Most of the following is adapted from a blog originally published on TSN on September 13, 2009. When details of a recent LSU season are not mentioned, this is because LSU played multiple Pac-10/current Pac-12 opponents in a season (1976, 1977, 1979, and 1984). In 2013, I discovered box scores and detailed game results for old LSU games, so I added summaries of those for a few select close games.
I’ll start with Washington since that’s the team LSU played last week, then I’ll go in alphabetical order for the Pac-10 teams, followed by the new Pac-12 teams. Washington was the seventh game against a Pac-10/Pac-12 team for LSU in the past 10 seasons (2003 to present). All of them were the first major-conference opponent of the respective seasons for LSU. The game last week was only the third between the Huskies and Tigers.
In the first meeting, LSU’s second home game in 1983, LSU broke a record for attendance at Tiger Stadium and beat the 9th-ranked Huskies, 40-14. LSU would only win 2 subsequent games on the season, finishing 4-7. That season, combined with a 1-3 end to the previous season, cost head coach Jerry Stovall his job. Washington finished 8-4.
Many of you probably remember the second meeting between the two, in 2009. LSU was ranked #11 going in, so many found the final score underwhelming in light of the Huskies’ 0-12 season the year before. Meanwhile, LSU had its most losses since 2002 in the prior year. The Tigers only won by 8, but it was only that close because Washington had scored as time expired. There was also a point earlier in the fourth quarter where the Huskies closed to within 8 with a field goal. Washington’s game-ending touchdown had been the first since its opening drive.
Washington would lose three subsequent games by even fewer points (one of those in OT) and would barely miss bowl-eligibility after a 5-7 campaign. LSU would finish 9-4 (only one game better than 2008) after losing to Penn St. in the CapitalOne Bowl.
LSU is 3-0 against Arizona. The first game, in 1984 (see USC for more details on that season) was close, with LSU winning 27-26. Arizona would finish 7-4 but failed to make a bowl game. It wasn’t quite as exciting as the score indicated. LSU scored twice in 1:40 to take the lead 27-20 in the third quarter, the second score by Dalton Hilliard (who rushed for 145 yards in the game) with about 10 minutes left in the quarter. The Wildcats kicked one field goad (a 50-yarder) later in the third quarter and, strangely, another on fourth and five in the fourth quarter with about 3 minutes left. Arizona did get the ball back (after electing NOT to try an on-sides kick), but they went nowhere and turned the ball over on downs. The Tigers easily outpaced the Wildcats in first downs and total yards on the game.
LSU blew out Arizona in both games in the last decade, with LSU winning 59-13 in Tucson in 2003 and 45-3 in Baton Rouge in 2006. The 2003 game was the first time LSU had played a Pac-10 team since 1984, when the Tigers played Arizona and USC in consecutive weeks. LSU would win the BCS national championship in 2003 and the Sugar Bowl in 2006 (finishing 11-2 after 7 straight victories to close out the year). Arizona finished 2-10 in 2003 and 6-6 in 2006.
The only game against Arizona St. was in 2005. Some call it the Katrina Game. LSU’s original opening-game opponent that year was North Texas, whom the Tigers played on schedule this season after another hurricane passed through Louisiana almost 7 years to the day. In 2005, however, that game was canceled in anticipation. ASU was supposed to have been the first game of a home and home in Baton Rouge, but with the LSU campus playing a large role in shelter and triage in the week after Katrina (the game was less than two weeks afterward), it was moved to Tempe, and Arizona St. donated the profits to hurricane relief, so it didn’t count toward the home and home, which was moved to 2015-16. 2015 is the next game LSU is scheduled to play against a Pac-12 opponent.
LSU (led by JaMarcus Russell and Joseph Addai) won an exciting back-and-forth game, 35-31, after Early Doucet scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 39-yard pass with 1:13 left in the game. Sam Keller of ASU threw 4 touchdowns in the loss. Arizona St. out-gained LSU 560-434, but the Tigers (in the first game with Les Miles at the helm) converted all three fourth-down-conversion attempts and blocked a field goal, returning it for a touchdown. 28 of the Tigers’ points were scored in the fourth quarter.
Before the game last year, LSU was 2-1 against Oregon, all in Baton Rouge, but that series was last played in 1977, which LSU won 56-17 (Oregon would finish 2-9). The two teams traded wins in the 1930s.
Last year was a match-up of preseason top-5 teams and neither one was a dud. LSU didn’t show up well in the BCS Championship game, but that was after an impressive 13-0 showing in prior games. After following the LSU game with a 9-game winning streak, Oregon’s only other loss last season was to USC by three points. The Ducks went on to win the Rose Bowl.
As to the actual game action, LSU had the opening score (a field goal) after only a 12-yard drive. The Tigers continued to struggled on offense, but Tyran Matthieu provided the Tigers’ first touchdown to put them on top 9-6. Oregon had taken a 13-9 lead with 5 minutes to go in the first half, but then the Tigers scored 24 consecutive points. LSU led 16-13 at halftime and 30-13 after 3 quarters. 13 points (the final margin) is the closest the Ducks would get in the 4th quarter.
LSU beat Oregon St. all four times, all in Baton Rouge. Two of the games were close: 1981 and 2004.
In 1981, LSU won 27-24. After 50 minutes or so of a somewhat conventional defensive game where no team scored more than 10 consecutive points, the two teams were tied at 17. Then LSU recovered a Beaver fumble at the OSU 37. This resulted in a short field goal with 6:13 remaining. Oregon St. was undaunted and drove 78 yards in five plays to take a 24-20 lead. As we might say now, they scored too soon. The Tigers were more methodical but did not face a third down until a 3rd and 1 at the OSU 2. LSU scored on that play, leaving the Beavers with just 55 seconds on the clock. After four quick downs, the Tigers got the ball back and ran out the clock. That season, LSU finished 3-7-1, its worst season since 1956. The Tigers would not do so poorly again for another 11 years. Oregon St. had won in Week 1 of that season but would not win again, finishing 1-10.
Winning LSU teams beat similarly bad Oregon St. teams in both 1976 and 1982.
In 2004, Oregon St. was the first team to visit Tiger Stadium after the Tigers won their first national championship since 1958. But the Beavers got the crowd out of it early– shutting out the Tigers in the first half, 9-0–and led by 8 after three quarters. The reason they didn’t lead by 9 after the teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter is the same reason they didn’t lead by 10 to begin with: Alexis Serna missed the extra point. LSU tied the game in the fourth quarter with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. So it went to overtime, when the two teams exchanged touchdowns, and surprise, Serna missed yet another extra point, and LSU won, 22-21. The game wasn’t without blown opportunities for LSU though, which included having the ball at the Oregon St. 2 late in the fourth quarter and failing to score. LSU would finish Nick Saban’s final season at 9-3, and Oregon St. would finish 7-5.
LSU played Stanford in 1977, losing the Sun Bowl, 24-14. It was LSU’s first bowl game in four seasons and Stanford’s first bowl game since the 1971 season. The Tigers were shut out in the second half after leading 14-10 at halftime. Both teams had entered the game at 8-3. Stanford had a winning season every year from 1968 to 1978. The game took place during a relative lull in LSU’s successes. Although they had their share of winning seasons, LSU lost at least three games every year from 1973 to 1984, the longest such time period since World War II.
Finally, LSU and USC played a home and home in 1979 and 1984. The road team won both games. LSU would only finish 7-5 in legendary coach Charles McClendon’s (137-59-7 in 18 seasons) last season in 1979. USC entered the game on an 11-game winning streak after sharing the national title with Alabama in 1978 and was still ranked #1. They won 17-12. LSU’s rank actually improved from 20th to 17th the next week despite the loss. USC went 28-0-2 between Oct. 14, 1978 and Nov. 15, 1980. (The tie in 1979 kept USC from repeating, and Alabama would finish undefeated.)
In 1984, LSU beat 15th-ranked USC on the road 23-3. That was the fifth game LSU played against a Pac-10 team in four seasons. LSU lost only one SEC game that year, 16-14 on the road against Mississippi St., but lost to Notre Dame at home and lost to Nebraska in that Sugar Bowl. USC, which did not lose again until 7 weeks later, would beat Ohio St. in the Rose Bowl, finishing 9-3.
The first meeting was in the Orange Bowl after the 1961 season. Colorado had finished the Big 8 undefeated but was not in the national-championship race due to a loss to Utah.
LSU had also finished undefeated in the SEC but had a non-conference loss to Rice to open the year. The Tigers went to the Orange Bowl rather than the Sugar Bowl because Alabama also finished undefeated in the SEC. The Tide just didn’t have any other losses. Impressively, Alabama didn’t allow any opponent to score more than 7 points. So LSU likely would not have won a national championship anyway, at least not without going through the Tide to do it.
Even though LSU beat the Buffaloes, 25-7, they lost a spot in the final rankings to Texas (I suppose because the Longhorns beat Rice and Arkansas, who acquitted itself well in losing the Sugar Bowl) and finished 4th.
Unfortunately, the quality of the games in the LSU-CU series went downhill from there.
Both would have respectable teams in 1971 but lost two games apiece outside of the contest instead of 1. Colorado beat AP #9 LSU in the first game of the season, 31-21, in Tiger Stadium. I tried to find more details about this game, but I was unsuccessful.
Colorado would play LSU four more times, between 1973 to 1980, inclusive, but had losing seasons all four times. The most interesting was in 1980 when LSU only prevailed by 3 points. The Tigers roared out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter, but the Buffaloes hung around. After Colorado touchdowns in the second, third, and fourth quarters, the game was tied with under three minutes left. LSU then punted, giving the Buffs a chance to win or tie in the final 80 seconds. They did neither, as on first down the Colorado QB nearly threw a touchdown pass to the wrong team. The Tigers then fumbled on their first down but recovered and eventually kicked a 17-yard field goal. That was no guarantee, as each team had missed an extra point earlier in the game. Colorado would finish 1-10, and LSU would finish 7-4 (when such teams couldn’t count on going to bowl games). The one team Colorado did beat that year was Iowa St., who themselves finished with a winning record.
The prior year, 1979, LSU was similarly above average, and Colorado was almost as bad (finishing 3-8), but LSU had won, 44-0. The 1979 game ironically was the only one played in Boulder.
The 1973 game was unremarkable all around as LSU won 17-6. LSU would finish 9-3 and Colorado 5-6 (after a 4-game losing streak to end the season). Colorado finished the same in 1974 but lost 42-14 to an LSU team that would finish 5-5-1.
LSU played Utah during the same decade as the regular-season match-ups that LSU had with Colorado. Utah finished 1-10 in 1974 and lost to LSU, 35-10. Utah finished 3-8 in 1976 and lost to LSU (who would finish 6-4-1), 35-7. The only thing odd was that second game was played after the respective rivalry games as kind of a post-Thanksgiving bowl game. Neither played in an actual bowl game of course. Both of these games were played in Tiger Stadium.
LSU has won 12 consecutive games played against the former Pac-10, dating back to the 1981 win over Oregon St., and is 15-3 overall.
If we add in the new Pac-12 teams, LSU has won 13 straight going back to 1980 (Colorado) and is 22-4 overall. The losses took place in 1932 (Oregon), 1971 (Colorado), 1977 (Stanford), and 1979 (USC).
I mentioned 2003 as the beginning of the recent spate of Pac-10/Pac-12 games. Incidentally, LSU hasn’t lost a regular-season game to any other team outside of the SEC during that time either.