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Posts Tagged ‘1958’

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Tennessee

In College Football, General LSU, Rivalry on October 15, 2011 at 10:53 PM

I’m not sure what happened here. Some of this blog apparently got deleted. I’m working on adding more information so this conforms a little better to the rest of the series.

Overall records (updated after 2017 game)

Tennessee now leads the overall series, 20-10-3.
Tennessee leads in Knoxville, 11-4-1.
Tennessee leads in Baton Rouge, 8-4-2.
LSU leads 2-0 in Atlanta (SEC Championships in 2001 and 2007).
Tennessee leads 1-0 in Houston (the 1972 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl).

Longest winning. unbeaten streaks
Tennessee: winning streak, 10 (from 1934 to 1959); unbeaten streak, 13 (from 1934 to 1972).
LSU: winning streak, 5 (2006 to present).

Home/away streaks
UT @ LSU: 5, 1939-1952; unbeaten, 6, 1939-1964
LSU @ UT: 3, 2006-2017
UT at home: 9, 1934-1983; unbeaten, 10, 1925-1983
LSU at home: None

Biggest wins
Tennessee’s biggest win in the series was 28-0 in 1940.
LSU’s biggest win in the series was 38-7 in 2011, and that was the most points LSU scored in regulation in a win. LSU’s previous best win (and previous most points scored in regulation) was a 34-9 win, also in Knoxville, in 1988, the Tigers’ first win there.
(LSU’s only shutout win over Tennessee was 7-0 in 1933.)

Two of the three highest winning point totals overall were both in very close games. The 2000 overtime game (38) was LSU’s highest point total in a win, and Tennessee’s highest point total was in a 45-39 win in 1989. LSU tied the total of 38 in regulation in 2011.

In the 24 games between 1925 and 1993, LSU had only 3 wins and 3 ties against Tennessee. The teams did not play for the following 6 seasons, but since there has been more consistent play between the two (2000-2011), LSU has won 6 times in 8 games.

Results and narrative from 2000 to present:

2000—Baton Rouge–LSU, 38-31 (OT)
2001—Knoxville–Tennessee, 26-18
2001—Atlanta–LSU, 31-20
2005—Baton Rouge–Tennessee, 30-27 (OT)
2006—Knoxville–LSU, 28-24
2007—Atlanta–LSU, 21-14
2010—Baton Rouge–LSU, 16-14
2011—Knoxville-LSU, 38-7
2017—Knoxville-LSU, 30-10

Please see this blog for videos. I didn’t want to paste them all below.

Although it was for a stretch there, this series isn’t generally played often, but there have certainly been some memorable games even going back to Nick Saban’s first season at LSU.

One of the defining games of that first season was an overtime win over #11 Tennessee. LSU really needed a win after losing by 17 on the road against a ranked Auburn team and then coming home and suffering an upset to UAB. If LSU loses that game for a third consecutive loss going into the Florida game, things would have looked pretty bleak. At the time, it was only LSU’s fourth win over the Vols in history (in 25 games).

So even though they got blown out by Florida anyway, I still think that Tennessee win was very helpful to the team going forward. After Florida, the Tigers won four in a row, becoming bowl eligible for only the fourth time in 12 seasons.

The end of the game was interesting. LSU had a 46-yard field-goal attempt blocked, leading to the overtime period. The Tigers scored a touchdown on their first play in overtime. After two plays of their possession, Tennessee had the ball at the LSU 11 with a first down. On second down, the Vols advanced the ball to the LSU 4, but the Tiger defense held, giving LSU the win after two incomplete passes.

There was a fairly close loss in early 2001 at Tennessee, but LSU once again didn’t start out that season well and Tennessee was in the top 10.

Tennessee was poised to go to the national championship game when they (surprisingly) met the Tigers again in the SEC Championship game. I say surprisingly because LSU started SEC play 2-3. The Tigers were not intimidated though. After facing an early 17-7 deficit, they would outscore the Volunteers 21-3 in the second half, finally putting the game out of reach with a touchdown to go up 11 with just over two minutes remaining.

Les Miles’ first home game was actually a loss to Tennessee. It didn’t really inspire a lot of confidence, I have to say. LSU got out to a 21-point lead (seemingly picking up where they had left off in 2001) and then it seemed they were trying to coast to victory. They knocked out the Tennessee starting QB, which seemed like a good thing at the time, but it wasn’t. The Tigers managed only three more points before losing in OT. LSU transfer Rick Clausen came off the bench to lead a second-half comeback to finally win a game in Tiger Stadium. (He did start one game for LSU that the Tigers eventually won, but he was removed from that game after a poor first quarter.)

In 2006, LSU got revenge by winning with a touchdown in the final seconds at Tennessee. After another somewhat exciting SEC title game in 2007 (again won by LSU), the Vols’ next trip to Tiger Stadium appeared to be a win just like the last one had been…

When I saw the snap in the waning seconds of the LSU @ Tennessee game in 2010, I turned off my television in disgust. After angrily pacing around and grabbing some refreshment (I do not recall if it was an alcoholic one), I turned the TV back on in time to see what appeared to be an emotional Tennessee player, but he didn’t seem happy. Then I saw what seemed to be a replay of an LSU touchdown.

Not from the game I saw. The only LSU touchdown in the game I saw was a long run from about midfield by LSU QB Jordan Jefferson. At some point I saw the score. I wear glasses, so I questioned whether the “6” I saw was really a 6 or whether it was the “0” I had seen when I was turning the TV off.

This video is the first time I saw the whole thing. In the video, I also noticed for the first time the LSU band was playing the fan-favorite song Neck after the game ended. (When this song is played, the fans say something you can’t quite make out in the video… let’s just say it’s not suitable to type out here.)

Even if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, after the errant snap I mentioned, you can see Derek Dooley apparently trying to get off the field and take his team with him. Curiously though, the officials (often the first people off the field) hung around. More than a minute elapsed before there was any suggestion that there might be another play. Another 30 seconds later, and the call was finally made. Illegal participation on Tennessee. When the announcers count them, there were 13 Tennessee players.

Dooley’s explanation of events is possibly even more fascinating. He mentions that CBS was trying to interview him and he was glad he didn’t do that.

Incidentally, Dooley had given LSU just about all they could handle as the head coach of Louisiana Tech the season before. The Bulldogs only lost to the #9 Tigers by 8 points. That’s one reason I always sort of defended him, but he did seem out of his depth in other SEC venues at times.

Back to the end of the game, I understand at this point that Miles had lost communication with the press box. Miles had retrieved his headset, but I guess Gary Crowton, who was then the offensive coordinator, was on his way downstairs. I don’t think coaches normally hang around a press box when a game appears to be over. Anyway, the way Miles discusses it, he made the play call himself. The next snap was not made until nearly three minutes after the previous one.

This was Les’s rambling after the game. Unlike Dooley, he doesn’t get around to describing the end of the game until about 3:45.

He was responsible for the final play call (the successful one) but didn’t have a good answer as to why so many seconds ticked off the clock before the illegal participation.

One of the reporters mentions toward the end that LSU had a lot more yards than Tennessee but (obviously) had trouble turning yards into points and also committed four turnovers. Sounds familiar.

LSU blew out Tennessee the following year in Knoxville, and the two have not played one another since. It’s unclear when they will play again, but no sooner than 2016 (unless somehow Tennessee and LSU both make the SEC championship game or the same bowl/playoff game next season).

Comments after the 2011 game, including discussion of prior history

Looks like it’s time for the next game between the two to be in Atlanta. I’m not sure how the addition of Texas A&M might alter things, but if the same rotation is maintained, the next regular-season game in this series would be in 2015 in Baton Rouge.

Today’s game ended a streak of 4 straight games in the series that were decided by one possession, and the winning score in three of those four had come with 9 seconds or fewer on the clock.

Speaking of close games, I also wanted to add a note about another game that was extremely close, the 14-13 Tennessee win in Knoxville in 1959. LSU had won 19 games in a row. This included 11 the year before when the Tigers their first major-poll national championship and the only one LSU would have until 2003 (and only AP poll title until 2007).

In the previous week, #1 LSU had knocked off #3 Ole Miss, 7-3, in Billy Cannon’s famous punt return. I found this highlight video. Skip to about 1:45 if you want to see the punt return.

Anyway, strong defense was much more the norm back then, and once again, LSU had to take advantage of one of its few opportunities for points, and once again, the man the Tigers relied on was Billy Cannon, who would win the 1959 Heisman Trophy. When LSU scored what could have been the tying touchdown early in the 4th quarter, they chose to go for two points and give the ball to Cannon. I could not find the video, but if you watched the game today, they showed the stop by Tennessee. Tennessee had nothing but let-down after the game, losing their next three to finish 5-4-1. LSU’s second loss of the season would come in a Sugar Bowl rematch against Ole Miss.

This is a summary by the Knoxville News Sentinel of the 1959 LSU-Tennessee game.

Today was LSU’s first trip to Knoxville as the #1 team since then. (LSU had never been #1 in the AP poll before 1958). Tennessee has only beaten a #1 team one other time, in 1985 against Bo Jackson’s Auburn Tigers, also in Knoxville. Today’s game was one of 9 losses to a #1 team.

The only time I can find that Tennessee was #1 when playing LSU was 1939 in Baton Rouge. The Vols won, 20-0, and would finish the regular season not only undefeated but without having given up a point. However, for some unknown reason, Texas A&M took over the #1 spot two weeks later and ended up winning the AP poll for that year. After the final poll, #2 Tennessee was finally scored upon by USC in the Rose Bowl. The #3 Trojans won, 14-0, to finish 8-0-2. Tennessee finished 10-1, and LSU finished 4-5. Texas A&M would win the Sugar Bowl over #5 Tulane to finish 11-0. #4 Cornell also finished undefeated and untied that year, so Tennessee may have lost #1 simply because of jockeying between the voters for the four top-5 undefeated teams before the bowls.

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Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Alabama

In Rivalry on November 14, 2010 at 1:11 AM
Bear-Bryant-Mike-the-Tiger-570x3831

Bear Bryant with Mike the Tiger

Please see the LSU-Alabama page for yearly entries from the past few seasons that will supplement this.

Final scores, 2000 to present (I decided to start when Nick Saban first came to LSU)
2000 – LSU 30, Alabama 28
2001 – LSU 35, Alabama 31
2002 – Alabama 31, LSU 0
2003 – LSU 27, Alabama 3
2004 – LSU 26, Alabama 10
2005 – LSU 16, Alabama 13 (OT)
2006 – LSU 28, Alabama 14
2007 – LSU 41, Alabama 34
2008 – Alabama 27, LSU 21 (OT)
2009 – Alabama 24, LSU 15
2010 – LSU 24, Alabama 21
2011 – LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT)
2011 BCS – Alabama 21, LSU 0
2012 – Alabama 21, LSU 17
2013 – Alabama 38, LSU 17*
2014 – Alabama 20, LSU 13 (OT)
2015 – Alabama 30, LSU 16
2016 – Alabama 10, LSU 0
2017 – Alabama 24, LSU 10
2018 – Alabama 29, LSU 0

*Game was tied with 4:11 remaining in third quarter.

Series facts (updated after the 2017 game)

Alabama has leads in the series 53-25-5 overall, 23-16-2 in Alabama in general, 13-9 in Tuscaloosa, 28-9-2 in Baton Rouge, and 1-0-1 in New Orleans.

LSU only leads in Mobile (2-1-1, the last meeting in 1958, the first game of Bear Bryant’s career at Alabama and of LSU’s last undefeated season).
Largest win: Alabama, 47-3 in 1922 (largest shutout was 42-0 in Baton Rouge in 1925)
Largest LSU win: 28-0 in 1957

Longest winning streak: Alabama, 11, 1971-1981
Longest unbeaten streak: Alabama, 12 (9-0-3), 1919-1945
Longest LSU winning streak: 5, 2003-2007

Longest road winning streak: Alabama, 7, 1987-1998 and 1971-1983
Longest road unbeaten streak: Alabama, 15 (14-0-1), 1971-1998
Longest LSU road winning streak: 4, 1982-1988 and 2001-2007

Longest home winning streak: Alabama, 5, 1972-80
Longest home unbeaten streak: Alabama, 8 (7-0-1), 1920-1947
(LSU has only won two in a row at home twice, 1946 & 1948 and 2004 & 2006)

Since only winning twice from 1989 to 1999, inclusive, LSU had won 9 of 12 in the series before losing to the Tide in the BCS championship following the 2011 season. That means Alabama once led 42-16-5.

The only periods of time comparable to that for LSU took place from 1946-58 (5-3-1) and 1982-88 (4-2-1). Apart from those time periods, LSU is only 7-40-3 against the Tide (including the three LSU losses since).

Before 2013, LSU had won 5 of 6 and 8 of 12 in Tuscaloosa and 11 of 14 in the state of Alabama in general.

2010 and 2011 were only the third and fourth respective times that LSU beat an eventual 10-win Alabama team (the others being 1986 and 2005).

2017 was the 54th consecutive season LSU played Alabama. Alabama is the fifth-longest streak for LSU and third-longest current streak after only Mississippi St. and Ole Miss. The Kentucky streak was broken by the SEC in 2003, and the Tulane streak was ended by LSU in the 1995 season.

Road teams are 24-10-1 in this series since 1981.

Intro

I know what you might be thinking as far as “rivalry”–Alabama’s biggest rivals are Tennessee and Auburn. While this is true, LSU has had no such rivals in the conference since Tulane left after the 1965 season. LSU started playing Auburn and Arkansas consistently only when the SEC split into two divisions, which coincided with Arkansas’s joining the conference in 1992. (LSU and Arkansas did have a big rivalry before World War II.) Florida and LSU don’t have the same history insofar as battling for #1 in the conference as LSU and Alabama. LSU started playing Florida every year in 1971 and it wasn’t until 1983 that the Gators finished with fewer than 3 losses, and only once in that time period did they finish with 3. As for Ole Miss, that rivalry peaked in the 1960s–only twice since 1974 (1986 and 2003) have both teams finished with winning records in conference in the same season–and the Rebels have a natural rivalry with Miss St. anyway. I’ll start with series facts, transitioning into more narrative about the LSU/Alabama rivalry.

Numbers don’t really prove a rivalry, but it is worth mentioning that Alabama is LSU’s 4th most commonly-played opponent and only one of the three series that were played more (Ole Miss) has been competitive lately (defined as three wins or more by the opponent over the last 10 games). The 2011 game was the 75th between LSU and Alabama. LSU is also fourth on Alabama’s list and the only more-played rivalry that has been competitive for Alabama lately is Tennessee. Alabama has played LSU more than it has played Auburn (at least since 1902).

I had been adding something after each game, but I’m just going to say that even though the 2013 game looks as bad as the Jan. 2012 loss on the scoreboard, LSU was much more in the game. LSU fumbled away what should have been at least 10 points in the first half, and then LSU still had the ball deep in Alabama territory down 14 with about 10 minutes left. (The coaches made the right decision not to kick the field goal, but if the score were a good bit closer, they may have done so.) This is the first time Alabama has won 3 in a row over LSU since 1996.

Timing and presidential coincidence (added after the 2012 game)

The Tigers have made the SEC championship game 5 times, but all were in odd-numbered years. LSU has played @Auburn and @Florida in every even-numbered year since the SEC championship game began. The Tigers have also hosted Alabama in even-numbered years that whole time and have generally fared worse against the Tide at home than on the road.

For the eighth presidential election in a row, the LSU/Alabama game has corresponded with the outcome of the presidential election. It’s simple: LSU beats Alabama in an election year, the Republican wins; Alabama beats LSU, the Democrat wins. So if you don’t like Obama, blame Les Miles for getting him re-elected. The Alabama/LSU game often takes place after the election though.

The game also has had added significance because of when it is played on the calendar. With only a handful of exceptions since this became an annual game in 1964, the game is played between November 3 and November 11 (election day falls between 11/2 and 11/8). From 2002 to 2005, it was played only slightly later in November (the latest being the 16th). In 1973, it was played on November 22; and in 1981, it was the opener for both teams. The 2011 bowl rematch was in January of course.

Mississippi St. has moved around on LSU’s schedule several times, but the traditional order for LSU is Ole Miss (late October, early November), Alabama, Mississippi St., and Tulane (replaced by Arkansas starting about 20 years ago, but a few times it was Tulane followed by Arkansas). Alabama and Mississippi St. are back in their normal spots this season with Arkansas last, but Ole Miss has instead been LSU’s second-to-last regularly-scheduled SEC opponent every year since 2002. Next year, Alabama and Arkansas will remain in their traditional spots, but several teams will be out of order due to the addition of Texas A&M as the second-to-last opponent. LSU was not able to secure a bye week before the Alabama game, but they will be facing an FCS opponent (Furman) that week. (This was later changed when Furman was bumped up a week.)

2011 Post-game narrative:
The last time LSU was in a game where the only scoring was field goal(s), they lost to Alabama, 3-0, in 1979. Alabama won the national championship that year as the only major undefeated and untied team. Going back to 2011, Les Miles moved past Nick Saban in wins against Alabama, 5 to 4 (Miles admittedly leads Saban in losses against Alabama, 2-1). No other coach in LSU history had more than two wins against Alabama, although Bill Arnsparger (1984-86) was an impressive 2-0-1, the tie of course coming in Baton Rouge. If LSU can get past Arkansas, Miles will have a winning record with LSU against every SEC team except for Georgia (1-2). (That would have been true even had LSU lost this game though.) LSU has now won 11 of the last 15 against the Tide in the state of Alabama and 7 of 9 against the Tide overall. It’s just bizarre that LSU has as many wins in Tuscaloosa in this series as in Baton Rouge despite playing about half as many games in Tuscaloosa. The two teams are tied in their last 31 games (15-15-1), their last 29 games (14-14-1), their last 27 games (13-13-1), and their last 22 games (11-11) against one another. One more thing: LSU now leads in overtimes in the series, 2-1. The Tigers had won in 2005 (in Tuscaloosa, of course) and lost in 2008 (in Baton Rouge, of course).

(The remainder of this entry is as it was written in 2010.)

LSU coaches

During the game last week, the trivia question was, “Which LSU coach has the most wins against Alabama,” with the predictable answer, Nick Saban. With the win incidentally, he was tied by Les Miles, who is now 4-2 against the Tide. Saban was 4-1, although to be fair to Miles, Alabama wasn’t as hard to beat back then. For instance, in Saban’s first year, the Tigers lost to Alabama-Birmingham before beating the Tide.

After the trivia question, they then showed the list of LSU coaches and in a tie for third (with two wins) is Charlie McClendon, who coached LSU for 16 seasons.

The most frustrating period of the rivalry for LSU was 1967 to 1977, during which LSU lost 2 games or fewer in conference 8 times. One of the years (1970), the Tigers finished undefeated (although with three non-conference losses, including in the bowl game). In the rest of the years, with one exception (1969, in Baton Rouge), LSU lost to Alabama. In each of the other three years in that time frame, LSU lost to Alabama.

If you were wondering why I mentioned the location of the 1969 game–in every Alabama @ LSU game over the next 30 seasons, LSU lost to Alabama. It wasn’t completely one-sided either, as LSU won @ Alabama 7 times in the interim, about half the time. There was one tie in Baton Rouge, in 1985. (I’ve seen people argue on this basis, so if you were curious, the first 4 of the 7 were in Birmingham.)

In 1972, both teams finished with one loss in the conference, but LSU finished third rather than first because of the loss. In 1973, LSU was one of two teams to finish the SEC with less than 3 conference losses: LSU lost 1, and Bama lost none. In 1979, LSU would have finished in a tie for first had it beaten Bama, to whom the Tigers had lost 3-0 at home. 1979 was McClendon’s last season at LSU.

Had LSU beaten rather than tied Bama in 1985 (Bill Arnsparger was the coach by that time), LSU would have also tied for first. In 1986, the tables turned: the LSU/Bama game proved to be decisive, but LSU won this time. In only three seasons (1984-86), Arnsparger won 2 games against Alabama himself. Arnsparger was the only LSU coach between McClendon and Saban (20 seasons under 5 different coaches who faced the Tide) who beat Alabama more than once.

In 1987, the Tigers’ only loss all season was to Alabama, without which the Tigers of course would have repeated. LSU tied for the championship in 1988 and then didn’t make a bowl game until until 1995. Admittedly that cooled off the rivalry, but those 20 years still weren’t exactly a distant memory. Even when LSU only lost 6 games from 1995 to 1997, two of them were to Alabama.

There were some big games in the 1990s and early 2000s though. LSU was the first team to beat Alabama after the Tide’s 1992 national championship, putting an end to a 30-game undefeated streak. Then in 1996, LSU lost the SEC West due to the head-to-head tie-breaker in favor of Alabama. In 1997, LSU finally beat rivals Alabama and Florida, but losses to Auburn and Ole Miss kept the Tigers out of the SEC championship game. LSU won in Tuscaloosa for their first win against Alabama since 1993 and only their second since 1988. Although otherwise unremarkable, 2000 was a big win for LSU because it was LSU’s first home win against Alabama since 1969. Bama only won 3 games that year and LSU won 7, but the Tigers still only beat the Tide by 2. And of course in 2005, LSU was the first team to beat Bama, who had started 9-0.

I’ll get to comparisons of the recent Alabama coaches, a few of whom coached against LSU at other schools.

Other connections include Curley Hallman, whose biggest win as LSU head coach was over Alabama in 1993 (in terms of winning percentage, he was easily the worst LSU head coach of more than 10 games in history). He was an assistant at Alabama for Bryant after playing at Texas A&M under Gene Stallings, who was Alabama’s coach in 1993. Sylvester Croom and Jackie Sherill, both of whom LSU gave fits at Mississippi St. (Sherill also coached at A&M, where he was 0-3 against LSU), had played for successful Alabama teams. Alabama coaches Ray Perkins and Mike Shula had played for Bryant as well, although neither did particularly well as head coaches against LSU either.

Alabama coaches: Bear Bryant to present (in reverse order)

Nick Saban
Michigan St. vs. LSU (1995-99), 0-1
LSU vs. Alabama (2000-04), 4-1
Alabama vs. LSU, 2-2

His match-up against LSU while he was at Michigan St. consisted of the 1995 Independence Bowl, in the first year of his predecessor Gerry DiNardo. LSU was 6-4-1 entering the game, having finished fourth in the SEC West. Michigan St. was also 6-4-1 and had finished fifth in the Big Ten in Saban’s first year there. LSU won the game, 45-26. Although LSU had the crowd on its side, which may have helped the margin of victory, this probably did not affect the outcome.

In Saban’s first season (2000), LSU beat Alabama in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1969. Although LSU would finish with an 8-4 record and Alabama would finish 3-8, the Tigers only won 30-28. But the Tide was right back to normal in Tiger Stadium in 2002, winning 31-0, Saban’s only loss to the Tide. LSU won the other games against Alabama in Saban’s tenure by at least 14 points each.

Mike Shula
vs. LSU (2003-06), 0-4

His only game of note against the Tigers was a 16-13 overtime loss for the Tide’s first loss in 2005, which so happened to be Les Miles’ first year. The game was Miles’ first win over a top ten opponent at LSU. LSU was 2-1 in overtime games that year (beating Auburn and losing to Tennessee, both at home). The contest was the only time Shula lost to LSU by less than 14.

In the game, Alabama led 10-0 in the second quarter after Brodie Croyle connected with DJ Hall. In the first half, the #3 Tide out-gained the #5 Tigers, 207-72, and only allowed 5 first downs. LSU opened the second half with a nine-play, 80-yard drive and kept the Tide from getting another first down until they tied the game on a 42-yard field goal with 5:46 left in the third quarter. Not much offense ensued, although LSU would miss three subsequent field goal attempts, and the game went to OT tied at 10. After Alabama got the opening possession and kicked a field goal, LSU decided not to rely on kicking anymore, and JaMarcus Russell threw the game-winning, 11-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe. Russell finished at 16-30 for 229 and no interceptions. Alabama out-gained LSU for the game, 284-275, and had more first downs, 20-16. As a side note, Croyle and Bowe are both Kansas City Chiefs now.

Dennis Franchione
vs. LSU (2001-02), 1-1

Franchione’s two seasons at Alabama coincided with Nick Saban’s second and third at LSU. The Tide lost to the eventual SEC Champions, 35-21, at home in 2001. Alabama’s 31-0 win in 2002 took place as the Tide finished the season 10-3 by winning 6 of its last 7. The Tide were ineligible for a bowl game that year, and LSU would lose to Texas in the Cotton Bowl to finish 8-5.

Franchione is the third coach (at least that I know of) to coach both Alabama and A&M; but the LSU/A&M rivalry was discontinued after 1995, so he never coached against LSU while there.

Mike DuBose
vs. LSU (1997-2000), 2-2

DuBose lost his first game against LSU, 27-0, in 1997, when LSU would finish 9-3 and Alabama 4-7. DuBose’s teams then beat LSU by 6 each of the next two years, however, LSU only won a combined 7 games in those two years while the Tide won a combined 17. Those two wins were of course followed by Saban’s first season at LSU, in which the Tigers won. Somewhat dampening the mood surrounding the end of the Tide’s 15-game unbeaten streak in Baton Rouge for Tiger fans was the fact that Bama didn’t win any road games at all that year.

Gene Stallings
@Alabama vs. LSU (1990-96), 6-1
@Texas A&M vs. LSU (1965-71), 1-5-1

I mentioned the 1993 game above.

LSU also came close to a huge upset in 1991. The Tigers would finish with a losing record and Alabama would finish 11-1, but Bama only won 20-17 at Tiger Stadium. The only other game that was close (decided by fewer than eighteen) in the Stallings era was in 1995 when the Tide won 10-3 to avenge the end of its 31-game unbeaten streak in the previous contest in Tuscaloosa.

Stallings’ one win against LSU while at A&M was one of only two wins that season, the other against Wichita St. (which stopped having a football team in 1986), in 1970, a year in which LSU would win the SEC outright. The Tigers have not gone unbeaten in the SEC since. All contests against the Tigers during his time in College Station were played in Baton Rouge. Stallings had only one winning record in his seven seasons with the Aggies, beating Alabama in the Cotton Bowl after the 1967 season (Curley Hallman grabbed two Ken Stabler intereceptions in that game). LSU, who eventually won the Sugar Bowl that year, beat the Aggies, 17-6. The tie took place in 1966, in unremarkable 5-4-1 and 4-5-1 respective seasons, except it was remarkable in the fact that it was LSU’s worst season between 1961 and 1980.

Bill Curry
Alabama vs. LSU (1987-89), 2-1
Kentucky vs. LSU (1990-96), 3-4

In 1987, Curry’s first season, his team defeated LSU, 22-10, in Baton Rouge but did not win another game and finished 7-5. LSU, on the other hand, finished 10-1-1, and as a result of the loss, came in second to Auburn.

In 1988 (also extensively discussed in the LSU/Auburn rivalry blog), the Tigers continued their run to the SEC co-championship (with Auburn) by beating the Tide, 19-18, in Tuscaloosa.

In 1989, Curry’s team beat the Tigers to go 9-0 on the way to a 10-0 start, 32-16. This coincided with only the third losing season for LSU since 1956.

LSU continued its losing ways almost throughout Curry’s tenure at Kentucky, but the Wildcats didn’t fare much better. 1992 and 1994 were probably the sorriest match-ups during that period. 1992 was Curry’s only win with the Cats in Baton Rouge, but LSU would finish 2-9 and Kentucky would finish 4-7. In 1994, Kentucky’s lone win of the season was over Louisville in the opener. They still managed to make it close against LSU, losing 17-13 in Baton Rouge. LSU finished 4-7.

In 1993, Curry’s most successful season at Kentucky (6-6, with a loss to Clemson in the Peach Bowl), Kentucky won 35-17.

Although LSU would finish 7-4-1 in 1995, the Tigers lost to Kentucky, who would finish 4-7, anyway. LSU made the unfortunate decision to wear purple pants for the game. And rather than causing Kentucky to avert its eyes for the entire contest, it seemed to make the Tigers self-conscious. I don’t think LSU has worn purple pants since. The final was 24-16 in Lexington. Curry had another 4-7 campaign in his final year, but LSU, on its way to a 10-2 record, had no problem with the Cats this time, 41-14.

Ray Perkins
vs. LSU (1983-86), 1-2-1

Both home games against the Tigers were played in Birmingham and both were losses. No contest against LSU while Perkins was at Alabama was decided by less than 6 points. Alabama won by 6 in 1983, then LSU won by 2 in 1984 and by 4 in 1986. 1986 was Perkins’ final year, and after a 7-0 start, the Tide lost 3 of its last 5 regular-season games, to Penn St., LSU, and Auburn, before winning the Sun Bowl over Washington. 1986 was LSU’s most recent outright SEC title before Nick Saban came to Baton Rouge.

Bear Bryant
Alabama vs. LSU (1958-82), 16-4
Texas A&M vs. LSU (1954-57), 2-0
Kentucky vs. LSU (1946-53), 2-1-1

For his career, he was 20-5-1 against the Tigers with a total of 6 shutouts.

The head coach of Kentucky the first time the Wildcats played LSU was none other than Bear Bryant, who always seemed to give the Tigers trouble. His teams shut out the Tigers the first two times he faced them, before LSU beat Kentucky in his second-to-last season there and tied them in his last. LSU-Kentucky was a yearly rivalry from that time until 2003, after the SEC decided on one permanent inter-division rivalry per team.

His success in the LSU-Alabama series is despite the fact that he lost to the Tigers, 13-3, at Mobile in 1958, his first season at Alabama. LSU won the national championship that year, and the Tide finished 5-4-1 and only 3-4-1 in conference. Still, it was a vast improvement over the previous three years, in which Bama had only won four games combined.

To go back to LSU coaches for a second, the 1958 win was the second in a row over Alabama for LSU coach Paul Dietzel. The only subsequent LSU coaches to do so have been Charles McClendon (1969 & 1970), Nick Saban (2000 & 2001 and 2003 & 2004), and Les Miles (2005-07). Dietzel did not lose to Alabama, but he did not face the Tide (at least not with LSU) after that 1958 game.

The Tide would win a national championship of its own in 1961 but wouldn’t be able to return the favor against the Tigers until 1964, a 10-1 season in which Alabama won the polls but lost the bowl game. Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss were unofficial national co-champions in 1962, when USC won the major polls as well as the vast majority of other ranking systems for its first national championship. 1962 was LSU’s last claim to a national championship, recognized by the NCAA anyway, until 2003; but Alabama would get several and beat LSU often for the remainder of its contests against them under Bryant. LSU’s only subsequent wins over Bear Bryant were 1969, 1970, and 1982.

Despite his claim that playing at Tiger Stadium was like playing inside a drum, he was 10-1-1 there overall and 8-1 with the Tide. LSU was 3-8 against Bryant in the state of Alabama.

Other Rivalry Series entries

Team List:
Arkansas
Auburn (2010 post-game)
Florida
Georgia
Kentucky
Mississippi St.
Ole Miss
(Steve Spurrier and) South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas A&M

Special editions:
Pac-12

LSU-Auburn post mortem

In Post-game on October 23, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Overall impressions

I know from total yards, it doesn’t look like it should have been close, but LSU really should have won this game. That’s not in any way an attack on Auburn, but I just recognize as an LSU fan that the necessary situations were there for my team (I’m avoiding use of the word “Tigers”).

I’m not saying this out of delusional support of LSU. I honestly didn’t think we would win and would feel better if I believed Auburn was just too good to be beaten, but LSU was more than capable and let the opportunities pass them by.

On each of the Fighting Tigers’ first three possessions, they had the ball at the Auburn 40 or better. Only three points came from those three possessions, however.

More of the same took place in the second half. LSU had the ball at the 50 yardline on the second possession, then on the Auburn 38 in the third possession. No points. LSU also had the ball at their own 47 to start out the next possession. Another punt.

If you had told me there would be that kind of ineptness on so many drives, I would have picked Auburn to win by 3 touchdowns (like 24-3), because I would have expected that the other drives didn’t even get that far, when in fact there were two touchdown drives as well.

On the other hand, Auburn took over on their own 10 yardline or in even worse field position 5 times and got 14 points from those drives. That part is understandable (see below where I discuss the defense), but it doesn’t alter my point that holding that team to 24 points (I know they could have had more, but only because of the ill-fated 4th down for LSU) was more than sufficient for the LSU offense to win the game.

LSU on offense

Jordan Jefferson will get blamed for the interception on the first drive, but Newton threw a couple of balls that were just as off-target. The difference was the Auburn receivers made a play on the ball and came up with it. There were a couple of other similar passes by both Jefferson and Lee.

When the ball hits the receiver in the hands—and when, even if the receiver had made no play at all, it would not have been intercepted—I have a problem with blaming the interception on the quarterback. The incompletion perhaps, but it was a very risk-averse throw. The deflection by the receiver is the only thing that resulted in Auburn catching it.

If you exclude Newton from Auburn, LSU has better pure athletes on offense, but I think there is a failure to take advantage of their talents.

I’m starting to suspect it’s a coaching issue. It’s too much about some abstract ideal of what convoluted play they want to call and not enough about having plays that can and will be executed well. The variation of the halfback pass was nice, but that’s not something that out of the ordinary or inventive to have in a playbook. So I’m not saying we don’t need a few plays like that, but trying to get some complicated formation out there that they can’t even organize through a timeout and a full play clock on fourth down just doesn’t make any sense. The game wasn’t about to end (although it turned out to be LSU’s last possession), but it was pretty much Tennessee all over again.

At the very least, there has to be a simplified playbook in such situations, maybe even plays Les can call from the sidelines, and they have to be plays where everyone knows exactly where to be. It seems like the more urgent or pressure-filled the situation, the more deliberative the play-calling process becomes.

It reminds me of the last time I played a football video game. There were just too many different options of plays to go through. These are the kind of options I was looking for—goal line, draw, off tackle, bootleg, option, play action, quick hitch, quick slant, and a couple of different combinations of short and long passes, and then finally a hail-mary type of play. I wanted there to be a basic menu in case I didn’t have time to be creative (which when the game is new to you, never). I didn’t want to have to pick a basic formation group and then pick how many running backs I wanted and then pick how many wide receivers and tight ends I wanted every time.

I’m not saying that calling plays in a real game is like calling it on a video game. It’s more complicated than that, which means it’s even more true that in some situations, you can’t have everything on the table. People don’t just magically appear on the field where you expect them to be. Also, it wasn’t 4th and 38, it was 4th and 6. There should be a good idea of what play you want to run and whatever option you choose, it should be a pretty comfortable set-up for your team to go out there and execute the play without all the confusion. You don’t want to invent a new play no one has ever seen before. You don’t have the luxury of trying out a play with a 25% chance at a touchdown and a 75% chance of an interception or incompletion, you want a play with a 40-50% chance at a first down even if there is almost no chance at a touchdown. Like even the halfback pass I mentioned, which is hardly groundbreaking, is not the part of your playbook you want to look at, not to mention something that seemed even more complex.

LSU on defense

I wasn’t thrilled with the defense. You can’t give up that many yards, especially when you’re used to dominating and not be frustrated in a few instances. There wasn’t enough of a “safety” approach, which was the recommended solution for Tim Tebow, for instance. If you get 5 guys in the backfield without a tackle being made, then the opposing offense has nothing but open spaces. If you keep the players in front, he might get a couple of yards, but you don’t want to risk giving up 50 for the chance at stopping him (or another player) in the backfield. So it’s not always a good thing to get those defenders back there. When considering Auburn’s strengths and weaknesses rather than the type of game to which I’m accustomed as an LSU fan, the defensive failures were much more understandable than the offensive ones.

Conclusion and looking forward

Although I’m sure LSU will fall in the polls, I hope we did show people that it is not a joke and not “smoke and mirrors,” as John Saunders called it (citing “a lot of people”), that this LSU team started 7-0 against a very good schedule. I just hope that unlike last year, and something like our 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2007 efforts after losses that we keep playing well and continue to show that to people. LSU hasn’t finished with only 1 loss since 2003, so trying to be arguably one of the two best LSU teams since 1958 (LSU’s last undefeated season) or 1961 (the last time apart from 2003 that LSU won a bowl game and finished with one loss and no ties) isn’t a bad goal. We can’t control if Alabama beats Auburn (if it comes to that), but if we beat the remaining teams in front of us, that will be every reason to be very proud.

No team with a prior BCS championship is undefeated right now, and the only other program with two BCS championships is 4-3. The third program with two championships during the BCS era (one an AP trophy) is 5-2 and on probation. So it’s not like it’s like LSU fans have to hang their heads too low right now anyway.