends.
  • The oddsmakers had installed LSU as a 24-point favorite.

69,142 (including yours truly) watched the defenses dominate the first half.

  • LSU could do nothing after receiving the opening kickoff. Rusty Jackson's punt against the gusty wind traveled only 34y to his 47.
  • Wisconsin tried to take advantage of the good field position. But a pass inside the LSU 25 and an apparent first down run by Ferguson were both wiped out because freshman T Dennis Lick moved prematurely on both plays. So they punted into the EZ.

Jones then engineered a seven-minute march for the only score in the first half.

  • Bert alternated Chris Dantin's slashing OT runs and sprints to the outside with sharp passing into the seams of the Badgers' zone coverage.
  • He converted four third-down calls including 17y and 13y passes to TE Chuck Williamson and the 17y scoring strike to SE Gerald Keigley.
  • Jackson's PAT made it 7-0 with only 4:54 left in the opening period.
  • Neither team developed much of a scoring threat the rest of the half. Paul Lyons, the waterbug who spelled Jones under C, led a short sortie to the Badger 39 before three incompletions killed the push.
  • Jones returned on the next possession to move from the Tiger 28 to the UW 44 but no further.
  • The halftime statistics showed LSU with an 80y edge in offense, 174-94.
LSU-Wisconsin Action 1
Gerald Keigley Takes Burt Jones's Scoring Pass
Both defenses continued to make the going rough for the offenses at the beginning of the second half.
  • The Chinese Bandits choked the Badgers after the kickoff, forcing a 30y punt from the 10 into the wind.
  • Dantin ate up 18y on four carrise. Then, on third-and-3 at the 22, Jones fired over the middle to Williamson but DB Dan Baron knocked the ball down.
  • So Jackson booted a 38y FG for a 10-0 lead with 11:59 on the clock.
  • The pattern repeated itself. Facing third-and-4 from the 23, QB Rudy Steiner tried to pass but John Wood and Pepper Rutland threw him for a 14y loss. Facing the wind again, Steiner punted to the 44.
  • LSU could move only 8y in three plays. So McClendon sent in long FG kicker Juan Roca to deliver from the 42. He boomed the ball between the uprights for a school record FG and a 13-0 lead with 8:20 left.
Steiner got the Badgers back into the game right away.
  • On the second snap after the kickoff, speedy WB Jeff Mack slipped out of the backfield on a delay pattern and streaked down the left side past DBs John Skaags and Dennis Rand.
  • Steiner delivered the ball to Mack in stride over the middle at the 40, and he outraced all pursuit for a 77y TD. Suddenly it was 13-7 with 6:03 left.
To make matters worse, LSU found itself on its own 6 after the kickoff.
  • But Lyons came in and ripped off gains of 12, 20, and 12 on keepers.
  • Paul, who had tormented the Badgers in '71, hit Keigley for 10 and a first down on third down.
  • However, after the Tigers reached the 19, Lyons lost 5 on a sweep. Jones came in and tried to pass but was thrown for a 10y loss on third down as the period ended.
  • Roca tried a 51-yarder but, against the wind, it fell short.

The Tiger D helped salvage points from the Lyons-led march.

  • The Bandits forced a punt, but Steiner managed only 26y to the Badger 47.
  • The highlight of the subsequent eight-play drive was Jones' 22y scamper to the 19 after a beautifully executed fake on the option.
  • Dantin toted the pigskin five times, the last carry producing the TD when he brust through two Badgers at the goal line. Jackson's conversion increased the lead to 20-7 with 10 minutes left.

With the defense continuing to smother the Badgers, the Tigers put the game on ice.

  • Lyons led another eight-play attack, this one covering 65y. Paul started with a 13y pass to Joe Fakier. Brad Davis ripped off 12 and 20y runs.
  • The TD came when Lyons hit TE Brad Boyd from the 5. Jackson's toe made it 27-7 with 4:18 left.
  • The only point of interest left was heralded sophomore QB Mike Miley's appearance for the Tigers.

The statistics accurately reflected the home team's dominance.

  • 23 first downs to just 7, 263y rushing to 86
  • 124-110y edge through the air although Jones and Lyons combined for only 11-of-25.
1972 LSU-Wisconsin Action-2
Tigers Upend Rufus Ferguson
The Roadrunner didn't get to beep, gaining just 63y in 17 carries with a long gain of only 8.

LSU's defense was quick, real quick. We had an occasional drive going but we never got it together like we should. ... LSU came ready to play and they do have a good football team. A real good one. The half-inch cleats on grass didn't affect me that much although the field was soggy. ... Sometimes you hit a stone wall and that's what happened to me tonight.

The Tigers would win their first seven games before losing to Alabama 35-21 on their way to a 9-2-1 season.



LSU QB Bert Jones
Bert Jones

LSU Kicker Rusty Jackson

LSU QB Paul Lyons
Paul Lyons



LSU DT John Wood
John Wood

LSU K Juan Roca
Juan Roca

LSU WR Joe Fakier
Joe Fakier

LSU RB Brad Davis
Brad Davis






Top of Page

Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - I

LSU QB Y.A. Tittle
Y. A. Tittle, LSU



Jack Tittle, Tulane, 1940
Jack Tittle, Tulane 1940










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Y.A. Tittle began his autobiography like this.

Football has been my life. My teachers used to say, "Y.A., if you don't quit looking out the window at those guys kicking the football you'll never amount to anything." In hindsight, not only do I disagree with them but I see football as the catalyst for my life's successes.

Yelberton Abraham Tittle grew up in Marshall TX 60 miles west of Shreveport.

  • One of his neighbors was Sammy Baugh, the Hall of Fame passer for TCU and the Washington Redskins.
  • As a boy, Y.A. spent hours in the back yard throwing a foot­ball at a tire swinging from a tree trunk because he had seen his idol Baugh do that in a newsreel.
  • Y.A.'s brother Jack, seven years his senior and a star at Marshall High School, showed the budding QB how to hold the ball and throw it. He tried teaching me other aspects of the game, but I somehow always got back to the subject of passing.
  • Nine-year-old Y.A. enlisted his brother Don, who was six, as his receiver. By sixth grade, Y.A. was the best passer in Mar­shall and looking forward to following in his brother's foot­steps in high school.
  • The only problem was that the Marshall junior high coach didn't believe in passing and stuck to the single wing, which was just starting to be replaced by the T-formation in college and pro ball.
  • In fact, the coach moved Tittle to cornerback. To my own sur­prise, I discovered that I really enjoyed driving my shoulder into a ball carrier and knocking him down. It was an incredible rush, but my desire to be a passing QB was still my first love.
  • Y.A.'s break came in ninth grade when a new coach took over who believed in throwing the football although he kept the single wing.

Meantime, the senior high also got a new coach, Otis Mitchell, who brought a winning attitude to a school that had been its league's doormat.

  • Y.A.'s dad urged his son to gain some weight. At 145 lbs, they will run right over you! You have got to be bigger, Y.A.!
  • So dad devised a diet of eggnog and milk that Y.A. con­sumed when he got home from school each day. Sometimes my stomach would feel like it was going to explode right there at the kitchen table.
  • When Y.A. reported to spring practice at a whopping 175 lb, his teammates called him "Fatty" and "Lard Butt." He still had his arm, but the extra pounds diminished his running ability.
  • Coach Mitchell utilized Tittle in the double-wing position as a FB and HB. Through no fault of my own, I was named the Mar­shall Mavericks' Most Valuable Player. The award was pre­sented by a local funeral home where his sister worked as a secretary.

By 1943, Y.A.'s senior year, Mitchell had developed the Mavericks into one of the best teams in east Texas.

  • With Y.A. at TB, Marshall went undefeated all the way to the state finals.
  • I want to emphasize that in 1943 I was blessed with what has to be the fastest high school backfield in Texas history. The other three placed first, second, and third in the 100y dash at the district meet. The team also boasted two fleet ends, giving Y.A. five great receivers.
  • Marshall threw the ball more than any other team in the state. Coach didn't believe in playing conservatively. We threw from our own end zone, from our own 10-yard line, on first down and on fourth down. ... I was completing 18 to 20 passes per game. It was great.
  • In a system far ahead of its time, especially at the high school level, the Mavericks threw short, quick passes to their speedy receivers.
  • Y.A. missed the final game of the regular season and the first playoff game with a knee injury. Despite having a wire splint on his leg, he persuaded the coach to let him play against Lufkin in the finals.
  • In hindsight maybe I shouldn't have played in that game, but when you are a 15-year-old QB playing in a championship game, it's pretty hard not to play.
  • Y.A. took the snap at TB and threw a quick pass before get­ting knocked down. With the wire splint on his leg, he had trouble getting up. Lufkin won 19-7.
  • Tittle earned a spot as one of the ten Texans on the 25th annual all-southern high school football squad selected from twelve states. Another member of the team was Bobby Layne from Highland Park in Dallas. Their paths would soon cross.

Needless to say, Tittle's exploits attracted the attention of nume­rous colleges.

Continued below ...

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football,
Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)
Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - II
Y.A. Tittle graduated from Marshall High School in June 1944, the month of D-Day.
  • He received interest from a number of colleges for two reasons, as he explains in his autobiography.

First of all, I weighed 185 pounds and could throw the hell out of the ball, and second, due to my continued asthmatic condition I would most likely qualify as a 4-F in the draft.

  • Y.A. received scholarship offers from five colleges in Texas - TCU, Texas A&M, Texas, Rice, and SMU, one from Tulsa, and two from Louisiana schools - Tulane, where his brother Jack had played, and LSU.
  • Some offers came via letter or phone call. In other cases, a recruiter visited Y.A.'s home.
  • He made several trips to Baton Rouge and liked head coach Bernie Moore. So in mid-May he signed an LSU grant-in-aid that included tuition, books, and room and board - the standard offer at the time.
  • Another reason he chose LSU was the fact that it was one of the few all-civilian schools in the southwest. Throughout most of the war, many of the colleges had service programs, which meant that the guys playing football were older and more experienced. My competition at LSU would be against other 17-year-old players.

But the plans of the 17-year-old small town boy nearly got waylaid.

Three days before reporting to LSU I did something really stupid ... I traveled to Austin, Texas, at the request of Myron Baylock, a UT recruiter. Every­thing happened so quickly that to this day I do not know what made me change my mind. The shame of violating my written and spoken agreement with Bernie Moore has been with me ever since. It happened a long time ago, but it still weighs heavily on my conscience.

  • Y.A. didn't know it at the time, but Coach Baylock was executing a plan to enroll Tittle in summer school, get him a part-time job, and keep him hidden from LSU until fall practice.
  • The plot might have worked were it not for another QB prospect who occupied the room next to Y.A.'s at Mrs. Poole's boarding house. That was Bobby Layne. As Y.A. says, Layne didn't know who I was, but I sure knew who he was. He was a star at Highland Park High School in Dallas. He was a first-team All-State QB.
  • For lack of a better term, let's just say that the Dallas boy was much more "worldly-wise" than the Marshall youth. I liked him a lot, but there was something about him that made me feel uncomfortable.
  • Still, Tittle had enough self-confidence to think he could compete with Bobby when practice started. He would still have to prove that he could throw a better ball than I could.

But it didn't take Y.A. long to realize that his rival just seemed to be heads above us all when it came to smarts.

  • When Tittle began his summer job at a sporting goods store with other recruits, he noticed that Layne didn't have to do any of the menial tasks. Also, Bobby pitched for a local semipro baseball team, which paid him extremely well.
  • The two QBs became good friends because of their competitiveness, racing each other shoeless in the street. Years later, when both played in the NFL, we'd sit down to have a few beers, and at some point the topic of conversation would always revert back to our days at Mrs. Poole's.

Within a few weeks, Y.A. regretted having gone to Austin. He felt like a fish out of water.

  • He told his mother, who called Coach Moore to inform him of her boy's situation. Bernie gave his line coach, Red Swanson, simple orders. Drive to Austin and don't come back without Tittle.
  • Y.A. was ready to go as soon as Red walked into Mrs. Poole's the next morning. But first Swanson wanted Tittle to call Longhorn coach Dana X. Bible to tell him he had changed his mind and was going to LSU.
  • Scared to death at the thought of talking to Bible (a sign of the youth's imma­turity), Y.A. tried to wiggle out of making the call, citing the fact that the coach wouldn't be in his office on a Sunday morning. But Red looked up Dana's home phone number. Y.A. dutifully went to a phone booth and dialed the number. To my relief, no one was at home.
  • No one at the boarding house knew that Tittle was gone, not even Layne.
  • On the way to Louisiana, Swanson stopped in Houston to pick up another re­cruit, Jim Cason, who would play alongside Tittle for four years at LSU and also be his teammate with the San Francisco 49ers. Jim was 16, even younger than Y.A. (Many states, including Texas, didn't have 8th grade at the time. So high school graduates were 16-17 rather than 17-18.)

Y.A. reflected on his Austin experience in his autobiography.

I have often wondered what would have happened if I had stayed at Texas in the summer of '44. Maybe pro football would never have heard of me, or per­haps Bobby Layne's career would have been altered. Maybe we would have eliminated each other with our competitiveness - who knows?

Fate seems to have a way of changing things, and my fate was Red Swan­son. He brought me to LSU and changed my life forever. Although my path and Bobby's path would cross many times over the next 20 years, I strongly believe that this was how it was meant to be.

Continued below ...

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football,
Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)

Y. A. Tittle, LSU
Y. A. Tittle

LSU Coach Bernie Moore
Bernie Moore






QB Bobby Layne
Bobby Layne




Jim Cason
Jim Cason




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Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - III


LSU QB Y. A. Tittle
Y. A. Tittle

Gene "Red" Knight
Gene "Red" Knight

LSU HB Ray Coates
Ray Coates

Alabama QB Harry Gilmer
Harry Gilmer

LSU QB Y. A. Tittle Passing
Tittle Jump Passing like Gilmer

Tulane HB Dub Jones
Tulane 1945 Yearbook photo


















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When Y.A. Tittle arrived at LSU for the 1944 season, wartime conditions prevailed in college football.
  • Because so many young men were in the military, eight SEC schools suspended their football programs in 1943.
  • Only four conference membes, LSU, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Tulane, fielded teams that year. LSU played the other three in '43, including Georgia twice to stitch together an eight-game schedule.
  • The Associated Press decided to include "service teams" in its weekly poll. These teams fell into two categories: squads from training bases, led by the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, which finished 8-2 and #6 in the final AP poll, and teams composed of participants in a Navy V-12 officer training program at a university, such as Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks, 9-1 and #2.
  • Many other navy training recruits played on their school's football team, such as Dub Jones, who played for LSU in 1942 and Tulane in 1943. The Tigers also lost sensational HB Alvin Dark to Southwestern Louisiana's naval program.
  • The army also conducted training programs at universities but would not allow its enlistees to participate in athletics at the school, which was the case at LSU.

The NCAA had changed some rules to accommodate the challenges that colleges faced in assembling football teams.

  • Freshmen could play varsity sports whereas before the war they had to sit out a year.
  • The transfer rule that required an athlete to sit out a year at his new school was waived for any players, like Jones and Dark, who were assigned to a different school as part of their military training.
  • As a result, a big opportunity opened for freshman like Y. A. Tittle, who describes the makeup of the LSU varsity when he arrived like this:

Most of the guys were my age, and the team was basically made up of freshmen and 4-Fs. I didn't have to compete against the older, more experienced guys like I would have if I had stayed in Austin. Don't get me wrong, though; there was definitely no shortage of talent at LSU in 1944. Besides Jim Cason and myself, there was Red Knight from Bossier City LA, who was a top runner and kicker and Ray Coates from Jesuit High School in New Orleans who was the finest high school tailback in the state.

Y. A. survived the grueling two-a-day preseason practices unlike anything he had endured in high school.

  • He dropped ten pounds and was in the best shape of his life when the season started.
  • A good showing in the first intrasquad game - he completed his first 12 passes - gained him a great deal of media attention (although one article referred to him as "A. Y. Tittle") and, more importantly, playing time at tailback in Coach Bernie Moore's single-wing attack.

Tittle started four of the eight games during which the Tigers compiled a 2-5-1 record. Two games stand out in his memory - the first and last.

  • Y. A. looked forward to playing Alabama in the opener because their TB, Harry Gilmer, was regarded as the finest forward passer in the nation.

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.

  • But with Tittle "right on target," the youthful Tigers tied Bama 27-27, which would turn out to be one of the major upsets of the college season.
  • His most outstanding game came in the annual finale against Tulane, his brother's alma mater, with his family in the stands. Bernie Moore's game plan stressing the passing game, and Y. A. rewarded his coach's faith in him by completing 15 of 17 for three TDs and 300y as the Tigers upended the older, bigger Green Wave 25-6. Fewer games have given me greater satisfaction, Tittle wrote in his autobiography.
1944 LSU-Tulane Game
Tittle runs against Tulane in Tiger Stadium
When he turned 18, he received his draft notice. But because of his asth­ma, the army classified him as 4-F, which embarrassed him. However, he felt better when Cason, Coates, and Knight all qualified for the exemption as well.

So Y. A. returned to Baton Rouge for his sophomore year to find a change in offensive philosophy.

1945 was the year of the T formation at Louisiana State, and it changed my life forever as a passer. My teammates and I had heard a lot about this "new" formation but had never seen it demonstrated.

  • Moore brought in a former NFL QB who played the T for the Chicago Bears in the 1930s to tutor his team. Bernie also sent two assistants to Notre Dame, which was also converting to the T.
  • After Stanford went undefeated in 1940 and won the Rose Bowl under T guru Clark Shaughnessy and the Bears clobbered the Redskins 73-0 in the NFL championship game that same year, coaches across the country began to investigate the formation. But World War II postponed imple­mentation other than at a few schools.
  • In deciding where to play his backs in the new formation, Moore said, as Y. A. recalls: "I guess there's no choice with Tittle. He can't run worth a darn and he can't block, so we've got to make him the QB. At least he can throw the ball pretty well." I was just happy that Bernie thought that much of me!
  • The Marshall gunslinger had to adjust to the T in several important ways. First, he had to learn to take the snap under C.

Next [Brumbaugh] lined us up in the T formation. We all felt awkward lined up that way. I had my hands under C Melvin Didier's crotch, and Cason, Knight, and Coates were in a straight line behind me. I had to look over my shoulder to see them. If that wasn't bad enough, I had the defensive middle guard glaring at me from the line. I thought he would run me over for sure.

  • Secondly, the T QB must drop back quickly to get into position to throw the ball. At first, Y. A. stumbled as he retreated from the C and then couldn't pick up his receivers. The single-wing formation allowed me to see everything that was going on right in front of me. The T had me going one way and everyone else the other.

With patience and lots of practice, Y. A. got the hang of it and had an excellent sophomore season. Read a story in which Tittle explains how the T formation of 1945 differs greatly from what we see today.

  • The opener again proved to be a memorable experience.

I remember our first game that year. It was against Rice, and we killed them. I sent Cason in motion to the left, and nobody even went out to cover him. The defense had no idea what was going on. The next play I sent Coates in motion to the right and, like Cason, he was uncovered. All I had to do was lob the ball to either one of them and off they went for the score. The defense never adjusted, and we went on to beat Rice 42-0. I had yet to become a polished T QB, but I was getting there. (Read an account of the game...)

  • Since Georgia was the only other SEC team that ran the T, LSU surprised most of its foes that season, also beating the Bulldogs 32-0, to compile a 7-2 record. One of the losses came at the hands of Rose Bowl-bound Alabama.
  • However, the Sugar Bowl ignored LSU and instead matched Oklahoma State against St. Mary's (CA).
  • Tittle played HB on defense, averaging 54 minutes per game. He joked in his autobiography: I also got to know my center, Melvin Didier, better with each game, but it wasn't until our annual awards dinner in January that I got to meet him face-to-face.

Continued below ...

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football,
Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)
Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - IV

With a year of T formation experience under his belt, Y. A. began his junior year in 1946 with great optimism.

  • The Tigers lost only one game, to Georgia Tech 26-7. Their only close win came against Rice, 7-6. They defeated Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Alabama, Miami (FL), Fordham, and Tulane by an average of 24 points per game.
  • As a result, they received an invitation to the Cotton Bowl which turned into the worst football weather that I had ever played in according to Tittle. The game that quickly became known as the Ice Bowl ended in a 0-0 tie even though LSU outgained Arkansas 271-54 and had a 15-1 edge in first downs.
  • Tittle received an unexpected visitor after the game.

As I sat in the locker room at the end of the game trying to thaw out, a man walked up to me and said, "Y.A., I'm Creighton Miller of the Cleveland Browns. I'd like to talk to you."
"Sure," I said. "What about?"
"The Cleveland Browns have drafted you, and we'd like you to sign with us," he said.
I was caught off guard with what Mr. Miller told me. I was still a ju­nior. I didn't understand what was going on. I knew nothing of how the professional draft worked, and it seemed to me that drafting a junior would be illegal.
"How can you sign me when I still have another year left?" I asked Mr. Miller.
Miller seemed puzzled by my question. "Well, maybe I'd better check into it," he said. "Anyway, you'll be hearing from us."
He shook my hand and exited the locker room. That was the last I saw of him - or heard from the Cleveland Browns organization until a year later when I became eligible for the pro draft.

1947 LSU Backfield
1947 LSU "4-F" Backfield: Dan Sandifer, Y. A. Tittle, Ray Coates, Jim Cason,
Rip Collins, Al Heroman - all but Heroman played pro ball.

Tittle had every reason to expect his senior year to be the Tigers best of his four years in Baton Rouge. But it didn't turn out that way.

I never understood why we did so poorly. We had a tremendous backfield with Cason, Coates, Sandifer, and Knight and a top offensive line with tackles Ray Collins, Ed Champagne, and Jeff Burkett.

  • But the season ended with a 5-3-1 record and no bowl invitation in that era when there were only five bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Sun, and Cotton).

The '47 season did provide Y. A. a memory he'd rather forget. Let him tell the story.

The ... game was played on November 1 at home. It was against Ole Miss , and the winner of that game would get a bowl bid. We ended up losing 20-18. I call this game the Belt-Buckle Game. Not only did we lose, but it turned out to be the most embarrassing incident of my entire football career. I lost my pants in front of 40,000 fans - one of whom was my fiancee, Minnette DeLoach.

While playing defense, I intercepted a pass from Ole Miss ' second-string QB. I was playing the left corner and timed the ball perfectly. I cut in front of the Mississippi receiver just as he was reaching for the ball. I grabbed the ball away from him but not before he tackled me around the middle and tore loose my belt buckle.

Back then football pants were not made of Lycra (hell, it wasn't even invented yet) and did not fit tight against the skin. They were some­what baggy and loose and needed a belt to hold them up.

I had taken only a few steps en route to scoring the winning touch­down when I realized that I was about to lose my pants. I couldn't stop to pull them up. The team needed the six points more than I needed to pull up my pants ...

I tucked the ball under my right arm and held on to my pants with my left hand. There was no one between the goal line and me. I re­member first crossing the 50-yard line, then the 40. I was on my way. I wasn't running that fast because, first of all, I'm not that fast to begin with, and second because it was hard to run while holding up my pants.

By the time I reached the 20, I had slowed down considerably. A couple of Mississippi defensive backs had a good angle on me, and I was hemmed in along the sideline.

As the nearest back made a grab for me, I tried to shift the ball from my right hand to my left so I could stiff-arm him. In the process, I completely forgot that my left hand was all that stood between me and total embarrassment.

As my pants began to slip off my hips, I managed to jog a few more steps as they slid down around my knees. I fell flat on my face, 10 yards away from the winning touchdown. The opposition never laid a finger on me. They didn't have to. I was taken out by my own pants!

I staggered to my feet, frantically trying to pull up my pants, but I fell again. By this time the entire fan base at Tiger Stadium was in an up­roar. Everyone was laughing - even my own teammates.

Coates, Cason, and Knight stumbled onto the field to shield me so I could pull up my pants. They continued to laugh uncontrollably.

Right after Y. A. walked off the field following a 6-6 tie with Tulane in his final game in New Orleans, the Browns scout reappeared.

  • Miller didn't even wait until Tittle reached the locker room but met him on the field and invited him to meet with him and other Cleveland scouts at the Roosevelt Hotel.
  • In the locker room, Y. A. asked Coach Moore for advice. Bernie told him to listen to what the Browns had to offer but not to sign anything until talking to him again.
  • At the meeting, Miller offered a contract for $8,000. When Y. A. told Moore the next day, Bernie told him he was worth more. They'll go higher.
  • Tittle told Miller when he called back that he hadn't made a decision yet. Creighton invited him to the All-America Football Conference Championship Game between the Browns and New York Yankees in New York.
  • So the LSU flinger flew to the Big Apple where he met Cleveland coach Paul Brown, who was cordial but not friendly.
  • The next day, Y. A. sat on the bench as the Browns won their second straight AAFC title. The youngster from Tyler TX saw up close how much bigger, faster, and smarter the pros were than collegians.
  • After the game, Brown upped the ante to $10,000 with a $2,000 bonus. I had no alternative but to sign. That was big money!
  • Tittle returned to LSU for his final semester and graduated in June 1948. A week later, he married his high school sweetheart, Minnette.

Tittle never played a down for the Cleveland Browns.

Continued below ...

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football,
Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)




1947 Cotton Bowl Program






















LSU QB Y. A. Tittle
Y. A. Tittle









LSU Coach Bernie Moore
Coach Bernie Moore







Cleveland Coach Paul Brown
Paul Brown

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Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - V

LSU QB Y. A. Tittle was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. But, as Y. A. says in his autobiography, Before I could even get one play in, I was traded from the best team in the league to the worst - the Baltimore Colts.

  • "The league" was the All-American Football Conference (AAFC), which the Browns had won in its first two seasons, 1946 and 1947.
  • The Colts had drafted Tittle's nemesis, Bobby Layne from Texas, but he elected to sign with the Chicago Bears of the more established NFL. Y. A. wonders:

    What would have become of me if Bobby had signed with the Colts? We would have been competing against each other as we did four years prior at the University of Texas. And what would have happened to me if I had stayed with Cleveland? I would have had to compete against Otto Graham - when he was in his prime! ... So I wasn't really disappointed when I received the letter from the Browns saying that I had been traded to Baltimore.

  • Tittle made a dazzling pro debut as the Colts crushed the New York Yankees 45-28 in Babe Ruth Stadium in Baltimore. He broke four AAFC records that day in going 11-for-20 for 346y and 5 TDs.
  • The Colts gave the mighty Browns, losing only 14-10 in horrific rainy, windy conditions at Lakefront Stadium in Cleveland.
  • Y. A. started 12 of the 14 games, completing 55.7% of his passes for 2,522y and 16 TDs. He led the AAFC with only 3.1% of his throws intercepted and in yards per attempt with 8.7 (both statistics not computed at the time) along with 15.7 yards per completion.
  • Under new coach Cecil Isbell, former Green Bay star QB, Baltimore finished 7-7, an improvement of 4.5 games from '47.
  • The Colts lost the Eastern Division playoff game to the Buffalo Bills, who were then clobbered by the Browns 49-7 to complete Cleveland's 15-0 season. Read about the Colts' playoff game.
  • Tittle won the AAFC Rookie of the Year Award.
1949 Baltimore Colts
1949 Baltimore Colts
Tittle is #63 in the middle of the photo.
The Colts looked forward to the '49 season but their hopes were quickly dashed.
  • Baltimore lost its first five games. After the fourth loss, to the lowly Chicago Hornets, President and GM Walter Driskill fired Isbell and replaced him with ... himself!
  • Tittle & Company won only one game the entire season, a 35-28 victory at Buffalo.
  • Without Isbell to mentor him, Tittle lost his confidence. Yet some of his personal numbers were still good: 51.2% completions for 2,209y. But he threw only 14 TD compared to 18 INTs.
  • The Colts Chairman of the Board announced after the season that the franchise had lost over $100,000. Something had to turn around, and fast.

With almost every team in both the NFL and AAFC losing money thanks to the escalating salaries caused by competition between the leagues to sign players, the owners agreed to a merger for 1950.

  • The Colts were one of three AAFC teams invited to join the NFL, the other two being the Browns and the San Francisco 49ers.
  • A new coach, Clem Crowe, didn't help improve the on-field results as Baltimore stumbled to another 1-11 train wreck.
  • Way over their heads in the NFL, the Colts lost to Los Angeles 70-27, Chicago Cardinals 55-13, New York Giants 55-20 and 51-14, and the Browns 31-0.
  • Y. A.: In my opinion, the group of players who reported to the Baltimore Colts training camp ... in the summer of 1950 might have constituted the worst professional football team in history, and regrettably I was one of them!

The final 51-14 drubbing by the Yankees not only ended the season but also the franchise.

  • The Colts owner threw in the towel. So the NFL disbanded the franchise.
  • All the Baltimore players were placed into the 1951 draft. 28 were selected, including Tittle. Let him explain.

I became a San Francisco 49er on the flip of a coin. ... The New York Giants had the bonus pick in 1951 - a practice since discontinued - and they selected Kyle Rote, an All-American HB out of Southern Methodist. ... The Chicago Bears were next, and they chose QB Bob Williams out of Notre Dame. ...
With San Francisco, Green Bay and Washington all having the same dismal 3-9 record the year before, a coin was flipped to determine which club would ick next. The coin was tossed into the air, and 49ers GM Lou "Lucky Lou" Spadia called out "Heads!"

The 49ers chose Tittle and turned his career around.

Continued below ...

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football,
Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)


Baltimore Colts QB Y. A. Tittle

Chicago Hornets-Baltimore Colts Program 1949

Browns-Colts Program 1949
Tittle on cover of Browns-Colts program

1950 Baltimore Colts Media Guide

1950 Colts-Steelers Program
Tittle on cover of 1950 Colts-Steelers preseason program

Top of Page

Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - VI

49ers QB Y. A. Tittle

49ers Coach Buck Shaw
Buck Shaw

49ers QB Frankie Albert
Frankie Albert

49ers E Gordy Soltau

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When Y. A. Tittle joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1951, he immediately liked his new owner, Tony Morabito, who quickly agreed on a contract for $13,500, a handsome salary.

  • Tittle was reunited with a teammate at LSU, DB Jim Cason, who had traveled to Baton Rouge with Y. A. in Coach Swanson's car to begin their college careers. Another former Tiger on the roster was T Ray Collins.
  • The 49ers, who had just completed their first year in the NFL after the merger with the AAFC, had improved their team considerably in the draft of players from the defunct Baltimore Colts' roster.
  • Y. A. quickly grew to like Coach Buck Shaw, who was well-organized and commanded respect without cursing his players.
  • Tittle believes the move to SF started him on the path to the Hall of Fame.
  • But Y. A. began the season on the sidelines as veteran Frankie Albert directed the team.

The seventh game of the campaign became what Tittle has called "the turning point in my career as a 49er."

  • The 49ers entered the game with the New York Yankees at Kezar Sta­dium with a 3-3 record.
  • With the 0-5-1 Yanks leading 14-12 in Q4, Shaw put in Tittle.
  • With less than a minute to play, he had no choice but to pass. Taking the snap at his 46, Y. A. scrambled to the right to avoid the blitz and fired a pass toward E Gordy Soltau breaking across the middle from the left.
  • Just as he released the ball, a defender leveled him. As I hit the ground I heard the crowd cheering. We had scored!
  • When Y. A. got to his feet, he congratulated Soltau. Nice going, Gordy. But then he noticed everyone shaking hands with flanker Pete Schaba­rum.
    What's going on? Y.A. asked Cason.
    You just won the ballgame for us, said Jim.
    Yeah, I know, but why is everyone congratulating Schabarum?
    Because he's the one who caught your pass.

    As Tittle says, I realized I had missed Soltau by a good two yards and the ball landed in Schabarum's hands. He caught it on the dead run and ran it right into the end zone for the score and the game!
    [Y. A.'s memory is confused. The pass to Schabarum moved the ball to the 7, from where Tittle hit Billy Wilson for the win on the next play.]

Tittle's success ignited a QB controversy in the Bay Area.

  • When the Niners faced the Yanks in NYC two weeks later, Tittle again went in late after the home team scored 10 quick points in Q4 to tie the game.
  • This time, pulling the iron out of the fire didn't go as planned.
    We marched down the field, and it seemed like we were going in for the score. I completed a pass to Soltau on the Yanks' 15, which would have been good range for a FG try. But Gordy lateraled the ball to Johnny Strzykalski as he was being tackled, and he fumbled the ball. The Yanks recovered and ran out the clock.

The next week, Y. A. sparked another victory.

  • He tossed two TD passes as the 49ers knocked the homestanding Lions out of first place, 20-10.
  • The following Sunday, Tittle split time with Albert in the 31-19 win over the Packers.
  • That put the 49ers in position to tie for the Western Conference champ­ionship if they beat Detroit at Kezar to finish the season and the Los Angeles Rams lost to Green Bay.
  • With the Lions leading 17-14 in Q4, rookie HB Joe Arenas returned a punt 51y to the 18. Five plays later, Tittle bootlegged around LE from the 1 untouched for the winning score with three minutes on the clock.
  • But the Rams didn't cooperate, defeating the hapless Pack 42-14 to capture the division by a half game. The tie to the lowly Yankees, who ended 1-9-2, cost the 49ers a shot at the title.

Y.A. compiled these stats in his first year with the Niners:

63-for-114 for 808y, 8 TD, 9 INT

Continued below...

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football,
Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)
Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - VII
Tittle started his second year with the 49ers in 1952 splitting time under C with veteran Frankie Albert.
  • Buck Shaw's alternation system didn't seem to bother the team as they reeled off five straight wins to start the season.
  • Included in the string were two against their chief division rival, Detroit.

The 49ers then hosted the Chicago Bears. Y. A. recalls that our entire season took a turn for the worse on one single play.

  • With his team leading 17-10 in Q4, Albert dropped back to punt in his own territory. When he took the snap, Frankie thought he saw daylight and took off for the first down but was stopped short.
  • The Bears scored quickly to tie the game, then won on a George Blanda 48y FG.
  • The 49ers lost four of the next five games to fall out of contention

Albert retired at the end of the season and joined the Canadian league, giving the QB spot to Tittle full-time.

  • San Francisco went 9-3, the best record in team history. Unfortunately, Detroit finished 10-2 to win the West in that era before wild cards made the playoffs.
  • Y. A. fondly remembers the second game of the season against the Los Angeles Rams at home. The 49ers trailed 30-28 with less than three minutes left and had the ball on their own 20. With the Rams secondary playing deep, Tittle hit HB Hugh McElhenny with a screen pass, and he went 71y to the 9. After three running plays burned up the clock, SF kicked a FG to win 31-30.
  • The game he'd most like to forget came the following week at Detroit. With the ball on the Lion 5, Tittle called a bootleg. As he crossed the goal line, one defender grabbed his arm and spun him around so that his face crunched into another Lion's knee. Y. A.'s cheekbone fractured in three places. He spent a week in a Detroit hospital where doctors removed 16 bone chips from his face. It would not be the last serious injury Tittle suffered while running the bootleg.
  • When he returned to action after missing just one game, he wore a special face mask.
  • Y.A. got the Rams again in the rematch when he threw the game-winning TD with 0:12 on the clock. He ranks the two Los Angeles games of '53 as the most thrilling games he ever played in.
1952 San Francisco 49ers
After the 49ers won all seven preseason games in '54, many writers picked them to win the NFL championship.
  • Unfortunately, the club was wracked by injuries that season, including several members of the "Million Dollar Backfield" of Tittle, McElhenny, Joe Perry, and John Henry Johnson, all of whom would win election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • Y. A. broke his left hand in the second game of the regular season but missed only one game.
  • Johnson went down with multiple injuries. Also lost were the two best LBs and the entire secondary.
  • It was amazing SF finished with a winning record, 7-4-1. Nevertheless, owner Tony Morabito fired head coach Buck Shaw.
 49ers Million Dollar Backfield 
San Francisco 49ers Million Dollar backfield: Y. A. Tittle,
Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny, and John Henry Johnson
New coach Red Strader was determined to rid the 49ers of their stigma as "the country club on the NFL."
  • Tittle summarized the change thus: "Football under Buck Shaw was fun; under Red Strader it was drudgery."
  • The increased discipline failed to produce results on the field. The Niners slumped to 4-8 in 1955, their worst season since 3-9 in '50.
  • Tittle led the league in two disparate categories. His 17 TD passes, the second most of his pro career to that point, topped the league, but so did his 28 interceptions, the second worst showing by an NFL QB in history.
  • Strader's death after the season saved Morabito the decision to fire him.
  • The choice of replacement pleased Tittle: Frankie Albert.
Tittle Passes vs Rams 1955 
Tittle passes against the Rams in 1955.

Continued below ...

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football, Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)
Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - VIII

At first, Y. A. Tittle was happy with the 49ers new coach for 1956, Frankie Albert.

  • Having alternated at QB several years with Frankie, Y.A. thought he would be a good mentor. Tittle also expected Frankie, known as somewhat of a riverboat gambler as a signal-caller, to allow him more freedom under C. Instead Albert, chose to call the plays from the sideline.
  • When the Niners lost four of their first five games, Albert replaced Y.A. with rookie Earl Morrall. By that time I didn't really care. Frankie insisted on sticking with the messenger system, and for the first time in my football career, my heart wasn't in the game.
    I may have been frustrated, but I was not a quitter. But then neither was I a good QB, because I did not have control of my team.
  • Following a loss to the Los Angeles Rams to run the record to a dismal 1-6, Albert pulled Tittle aside in the locker room and conceded that he may have been wrong in calling the plays from the sidelines. It's all yours from now on, Y.A.
  • The 49ers didn't lose another game, ending the season on a 4-0-1 run.
48ers-Browns Action 1956
Tittle (14) takes a tumble in a 1956 game against the Browns

With Y. A. in "control of my team," the 49ers nearly made the championship game in 1957.

  • The fans remember '57 as "The Year of the Alley Oop." That topic deserves its own article. Read it here ...
  • Tittle: The 49ers of 1957 were really a great team. Our record of 8-4 was good enough to tie Detroit for the Western Division championship. Every game was a nail-biter. In six of our eight wins, the victory margin was seven or less points. ... Most of these victories were accomplished on electrifying fourth-quarter comebacks.

The most memorable game of the season came October 25 when the Chicago Bears came to Kezar Stadium.

  • During the first half, 47-year-old founding owner Tony Morabito suffered a massive heart attack in his box at the stadium. He died just after receiving the last rites from a priest before he could be rushed to the hospital.
  • The 49ers trailed 17-7 when they learned of the death in the locker room at halftime.
    Needless to say, we were all in shock. Not only was Tony our boss, but he was also our friend. Morabito had remained the one constant throughout the series of coaching changes and player shake-ups. Some players fought back tears.
  • The Niners took out their grief on the Bears in the second half, shutting out the visitors while scoring two TDs for a 21-17 triumph.

The 49ers hosted the Lions in the conference playoff on December 22.

  • SF led 24-7 at the half and added a FG early in Q3 for a 20-point lead.
  • But the visitors shut them out the rest of the way. Behind QB Tobin Rote who replaced Bobby Layne, Detroit tallied four TDs for a devastating 31-27 win.
  • If anyone needed any convincing that the Western playoff was really the championship game, the Lions crushed the Cleveland Browns the next week 59-14.
  • Tittle took solace in winning the NFL Player of the Year award after completing a league-leading 63% of his passes for 2,157y and 13 TD.
49ers QB Y.A. Tittle 1960John Brodie 1957Tobin Rote 1957
L-R: Y. A. Tittle, John Brodie, Tobin Rote (against 49ers in playoff game)
Y.A. and the 49ers slumped in '58, finishing 6-6.
  • After Tittle had a poor preseason, Albert replaced the reigning Player of the Year with second-year pro John Brodie, an action that provoked outrage from the fan base. Y.A. found it ironic that Coach Albert now found himself on the other side of the same situation he had experienced as a player when he and Tittle took turns as the starter.
  • The season's nadir came at Los Angeles in Week Seven when the Rams clobbered the Niners 56-7 before 95,000 screaming fans.
  • When the 49ers lost the next week at Detroit, Albert told Vic Morabito, the late owner's brother who took over the team, that he couldn't take the criticism any more, especially when it involved his family. I'm through as soon as the season ends.
  • Albert's right hand man Red Hickey replaced him as coach for '58.
Morabito Brothers, 49ers owners49ers Coach Frankie Albert  49ers Coach Red Hickey
L-R: Tony Morabito, Vic Morabito, Frankie Albert, Red Hickey
Since Hickey, in his role as what today would be called the Offensive Coordinator, had really made the call to bench him at the start of the '58 season, Y.A. didn't look forward to playing for the new head man.
  • When I heard that Red had been named head coach, I felt that my days as a San Francisco 49er were numbered. Hickey was not my greatest fan, and I sensed that Brodie would soon become the team's No. 1 QB ...
  • Still, Red started the season with Tittle as his #1 guy.
    We won six of seven, and Hickey, whether he liked it or not, was at least smart enough to go with a winner. ... Despite the success of the team, I was not having a great season by any means.
  • I had completed less than 46 percent of my passes and was bothered by occasional dizzy spells. Doctors had discovered that I had Meniere's disease - a rare disturbance of the middle ear, which greatly affected my balance.
  • These dizzy spells usually occurred during the middle of the week, but luckily by Sunday they had subsided. Still, my passing game was off - missing guys in the open by either underthrowing or overthrowing them.
  • The turning point came in Game 8 at Wrigley Field against the Bears. The 49ers scored only 3 points in large measure because Tittle threw five INTs.
  • The following week, the Colts smashed not only the 49ers as a team but Y.A. individually, damaging the ligaments in his right knee. He was through for the season.
  • Brodie led a 21-20 victory at Cleveland the next week, but the Niners lost their last two to finish 7-5.

Hickey started the 1960 season with the same QB who finished '59, Brodie.

  • Y.A. recalls: San Francisco had lost four of its first eight games and trailed the Packers by three games in the Western Division race. My own personal situation was much the same and just as depressing. I was 34 years old, suffering from a groin injury that had failed to respond to treatment, and collecting splinters from riding the bench behind ... Brodie.
  • When Red took over in 1959, I began to lose faith in my ability. I could no longer use my skill, knowledge, or intelligence in play-calling because Red was now drawing up the game plans.
  • Before Game 9 at Baltimore, Hickey unveiled a "new offensive pattern" - the "shotgun." Today's fans know exactly what that means, but it was new-fangled in '60. The surprised Colts fell as Brodie led the offense to 30 points, their most of the season to that point.
  • The 49ers won two of the last three to salvage a winning season at 7-5.
  • Tittle: ... the shotgun formation was the talk of the football world. The media called it a revolutionary form of attack. The offensive procedure was not really new, but Hickey's version apparently caught everyone's attention, and it was an overnight sensation.
  • ... the shotgun had instilled new hope for San Francisco's future. Unfortunately, it did nothing for my future with the 49ers.

He didn't think so at the time but, during the off-season, the Niners did Y.A. a huge favor by trading him to the New York Giants.

Continued below...

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football, Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)
Tiger Profile – Y. A. Tittle - IX

Y.A. Tittle on Cover of Sports Illustrated
Y.A. Tittle 1961

Giants QB Charles Conerly

1961 NFL Championship Game Program

If Y. A. Tittle's career had ended after the 1960 season, he would be remembered as a solid QB but not a Hall of Famer.

  • His Baltimore Colts and San Francisco 49ers teams compiled a record of 46-39-2 in games he started.
  • He led his leagues in completions twice, completion % once, and TD passes once but also topped all QBs in INTs twice.
  • The one playoff game in which he participated, the Western Conference playoff in 1957, he lost 31-27.

In the spring of 1961, the 49ers announced they would go with the shotgun offense for the coming season.

  • When they followed up by drafting All-American TB Billy Kilmer from UCLA, Tittle knew his days by the Bay were numbered.
  • At times he thought, The hell with it. Quit this damned game. You have been at it too long anyway. But then another voice within him would say, Come back for an­other year and show them you're still a good QB. Don't let them shotgun you out of football!
  • One day he ran into Crazylegs Hirsch on the golf course. The former Rams All­Pro WR who was now their GM asked Y.A. if he's be interested in playing in L.A.. Tittle's response was that he would move to another team as long as it wasn't on the opposite coast. In particular, he insisted, I'll never play in New York ... I'll quit if they send me back east!
  • As training camp drew near with no report of a trade, Tittle made up his mind to get into the best shape of his life so that, if he had to compete for the starting job in SF or LA, he'd be ready.
  • After one exhibition game, coach Red Hickey called Y.A. into his office and told him he had been traded to the Giants for Lou Cordileone. Who the hell is Lou Cordileone? was Tittle's first reaction, upset that (a) he'd traded to the East Coast and (b) the 49ers didn't even get a name ballplayer for him.

Tittle had to decide whether to accept the trade or quit - his only options in that era before free agency.

  • After consulting with his wife, Y.A. decided to report to the Giants.
  • When NY coach Allie Sherman called him, Tittle asked if he was just an insur­ance QB in case starter Charley Conerly got hurt or would he get a chance to play? I didn't trade for you so you could sit on the bench, was Allie's response - exactly what Y.A. wanted to hear.
  • Even though Tittle played against Conerly in college and entered pro football in the same year, 1948, Charley was five years older than Y.A. Military service had delayed Conerly's career at Ole Miss.
  • So Sherman needed someone to spell their 39-year-old veteran during games and during the inevitable periods when he hurt.

So Tittle reported to the Giants' training camp in Oregon.

  • He started slowly as he learned a new offensive system almost exactly the op­posite of what he used in SF.
  • Unfortunately, he was hurt on the very first play of his first exhibition game with his new team. He suffered broken transverse processes in his back when hit by two defenders. The prognosis was that he would be out at least the rest of the preseason.

Tittle made his regular season debut in the second game against the Steelers.

  • Conerly was clobbered by two linemen in Q3. (NFL rules didn't protect QBs nearly as well then as they do today.)
  • Given a 10-7 lead, Y.A. made the most of his opportunity, completing 10-of-12 for 123y, 1 TD, 0 INT, to complete the 17-14 victory.
  • Tittle started 10 of the remaining 11 games, compiling an 8-1-1 mark (to apply a statistic not yet carried over from baseball at the time) as the Giants won the Eastern Division.
  • New York traveled to Green Bay for the championship game but were clobbered 37-0 by Vince Lombardi's emerging powerhouse. Y.A. had a miserable, cold afternoon, completing only 6-of-20 for 65y and throwing 4 INTs.
  • Despite the disappointing ending, Tittle wrote this in his autobiography: ... the 1961 season ... gave me my greatest thrill in football. Personally, I don't think it was my finest season ... but this was definitely the most satisfying season because so many people ... had written me off.
  • By vote of the players, Tittle won the Jim Thorpe Award as the NFL MVP and also made the AP and UPI All-Pro teams. He participated in his fifth Pro Bowl.
Y.A. Tittle: Giants vs. Browns
Tittle against the Cleveland Browns at Yankee Stadium

1962 NFL Championship Game Program

Conerly retired after the '61 season, leaving Y.A. in sole charge of the offense.
  • HB/WR Kyle Rote also retired, but that blow was softened by the return of Frank Gifford, who had missed the entire 1961 season after a devastating forearm tackle by Chuck Bednarik midway through the '60 campaign.
  • The Giants repeated as East champions with a 12-2 mark. Tittle started every game and threw for 3,224y and 33 TD, a league record, to again make 1st-team All-Pro
  • On October 28, 1962, Y.A. had his best day ever as a pro. He threw seven TD passes to tie Sid Luckman's NFL mark.
  • The Giants ran head-on into the Packers again but this time at Yankee Stadium. The conditions were even worse than in Wisconsin the year before - 17° with wind gusting to 40 mph.
  • With the weather negating both teams' passing games, the fray resembled 1920s football. Y.A.'s fellow LSU alumnus, Jimmy Taylor, ran 31 times to lead Green Bay's 16-7 triumph.
  1962 NFL Championship Game
Tittle passes against Packers in '62 championship game.
1963 NFL Championship Game Program
Tittle returned to help engineer another successful season in 1963.
  • The Giants were one game worse than '62, 11-3, but that was still good enough to capture the East for the third straight season.
  • At age 37, Y.A. started every game, breaking the 3,000y mark in passing yards again and outdoing his previous record with 36 TDs.
  • This time the championship game opponent was the Bears, who took advantage of Paul Hornung's year-long suspension for gambling to upend Green Bay for the West crown.
  • In weather conditions better than the previous two years but still cold, Chicago trailed at the half 10-7 but shut out the Giants in the final 30 minutes to again thwart Tittle's title hopes, 14-10.
  • Y.A. completed only 11 of 29 tosses for 147y, 1 TD, and 5 INTs. He suffered a badly injured knee in Q2 when he threw a TD pass to Del Shofner. After getting a deadening shot in the knee, Tittle couldn't plant and throw with authority. He also had to backpedal to get into position to pass, which slowed down the timing.
  • So Y.A. wasn't able to stop the cries of "Can't win the big one."
John Baker smashes Y.A. Tittle.
John Baker smashes Tittle.
Tittle Bloodied
Y.A. after the hit
Y.A. Tittle at HOF Induction
Tittle at his HOF induction
1963 NFL Championship Game
Tittle in 1963 NFL Championship Game
As often happens to successful teams, the Giants had become aged. So Sherman started a rebulding movement in 1964.
  • The effect was precipitous: from 11-3 to 2-10-2, from 1st in the East to 7th (last). The record was the worst in Giants history.
  • The season came to be summarized by a famous picture taken of Y.A. in the second game of the year against Pittsburgh. 270 lb DE John Baker blindsided Tittle, leaving him literally bloodied and bowed. He suffered a crushed cartilage in his ribs, a cracked sternum, and a concussion.
  • He missed three games that season and threw for only 1,728y. His TD passes shrank to 10 and INTs jumped to 22.

A few weeks after the season, Y.A. announced his retirement at age 38. That same day, another press conference was held in Manhattan to introduce the Jets new QB, Joe Namath.

Yelberton Abraham Tittle won election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. If he had quit instead of reporting to the Giants in 1961, he would never have experienced the greatest thrill of my life as he called his Canton induction.

References: Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football,
Y. A. Tittle with Kristine Setting Clark (2009)