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Posts Tagged ‘Gerry DiNArdo’

Saban in Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Reactions

In College Football, General LSU, History on September 25, 2019 at 4:15 PM

This started out as an afterthought, but I can get on a roll when it comes to media people not doing their jobs well and narratives getting out of control. I was going to write something else for my midweek blog, but I changed my mind.

If you didn’t hear, Nick Saban will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. You can follow the link for his quotes; he seems genuinely grateful.

Nick Saban holds the BCS Championship “crystal ball” after the Sugar Bowl in January 2004. Saban would leave LSU for the Dolphins 368 days later.

I’m OK with it, although he was barely even eligible since he only lived and worked in Louisiana about 5 years total. 

The reason for the rant is the local sports media sounds really dumb when they write and talk about it.  I’m reminded of all the journalists who were so sure Miles was going to Michigan (more than once in some cases), then they were so sure Jimbo was replacing Miles (even if they weren’t sure about Jimbo, there were sure that A&M game was Miles’ last), then they were so sure Jimbo was replacing Orgeron, and then they were so sure Herman was replacing Orgeron (or at least there was an agreement in principle).

I wanted to dissect this column from Glenn Guilbeau. You can see that link for more quotes; but it was quotes from Guilbeau, not Saban, that bothered me.

What I don’t like is the idea that LSU was some kind of toxic wasteland that he arrived in and that everything that happened for the five years after he left was inevitable.

Saban won as many games in his last two seasons (which were half a game from being his best two seasons and which included the national championship) as Miles won in his first two seasons (which did not include the national championship, and neither of which was in the top two of Miles’ seasons). Guilbeau says Saban “set LSU up” for the 2007 national championship, which was three years after he left. That’s three years of practices, three recruiting cycles, three seasons of games coached that Saban had nothing to do with.

But everything was just “set up” for Miles to just a national championship in 2007. I understand making that argument about Larry Coker, who won 24 consecutive games to start his career, but his third season was a modest 9-3 and he went downhill from there. I’ll write more below about how you don’t really get an idea of what kind of coach someone is in two seasons.

Gerry DiNardo (left) chats with Les Miles. This was probably in the lead-up to the 2011 BCS Championship game that the Tigers lost to Saban’s Tide.

This is the part that started to get under my skin: ” after what he inherited – a program that had losing seasons in eight of the previous 11 years and lost 10 straight SEC games in 1998 and ’99 under Coach Gerry DiNardo,…”

None of that is false, but it is misleading. That makes you think there were only a few random winning seasons sprinkled in and there wasn’t a dramatic change in the middle of those 11 seasons.  That doesn’t make you think all three of those winning seasons were within the five years before Saban arrived. 

It wasn’t just Guilbeau. I’ve also heard others, most recently T-Bob Hebert echo similar sentiments. He wrongly said there had been 7 losing seasons in 8 years. He remembered the number 8 I guess; but it shows that the impression is there were only a few lonely winning seasons, not some recent group of winning seasons.

I take more issue with Gulbeau’s conclusion of the last quote: “whose (DiNardo’s) roster was depleting of talent and numbers.”

Yes, there was a conference losing streak under DiNardo, and it seemed the team lost confidence; but LSU easily beat a ranked Arkansas team in the season finale (under and interim coach) in 1999 to end that losing streak. Also, if you look at the streak, the Tigers were in a lot of close games against good teams. Five of those 10 losses were to winning teams AND by less than a touchdown (including 10-win Mississippi St. and Alabama teams in 1999). The following were not part of the streak, but in 1998 there was also a 1-point loss to Georgia and a 3-point loss to Notre Dame. Both the Irish and the Bulldogs would finish 9-3.

The Bulldogs celebrate after a controversial touchdown gave #11 Mississippi St. a one-point win at home in October 1999. State would win the SEC West, and DiNardo would lose his remaining games.

So Saban did great with what he got (as did Miles), don’t get me wrong; but he didn’t take over a team full of chumps who didn’t have the talent to keep up with many of the best teams in the SEC.  It wasn’t hard for a guy like Saban to look at LSU and see 3 or 4 wins a season in those last two years that DiNardo had left on the field. If you want to give him credit for what came after him, then you need to give Gerry DiNardo credit for giving Saban something to work with.  If Saban had taken over for someone like Hallman (DiNardo’s predecessor) or the transfer rules were as they are now, Saban might not have ever won an SEC championship not to mention a national championship at LSU.  He might not have even come to LSU.  Michigan St. might have been a better opportunity to do something nationally.  Maybe he goes to Miami or Alabama directly from there.

Even factoring in those disappointing 1998 and 1999 seasons, DiNardo’s teams still had an average of 6.6 wins and 4.8 losses.  That’s in contrast to the previous six seasons where there was an average of 4.17 wins and 6.17 losses.  It wasn’t night and day when Saban showed up either.  His first season wasn’t as good as the 1996 or 1997 seasons. Neither was his third season.  Even his SEC championship 2001 season (his second) wasn’t as good as DiNardo’s best season (which was his third).  Saban averaged 8.67 wins and exactly 4 losses in his first three years; so it was another step up, but it wasn’t a giant leap from the basement to the ceiling.  It was only the fourth and fifth years where you got a big contrast between the two coaches. 

This part infuriated me: “Miles failed in his first two seasons to get the most out of the tremendous amount of talent he inherited.”

Not in 2001, but certainly by 2004 Saban was responsible for the level of talent that was on the team. He won 9 games. The great Saban 9 games in the 2004 season. Miles comes in and wins 11. Failed? Are you joking? Then he does it again the next year, winning the Sugar Bowl. Another failure! Then he goes 12-2 with a national championship in his third season. Ah, that was all due to Saban!

Let’s compare Florida, which had to replace a couple of really successful coaches lately. Urban Meyer took over about 3 years after Spurrier left, but there was still a good amount of residual talent. He improved as many games in his first season as Miles did, and surely it’s harder to improve from 9 wins to 11 than 7 wins to 9. What a failure!

Urban Meyer (with Chris Leake) in 2005.

That’s sarcasm, but I can agree it’s a failure when Florida went from just under 10 wins a season (in Spurrier’s last 5 years) to just under 8 (in Zook’s 3 seasons. Another example of a failure is when Florida fell from 43 wins in 4 seasons (almost 11 wins per year) under Meyer to only 28 wins (7 per year) under Muschamp. Then it’s fair to say you weren’t getting the most out of your talent because talent doesn’t evaporate that quickly.

Any team could theoretically have done better, certainly including all of Saban’s teams. I mentioned Ron Zook. Why did Saban lose to Ron Zook at home with his best team? I guess he failed to get the most of his talent that season and every other, right? That’s just a ridiculously condescending statement.

Les admittedly hit a lull in his fourth and fifth years (dropping from an average of 11.33 wins to an average of 8.50 wins); but then in the next three seasons, he got the average (in those seasons, not his average at the school) back up to 11.33.  So Miles followed his own 9-win season with just as much success over the following three seasons as he had in the three seasons following Saban’s 9-win season in 2004.  Saban definitely helped for 2005 to 2007, but how do you give Saban credit for 2010 to 2012? 

Actually if he weren’t a couple of states away, we win two more games in that span for an average of 12 wins even (not to mention a win each in 2008 and 2009… we almost beat Alabama in those years even with Saban).  When Saban was at LSU, he didn’t have someone like Saban at Alabama he had to coach against every year.    He did get his butt kicked twice in his first 16 LSU games by Spurrier, but that was years after Spurrier had won a national championship and he would not win another.  Those two Florida teams went a combined 20-5, so that falls short of recent Alabama quality anyway.

That leads me to another point about how much more competitive the SEC became between when Saban started at LSU and when Miles was still early in his tenure. Saban was the only SEC coach in his 5 years at LSU to even play for a national championship. Miles had had to deal with three national-championship Alabama teams (one of whom he coached against twice), a playoff-qualifying Alabama team, a fifth Alabama team that was undefeated through 12 games, two Florida national championship teams, a third Florida team that went 13-1, a national-championship Auburn team, and a national runner-up Auburn team. I know this is over more seasons for Miles, but it’s no comparison

LSU/Vanderbilt Series and Final Week 3 Notes

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, Rivalry on September 18, 2019 at 9:22 AM

Neither LSU’s nor Kansas’s games last week had an effect upon the top 25, but as a fan of both LSU and Les Miles, obviously I have some interest there. When LSU has a big national game like the one against Texas, I’m probably going to cover it along with my rankings (unless I can’t wait until the next day, which happens sometimes); but when the only reason I’m writing about something is because I’m a fan, I prefer to do that in a separate blog. I will cover the LSU/Vanderbilt series in depth below.

Kansas @ BOSTON COLLEGE

The Jayhawks only scored three offensive touchdowns in their first two games and had gone scoreless in the last 57 minutes of Game 2 against Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers did win five games against an FBS schedule last season, so it wasn’t the most ridiculous upset; but KU still should have won.

It wasn’t something that was drastically out of character for the Kansas football program in the last few years.

When you’re trying to turn a program around, there may be some bumps in the road like that in the first year at any given school.  Even Nick Saban lost to UAB in his first year at LSU and to ULM in his first year at Alabama.

Anyway, given the offensive struggles, it was remarkable that the Jayhawks managed more offensive touchdowns in one half than they had scored in two full games.

It was out of character to win a road game against a Power 5 opponent, which the Jayhawks had not done since 2008 (and that was against a bad Iowa St. team).  It also wasn’t a very normal Kansas thing to beat the spread by over 40 points.

Until his last couple of seasons at LSU when the Tigers struggled after losing to Alabama, you never wanted to play a Les Miles team after a loss. I’m glad he seems to have brought that attitude to Kansas so quickly.

Kansas RB Khalil Herbert ran for 187 yards on 11 carries in Chestnut Hill, MA, Friday.

NORTHWESTERN ST. @ LSU

Before getting to the LSU-Vanderbilt series, I wanted to comment about the last LSU game.  This is the only preview of sorts I’m going to write.  I’m not saying the win is guaranteed, but I’m not going to give in-depth information about every opponent.

LSU’s first half last Saturday was ugly, I’m not going to lie, but there were positives in the game.  First of all, Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan combined set the LSU home record for most passing yards in a game with 488. Rohan Davey, who contributed in the previous home record, still holds the overall record (that one is by himself) with 528 at Alabama in 2001.  That Tommy Hodson individual home record (which I mentioned last week) also still stands, but Burrow did set a new single-game record for completion percentage with at least 20 attempts (87.5).

Brennan looked better than he did against Georgia Southern, with a QB rating almost as good as Burrow’s, and he was given more of the playbook to work with.  If  the one incompletion of his had been completed, he would be in the LSU record book individually for being one of only two quarterbacks (Fred Haynes in 1968) to go 9/9 in a game. 

I don’t think that 528-yard record will be broken in Nashville Saturday; but if there isn’t any kind of record in that game, the home game against Utah St. in three weeks might be a good opportunity to update some records.

The defense – no matter what was going on – should not have allowed 14 points in a half and should not have needed a drop to avoid giving up 21, but it is important to note that at least six important defenders, including three starting linemen, did not play.  This obviously contributed to Northwestern St.’s ability to sustain drives.  The defense made good adjustments in the second half though, so it’s at least encouraging that they can respond well to the proper guidance.  The Demons only gained about 80 yards in the second half.

Burrow did throw a silly interception, but I think he just got a little too confident in the ability to complete a sideline throw regardless of coverage for a moment there.  I don’t think he would have tried the same throw against Alabama, for instance.  I can’t think of another bad decision all night though. 

LSU still needs to work on the run game, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tyrion Davis-Price, and Lanard Fournette (not to mention the quarterbacks) did find some running lanes on key plays, especially after the passing game got to be more consistent. Burrow said after the game that he doesn’t want to run the ball at all; but we didn’t hire Mike Leach, and even he runs it sometimes.

RIVALRY SERIES: LSU vs. VANDERBILT

I wasn’t going to write too much about the LSU-Vanderbilt series, but there were more close games than I realized even though LSU has dominated the series in the last 60+ years (winning 11 of 12).

This will be the second game in a row in the series to be held in Nashville.  The last time Vandy had consecutive home games in the series (1985 and 1990), they won the second contest, so this is very scary information. None of the historical problem areas stopped LSU from beating Texas though, so hopefully it will be the same here.

[Updated after game] LSU leads the all-time series, 23-7-1, and leads in Nashville, 12-5. In this 2019 game, LSU won 66-38. Even Vanderbilt’s total points were fourth in the series history and the second-most for the Commodores. LSU broke its single-game record (49-7 in 1985) by 17 points. The only other teams to score more than VANDY did was LSU in 1945 (39-7) and Vandy in 1948 (48-7).

See here for previous installments of my rivalry series. If you’re a Vanderbilt fan who stumbled across this blog, I did write about the Vanderbilt series with Ole Miss last year.

EARLY GAMES

Senator Huey Long, who was still the de facto governor, stands in front of the Vandy Express in 1934. Long would not live to see another football season.

Sorry for the older people reading, but I consider anything before 1988 an early game since it’s before I remember football. I only felt the need to elaborate slightly about one of the games that took place between 1957 and 1990 anyway.

The Commodores won at least 70% of their games, playing at least 7 games per season, between 1902 and 1912.  LSU had started playing football earlier, in 1893, but sometimes played three games or fewer in a year and often posted losing records or records at or around 50%.  With this in mind, it’s not surprising that Vandy won two games during this period by a combined score of 49 to 5. 

LSU would continue to have strong years occasionally surrounded by mediocre seasons. 1931 would be the first time in several years that the two teams would even finish with the same record. Vanderbilt’s four losses came to teams with a combined 4 losses while LSU’s four losses came to teams with a combined 8 losses, but the gap was narrowing. Vanderbilt would be the superior team again in 1932; but with the creation of the SEC the next year, LSU would get to see how they stacked up on the field for the first time since 1910.

LSU would play 10 games in the 1933 season and not lose a single one; whereas it was more of a rebuilding year for Vandy, who would suffer three losses after losing only one game (at Alabama) the year before.  And yet the game in Baton Rouge ended in a somewhat demoralizing 7-7 draw. 

The U.S. Senator (and still de facto governor) of Louisiana, Huey Long, was very insistent that since LSU would not play the Commodores in front of a home crowd the following year, they would bring the home crowd with them.  To facilitate this, he though the students should be given a 70% discount.  When the railroad was not so fond of that idea, he threatened to reassess the taxes that the railroad might owe.  According to one report I read, the railroad was only being taxed at about 2.5% of its actual worth.  He also gave “loans” to students who claimed to still be unable to afford the trip.  I imagine similar “loans” were given to players back then, but that’s another topic.

The Tigers had already been tied twice in four contests to begin the 1934 season, but the Commodores were undefeated. LSU may have gotten the upset anyway, but the enthusiastic fan supported probably contributed to the impressive 29-0 score in favor of the Tigers.  This was a clear turning point in the series.  The Tigers would remain undefeated until a one-point loss to Tulane denied LSU a berth in the inaugural Sugar Bowl, but LSU did finish with a better record than Vanderbilt for only the second time since 1914.  The Tigers would make the Sugar Bowl the next three years, so it was clear they were now part of the hierarchy of the new SEC.

Due to Long’s interference, head coach Biff Jones would resign following the season. The good news was his replacement Bernie Moore was one of LSU’s longest-tenured and most successful LSU head coaches. In this way, Long may have contributed to many LSU victories after his death.

Although Vanderbilt would host the next three contests in the series as well, the Commodores would only win one of them (by 1 point in 1937).  By 1947, the Tigers had built a 9-3-1 lead in the series. 

LSU head coach Bernie Moore (pictured in 1939) went 8-1 against Vanderbilt over 13 seasons. Les Miles, 3-0, is the only other LSU coach to have coached at least three games against the Commodores.

Moore, after whom the track stadium is still named, retired after the 1947 season.  The Tigers suffered only two losing seasons in his 13 years. He was replaced by Gus Tinsley, whom he coached to a claim of the national championship in 1936.  (Minnesota won a split decision in the AP poll, but LSU is recognized as the best team that year by Jeff Sagarin.)  Tinsley, who still went to LSU games until shortly before his death in 2002, proved to be a better player than coach though.  He posted only three wins in his first season and would never lead consecutive teams to winning records. 

Vanderbilt won two of the four contests against LSU with Tinsley as the head coach.

Although the series has been sporadic since the 1940s, only one of the last 12 full-time LSU head coaches who coached a game (Jerry Stovall) avoided a game against Vanderbilt.

For the LSU program overall, things eventually turned around under Paul Dietzel, Tinsley’s successor, but Dietzel’s first three years was the worst three-year stretch for the Tigers since the early 1920s.  LSU would lose 7-0 in Nashville in 1957 for the third loss in five games in the series.  The series would not resume until 1976.

LSU won the next four games easily… apart from the 1984 contest.  LSU led the whole game in that one but let the Commodores back into the game with three fourth-quarter turnovers that reduced the lead from 28 with about 12 minutes left to 7 with just over 2 minutes left.  All LSU had to do after that (in hindsight) was recover the onsides kick and hand the ball to future Saints star Dalton Hilliard, but I imagine there were some nervous moments in the final minutes.

1990: Vanderbilt Ends Four-Game LSU Winning Streak for First Win in Series Since 1957

Even when Vanderbilt won in 1990 (the first game in the series I remember), the Tigers were quickly going downhill as a program.  They had gone from 10-1-1 in 1987 to 8-4 in 1988 to 4-7 in 1989.  LSU would score a huge upset over Texas A&M in the following week, but once again the Tigers would finish with a losing record.  After  Vandy was a running team the whole game in 1990 (2 completions on 13 attempts to that point), LSU took the lead with 4:06 remaining, 21-17. 

Apparently forcing the ’Dores to throw was the worst thing to do.  Five completions and two quarterback runs (along with two incompletions and a third-down handoff) would give Vanderbilt the lead with 1:09 left and soon thereafter the win, 24-21.  That would be Vanderbilt’s only win of the season.

Neither LSU HC Mike Archer nor Vanderbilt HC Watson Brown would make it until the next season.

1991: LSU Begins a New Winning Streak

The Tigers did get revenge by winning a close game in 1991.  Vanderbilt out-gained LSU and got more first downs, but the Tigers won with a combination of forced turnovers and special teams.  LSU had 117 turnover-return yards to Vanderbilt’s 0 as the Tigers won the turnover battle 4 to 1. 

The Tigers took their first lead on an interception-touchdown early in the third quarter, but the Commodores responded with a 15-play, 80-yard drive to go back up, 14-10.  LSU had a long drive of its own to complete the third quarter, but it resulted only in a field goal.  Vandy still led 14-13 at the start of the fourth.  The ’Dores were forced to punt after going backwards on their next drive, and LSU QB Jesse Daigle was able to engineer another FG drive.  He passed for 44 yards and ran for another 5 on the drive, which put LSU ahead, 16-14.

In the nest drive, it looked as if Vanderbilt would both take the lead and nearly run out the clock.  After 7 plays, the Commodores already had the ball at the LSU 16.  Three straight running plays gave Vandy a first and goal from the LSU 5 with 2:13 to go in the game.  After two more runs, the Tigers took their last timeout with 1:18 to go and Vandy facing a third and goal from the 2.  As LSU had not managed a touchdown drive the whole game, a Vanderbilt score on the next play might have essentially ended the game.  Even if LSU forced the fourth down, the ’Dores could have run down the clock to well under a minute before kicking the go-ahead field goal.  Neither of those happened though, as LB Ricardo Washingon would force a fumble, returned 76 yards by DB Wayne Williams. 

It was LSU who would run out the clock and hold onto the two-point win. Both teams would finish 5-6, which was thought to be solid beginning for the two new coaches Gerry DiNardo and Curley Hallman.  DiNardo turned out all right for a Vanderbilt head coach, but Hallman turned out to be the worst modern head coach of LSU.

1996 and 1997: The Gerry DiNardo Bowls

LSU would not post another winning record until 1995, the year after Hallman was fired, but one coach was the same in 1996, the next time the Tigers faced the ’Dores.  That was Gerry DiNardo, who was in his second year with the Tigers after winning a whopping 18 games in four years at Vandy.  The LSU fans were so excited to see him face his former team, it was one of the largest crowds in Tiger Stadium history at the time. 

The Tigers wore gold jerseys (which were especially popular in light of the baseball team’s success in the 1990s) in protest of the Commodores’ refusal to allow LSU to wear white, the traditional home color.  For some reason, white was allowed at home but only with the visitor’s permission at that time.  I’m not sure how premeditated this was, but it was sort of like promoting a boxing match by engineering a big feud between the boxers.

In the following June, the baseball team would win its fourth College World Series in 7 years.

Vanderbilt QB Damian Allen throws to the flat to avoid a sack in Baton Rouge on October 5, 1996.

The ’Dores almost got some amount of revenge in 1997.  Both teams had chances to score in the first quarter, but LSU would miss a 44-yard field goal attempt, and Vanderbilt would fumble at the LSU at the LSU 24.  Vanderbilt dominated the second quarter, but the Commodores could not score.  This time Vandy would miss a 38-yard field goal.  On the following offensive drive, the ’Dores fumbled again at the LSU 11.  LSU finally recorded the game’s first score late in the third quarter to go up 7-0.  Before that 53-yard touchdown drive, the Tigers only had 96 net yards for the game.  Vanderbilt had gained more yards than that in the second quarter alone.   

After both offenses struggled for most of the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt was forced to punt to LSU with just under 6 minutes left.  The Tigers seemed intent to either score or run out the clock.  This strategy was bolstered by a 23-yard run on first down to the Commodore 38.  After being penalized for a hold, the Tigers would to advance to the 32 on a third and long.  Since it was too far to feel comfortable with a field goal, the Tigers went for it on 4th and 4.  LSU QB Herb Tyler dropped back to pass but was sacked, giving Vandy the ball at their own 41.  After an incompletion and a run for no gain, the ’Dores were forced into a third and long with just over 2 minutes left, but then the passing game came alive.  Fourteen-, 31-, and 11-yard passes were completed (with a negative rushing play mixed in) to give Vandy the ball at the LSU 12 with 21 seconds left and no timeouts.  The first-down pass fell incomplete, but the Commodores scored on the ensuing second down.  They elected to go for the tie, but lineman Arnold Miller blocked the extra point to give the Tigers the 7-6 win. 

The Tigers would finish 9-3 on the season following the 10-2 campaign the year before, but DiNardo would win only two more SEC games after the 1997 season. The silver lining in his struggles was the hiring of Nick Saban of Michigan St. (whom DiNardo had ironincally beaten in the 1995 Independence Bowl) after the 1999 season.

Vandy finished the 1997 season only 3-8, so even a tie would have been an upset of sorts.  LSU has won the four subsequent meetings by at least 14 points apiece (and the ’Dores didn’t score double digits in any of them).

DiNardo’s replacement at Vanderbilt, Woody Widenhofer, was also fired before getting to coach in this series again. 

2004 and 2005: Jay Culter and More Vandy Defense

I mentioned how DiNardo’s tenure went downhill after the 1997 season, but LSU did not play Vanderbilt again until 2004, the year after Saban won the BCS championship at LSU, the Tigers’ first recognized by a major poll since 1958.  It also happened to be Saban’s last season.  Vandy had only gone 2-10 the year before, but the Commodores drew some attention by having a quarterback throw for over 2300 yards in that season.  That QB, Jay Cutler, also was the third-leading rusher on the team, so there was a glimmer of hope in the early years of Bobby Johnson, but 2004 would be another 2-win season. 

LSU had more problems at the QB position that year, alternating between a talented but rough-around-the-edges JaMarcus Russell and the more experienced but often lackluster Marcus Randall.  So the Tigers weren’t known for their offense that season to put it nicely.  It was only 10-7 at the half, but the Tigers pulled away in the third quarter, and the ’Dores didn’t have an answer.  LSU would only manage 102 passing yards (in just 11 attempts) for the game.  Cutler was not very good either with 111 yards in 20 attempts, but he did run for 39 yards not counting yards lost on a sack.

LSU Safety Jessie Daniels sacks Vandy QB Jay Cutler in Nashville on October 8, 2005.

In 2005, Les Miles’ first year, it was another defensive stalemate until late in the third quarter.  The Tigers offense scored a touchdown early in the first quarter but would go scoreless for the next 2 ½ quarters.  The LSU defense helped out with a safety later in the first quarter, but Vanderbilt would respond with a field goal late in the first quarter and another early in the third.  In a reverse of the 1997 game, it was actually LSU who had multiple long drives and no points to show for it for most of the game.  At halftime, the Tigers held a 303 to 41 advantage in net yardage but only led 9-3.  The Tigers turned the ball over 4 times over the course of the game and missed two field goals. 

After the third-quarter field goal to get within 3, things were starting to look good for the Commodores.  LSU was forced to punt on their ensuing offensive drive, giving Vandy QB Jay Cutler a chance to give his team the lead. It looked like that might happen when he completed a 15-yard pass on first down.  An incompletion and a 6-yard run set up a 3rd and 4, but Cutler would throw his second interception of the game.  The other one had led to a missed field goal, but the Tigers took advantage of this one to extend the lead to 6 points.  Although it was close on the scoreboard for a few more minutes, the momentum shift would prove to be irreversible.  From that point until the final play of the game, Vanderbilt would only get one more first down that was not due to a penalty, and LSU would score touchdowns on its next three offensive drives.

Russell, who was the full-time quarterback in 2005, managed 285 total yards, many of them in the fourth quarter, when he threw his only touchdown pass.  Cutler barely threw for more yards than he had in the 2004 game but with 10 more attempts, so you can see why the Commodores could not get a scoring drive going unless they took over in field goal range.

LSU would finish 11-2, and Vandy would barely miss a bowl game at 5-6, which was a good record at Vanderbilt since the ’Dores at that time had not had a winning record since 1982.  They would not finally end the bowl drought until 2008 (while Johnson was still there).

2009 and 2010: LSU Maintains Dominance

LSU got lucky and did not face Vandy again until the twin rebuilding years of 2009 and 2010 (both 2-10 seasons).  2009 was the closer of the two at the final whistle, with the Tigers only winning by 14; but LSU led from late in the first quarter until the end of the game, and Vanderbilt never led.

In 2010, due in part to a lackluster passing attack, LSU didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter; but the Commodores never looked likely to win since they only managed 2 yards per carry to LSU’s 5.6. LSU won, 24-3.

LSU RB Stevan Ridley ran for 159 yards on 17 carries the last time LSU played Vandy (in Nashville on Sept. 11, 2010).

Matt Canada, Recruiting, & Other Updates

In College Football, General LSU on December 19, 2016 at 7:28 PM

Canada Should Be Here Longer Than Kiffin Would Have

LSU did not get the most obvious target, Lane Kiffin, for the offensive coordinator position, but I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. Instability at coordinator added to the LSU quarterback problems that existed before Cam Cameron’s arrival, and that’s what we would have gotten. It’s possible LSU could have gotten Kiffin as the next coordinator by presenting an attractive enough offer, but it would have only temporarily postponed his next head coaching job.

Also, one of the arguments for going after Kiffin was that even if he wasn’t with LSU permanently, at least we would have gotten him away from Alabama. He left Alabama anyway. Call it sour grapes if you like – I think LSU was looking more closely at Canada than they were at Kiffin in the first place – but I honestly think this turn of events is in LSU’s favor.

Before I get to the positives and negatives of his past performance, some people might be nervous because Canada has made a series of stops as well. I think that’s less of a concern because he’s never been a head coach, and he’s never coached in the NFL. Offensive coordinator for one of the best programs (not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but only a few have multiple national championships since 2003) is his highest aspiration for the time being. Also, as I’ll get into, I think this is the situation that might fit him best. Canada probably isn’t the type who would fit in the other places.

New LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada at his introductory press conference with Ed Orgeron

New LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada at his introductory press conference with Ed Orgeron

Canada’s Resume

First I wanted to address the concerns that Canada has moved around too much. Canada’s previous moves made sense in pursuing the type of job he has just attained. He did take a bit of a step back when he left Wisconsin for North Carolina State, it wasn’t his fault he got there a year before Bret Bielema decided to go to Arkansas.

I’m not sure why he didn’t follow Bielema to Arkansas, but I doubt it had to do with being unable to coach the offense well enough. ESPN said they “butted heads”, but it may have had more to do with the opportunity to coach with former NIU coach Dave Doeren again. Although they were outmatched in the Rose Bowl, his Badger team had scored 70 points in the 2012 Big Ten championship game and averaged about 30 points per game.

Canada’s departure from North Carolina State was also not his decision. After a rocky first year with the Wolfpack in which Canada couldn’t seem to find a reliable quarterback, the team averaged 30.0 and 32.2, respectively, in the next two seasons.

The only sense anyone could make of the N.C. State firing as far as performance was that there were a few key games with relatively little scoring: 13 against Virginia Tech, 13 against Louisville, and 17 against Florida St. Louisville and Florida St. had reasonably good defenses in 2015, so it seems strange to fire a guy over one questionable game, but that’s apparently what they did. Also, I would note that all three point totals would have been enough for LSU to beat Alabama this season, and the Florida St. point total would have been enough to beat Wisconsin and Florida as well.

I would venture to guess that Canada will benefit from the kind of defense Dave Aranda seems to be running at LSU. Canada said during the press conference that if the pace of the game dictates winning 10-7 he has no problem with that. That reminds me… Canada and Aranda coached against each other in 2012. Final score: Wisconsin 16, Utah St. 14. I guess Aranda and the Aggies did a good enough job in that game that most of the USU coaching staff was hired when Bielema left for Arkansas.

I also liked that Canada doesn’t seem to be a purist in terms of what “system” he’s going to run. He’ll use multiple running backs in the backfield, he’ll throw to tight ends, and he’ll let the quarterback run if that’s in his skill set. Here is some more detailed information about what Canada likes to do.

Canada has been an offensive coordinator for 10 consecutive seasons. Before going to Wisconsin, he also had success at Northern Illinois in 2011, where his offenses averaged 38 points per game. His tenure at Indiana was a mixed bag. Canada helped to coach the Hoosiers to their first bowl game since 1993 in his first year (2007) after the death of head coach Terry Hoeppner in the offseason, but his offenses did not average more than 25 points per game again until his last year there in 2010.

A little bit of additional trivia… Canada was also with the Hoosiers (as an undergraduate assistant) in that previous bowl year of 1993, and the man who brought Canada back to Indiana (as a QB coach) was actually former LSU head coach Gerry DiNardo, who preceded Saban. In his career, Canada has also been a position coach for tight ends, wide receivers, and running backs.

Recruiting

I don’t usually comment on recruiting until the ink is dry and sometimes not even then, but with coaching turmoil, I think it’s an important thing to check on.

Orgeron kept some recruits guessing when he said at one point he wanted a pro-style quarterback and at another he wanted the spread, but it seems Canada can offer the best of both. It’s a good sign that St. Stanislaus (MS) quarterback Myles Brennan is back on board. Brennan is a pro-style quarterback who set state records for passing but also has a decent amount of rushing yards.

Junior College wide receiver Stephen Guidry, who de-committed in the wake of the Miles firing, also recommitted to the Tigers. Guidry attends Hines Community College, also in Mississippi, but went to high school in Louisiana. The LSU depth chart at the position seems to be getting shallower. Travin Dural’s eligibility will expire, Jazz Ferguson will be transferring after being suspended, and Malachi Dupre may declare for the NFL draft. If so, that will mean that only two wide receivers will be returning as upperclassmen.

The only other recruit (unless I’m misinformed) who de-committed from the Tigers since the Miles firing was Lowell Narcisse, a dual-threat quarterback from St. James (LA), who is also back on board as of this morning. I didn’t think he and Brennan would both want to come to LSU at the same time, but the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. The last few years have shown us that you can’t always count on someone who appears to be the top guy, especially before they start taking snaps in a game.

Canada said he would use multiple-back sets. I’m not sure if that includes quarterbacks, but obviously there are some spread plays (as well as more traditional plays like halfback passes) where you’re not supposed to know whether a back will act like a quarterback or a running back, particularly not with the way Canada likes to change formations before the play.

SEC Country went into more detail about Narcisse and the rest of LSU’s potential key recruits. DandyDon (see the 12/19 update) also covered some of this.

I understand the Tigers have room for at least 5 more players and possibly up to 7.

Other Notes

This speaks for itself about two of my favorite NFL players at the moment.
beckham-landry

I’d like to give credit to fullback JD Moore, who earned the Charles E. Coates Award given to the senior who demonstrated the highest commitment to scholarly work in combination with excellence on the field. You might not notice him during the game as a casual fan, but he’s amazing when someone slows down the film and points him out.

The team MVP award went to senior linebacker Duke Riley. I don’t know how you replace guys like that in isolation, but that’s where teamwork and player development come in.

I know intricate detail about Xs and Os and recruiting aren’t historically my focus on this blog, but I have a renewed interest in how next year’s team is taking shape with the coaching changes.

I don’t see us winning the SEC, especially with 5 conference road games next season, but we were in every game this year. But if we become the type of team to win close games by converting scoring opportunities (we had some close games with late yards but not late points), anything could happen.

Regardless, I believe next season can be the start of something special. The last national championship came under a newish head coach and an innovative offensive coordinator (although Crowton never really found another quarterback to run his system after Matt Flynn left).

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Notre Dame

In Bowls, College Football, Rivalry on December 29, 2014 at 6:10 PM

LSU graphic for the 1984 game.

LSU graphic for the 1984 game.

This doesn’t exactly fit the “rivalry” theme, but that’s what I decided to call blogs of this type.

There is a fair number of Notre Dame fans in Louisiana because of the Catholic population, so there always seems to be a fair amount of excitement over these games since the winner may have bragging rights for a while. I apologize in advance if this blog isn’t up to my usual standards. It was mostly written on an airplane, and I’m using an unfamiliar computer.

Tuesday’s game will be only the second meeting since 1998. In just over a year’s time, the Tigers had faced the Irish three times, winning only one. Apart from 2006 and 1981, all the other games were in groups of at least two, so I’ll do those together.

The series is tied, 5-5. LSU has won the only two “neutral” site games, but both were in Louisiana. LSU’s only win at Notre Dame was in 1985.

2006 (Sugar Bowl) – LSU 41, Notre Dame 14

The 2006 game (in the Sugar Bowl) was interesting, at least it was an interesting match-up going into the game. LSU didn’t win the SEC, but what had kept them from the title game was the loss to eventual national champions florida (whose berth in the championship opened up the Sugar) in the regular season. They also lost to auburn in a bizarre 7-3 game marred with officiating disputes.

Notre Dame entered that year with one of its strongest teams since the early ’90s. Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija led a very productive offense. Though neither Quinn nor LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell amounted to much, they generated a lot of buzz for the NFL draft. Russell would be the #1 draft pick a few months later.

The game was competitive for a half, but LSU looked to be the stronger team all along. They just didn’t translate that into points as well in the first half. LSU won going away, 41-14.

When LSU won the national championship in 2007, it was remarkable not only for the two losses that season but also for the fact that so much talent had gone to the NFL after the previous season.

1997 – Notre Dame 24, @LSU 6
1997 (Independence Bowl) – LSU 27, Notre Dame 9
1998 – @Notre Dame 39, LSU 36

LSU had a fairly good year in 1997, going 9-3, but they had a miserable time with the Irish on a rainy November day (not night) at Tiger Stadium. They got revenge when the Irish came back to Louisiana, this time to Shreveport for the independence bowl. Neither game was close.

The bottom fell out for LSU in the next two years. Gerry DiNardo’s tenure, which had started with a 29-9-1 record, ended with a thud. The Tigers only won 3 of the last 18 games he coached.

There were a number of close losses to good teams in there though, and the Irish were one of them in 1998. LSU took a 34-20 lead with 8 minutes to go in the third quarter. The Irish responded by scoring late in the third, and then LSU had a chance to go back up by 14 in the fourth. On second down from the Notre dame 17, LSU’s Herb Tyler threw to the wrong team, and the Irish ran it all the way back. There was some hope when LSU blocked the extra point, but this didn’t matter when Notre Dame scored the go-ahead touchdown with just under 90 seconds to go in the game. When the Irish won by three points (after intentionally taking a safety), it was the fifth loss that season alone to a bowl-eligible team by less than a touchdown.

1984 – Notre Dame 30, @LSU 22
1985 – LSU 10, @Notre Dame 7
1986 – @LSU 21, Notre Dame 19

There were three competitive games in the mid-1980s. That may not have been the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Tigers began their worst stretch in recent memory and the Irish were competing for national championships.

Following a three-game losing streak in 1984 (Bill arnsparger’s first year at LSU), Notre Dame went on the road to upset a 7th-ranked LSU team that would eventually go to the Sugar Bowl. The Irish would not lose again until the Aloha Bowl.

After a disastrous loss at home in the third game in 1985, LSU went undefeated the rest of the regular season. The week after Alabama, the Tigers had a close call against Mississippi St., but they still entered the game against the Irish at 6-1-1 and ranked #17 in the country. After starting a respectable 5-3, Notre Dame lost to Penn State (who would finish 11-1) the week before hosting LSU.

Notre Dame took the lead just over 5 minutes into the game but would not score again the rest of the way. Still, the Irish held onto a 7-3 lead until late in the fourth quarter. With about 7 minutes left, an LSU drive stalled just a few yards into Notre Dame territory. After a 38-yard punt, the Irish took over at the 6 and went nowhere. This defensive stand allowed LSU to pick up roughly where they had left off on offense.

On a third and one (after a 9-yard run by LSU QB Jeff Wickersham), LSU took a gamble with a throw to running back Dalton Hilliard (uncle of current LSU running back Kenny Hilliard), who went down the sidelines for an 18-yard gain. Wickersham made another throw of 21 yards to get LSU into scoring position. After two runs, LSU took the lead 10-7 with about 3:30 to play.

After Notre Dame drove 25 yards to their own 48, Irish quarterback Steve Beuerlein’s pass was tipped. The Tigers came up with it and were able to run out the clock.

LSU made the Liberty Bowl after that season, where they lost to Baylor.

The Tigers would have a similar record going into the 1986 game against Notre Dame, this time playing the Irish at home. LSU was ranked #8, and Notre Dame was again unranked and headed toward a 5-6 finish.

Another close game ensued. This time LSU was first on the board with a touchdown after about 5 minutes of play, but Notre Dame’s Tim Brown took the kickoff back 96 yards to tie the game. LSU took the lead back after an 82-yard drive of 8:47. There was no scoring again until Notre Dame closed to 14-10 with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter. That score took place after Notre Dame converted a 3rd and 14. LSU would have had a stop on that down when it was first tried, but an LSU facemask offset a Notre Dame clipping penalty.

On LSU’s next play from scrimmage, Tommy Hodson threw an interception, which was returned to the LSU 2. The Irish gained a yard on first down but went no further, and the ball went over on downs when Brown was tackled for a loss on fourth down. The following LSU drive was a three and out, and Notre Dame then drove to the LSU 13 with six running plays and only one pass. The Irish then went backwards but they converted a 44-yard field goal attempt to get within 1.

LSU used a mix of running and passing to drive 79 yards in 11 plays. The Tigers only faced one third down on the drive, a 3rd and 3 from the Notre Dame 28.

Notre Dame’s next drive ended in a turnover, but LSU did nothing with it. The LSU defense could do little to stop the Irish from driving down the field in just seven plays for a touchdown. They stopped the two-point conversion though, and the Irish did not get the ball again.

1981 – @Notre Dame 27, LSU 9

Two awful teams played in 1981. LSU would only win three games that season, which is probably best remembered for ending with a humiliating 48-7 defeat at the hands of Tulane. Notre dame would finish 5-6 but they probably looked good momentarily in a 27-9 win at home.

1970 – @Notre Dame 3, LSU 0
1971 – @LSU 28, Notre Dame 8

What first inspired the Irish and Tigers to square off was the end of the 1969 season. LSU had only one loss, by two points to Archie manning’s ole miss rebels, and was hoping for a Cotton Bowl invite to play undefeated Texas and had declined other howl opportunities. Notre Dame, which had declined all bowl invitations since 1924, decided at the last minute they wanted to play Texas instead. They lost 21-17.

Notre Dame would only lose to two schools in the next two seasons, USC and LSU. The Irish did beat LSU at home, 3-0, in 1970. After a scoreless struggle, LSU had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but their field goal attempt from the 17 was blocked. The Tigers kept Notre Dame from scoring on the next drive but were pinned at their own 1 afterward. Notre Dame then took over at the LSU 36. Interference was called on LSU on the first play from scrimmage, and Notre Dame drove 10 more yards before the winning field goal with only 2:54 to play.

LSU went 9-3 in both 1970 and 1971. In the 1970 bowl season, LSU lost to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, and Notre Dame got revenge over Texas in the Cotton.

In the 1971 game, LSU had lost to both Ole Miss and Alabama in the previous few weeks, so they took the opportunity to work out their frustrations in a 28-8 win. LSU was #14 AP and #18 in the coaches’ poll going into the game. Notre Dame, which had been #7 in both polls before the game, did not go to a bowl that year, while LSU beat Iowa St. in the Sun Bowl.

Prior entries:

Team List:
Alabama (Pregames: 2011, 2013)
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

Exorcise the Saban Ghost

In College Football, General LSU, History on November 19, 2014 at 3:03 PM

People talk about ghosts of Tiger Stadium (which turns 90 on Tuesday, by the way). Usually it’s positives like Billy Cannon’s Halloween Run in 1959, the 1988 Earthquake Game against Auburn, the five fourth-down conversions against Florida in 2007. There were a couple of other classics against those opponents and others.

There have also been negatives. One negative was when the Tigers went 30 years without a win against Alabama at home. Even though Bear was only there for about the first 1/3 of that time, it was like his ghost was still on the sidelines, pushing the Tide to victory in a way that it wasn’t even present in the state of Alabama.

Other than the national championship, one of the main things I’m grateful for from Saban’s tenure is the fact that he had two home wins over Alabama, the first of which ended that long streak. Neither win came against a great Alabama team, but that wasn’t important. Just like it wasn’t important how young this LSU team was or how well Ole Miss had played in previous games this season.

In January, it will have been ten years since Nick Saban coached an LSU team.

In January, it will have been ten years since Nick Saban coached an LSU team.

Under Miles, things against Alabama started even better. After winning two games over Mike Shula’s teams (I also find it kind of funny that Miami is the team Saban came from due to that last name), Miles won three of his first five games against Saban. If Miles had left after 7 seasons, he’d be known the guy who (unlike Saban) actually beat a number of good Alabama teams at LSU. (In addition to the three wins over Saban, LSU beat a previously unbeaten, 4th-ranked Alabama team in 2005.)

The ghost of Bear might be gone now, but now there is a living ghost in the collective psyche of LSU fans by the name of Nick Saban. Some still openly regret the fact that he’d left and wanted him to come back. I’ve heard from multiple sources there was a group of boosters who thought they could get Saban back if Miles were to leave. Others bitterly resent what they see as his betrayal of LSU by going to Alabama.

I believe like most supposedly supernatural phenomena, this ghost is present in our minds only to the extent we allow it to be, but it’s been really hard to shake since 1/9/12, that fateful day that ended what would have been LSU’s first undefeated season since 1958 (although LSU still won two more games in 2011 than it had in 1958). It also prematurely ended what should have been at least 24 consecutive months of bragging rights over the Tide and gave Alabama another national championship to rub everyone’s noses in.

To backtrack a bit, I want to note that very few people mind the fact that he went to Miami. He had rejected many NFL offers out of respect for LSU, and he was still of the age that it made sense to give it a try. Also Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Dolphins, had bent over backwards to accommodate Saban’s every contractual demand.

The betrayal was going to Alabama. Alabama may not have ever put too much emphasis on beating LSU, but the same could not be said of LSU’s priorities. Of course, Alabama was not what it once was in 2007, but I think most LSU fans knew it would only be dormant for so long. For the catalyst of Alabama’s return to be Nick Saban was the ultimate slap in the face.

Both LSU and Michigan St. (his two stops before his brief experiment with NFL head coaching) fans took part in derogatory chants against Saban a couple of weeks ago. The Michigan St. fans did it when Chris Fowler interviewed Saban by satellite (if that’s even still the technology used), and the LSU fans did so in person when the Tide came to Tiger Stadium.

What annoys me more though is the perception by some that LSU and Michigan St. owe any success in the last few years to Saban. I wanted to set the record straight on some things, because Saban did not have anything close to the kind of improvement or level of consistency he’s had at Alabama since 2008.

I could probably write a book about all the things I like and don’t like about him and my observations of him as a person and a coach over the last 20 years (I clearly remember Michigan St. both before he took the job and during his time there), but I just want to focus on what exactly changed at Michigan St. and LSU when you look at the results on the field. I also want to consider the argument or suggestion that if he’d stayed at LSU, the LSU football team would be what Alabama has been over the last five seasons.

Saban’s last year at Michigan St. was a good one; but before that, his teams were just about as mediocre as they were under his predecessor there (although to be fair, 6-5-1 and 6-6 at least aren’t losing seasons, which his predecessor had suffered a couple of times). Still, Saban’s second-best season there was only 7-5.

I don’t want to dwell on Michigan St. too much — his last season there was 15 years ago — but in his first season gone, they went right back to 5-6, which they had finished the year before Saban started there. That was a long-term impact of approximately 0. In fact, you can go out even further. In the five years before Saban, Michigan St. won 48% of its games. In the five years after he left, Michigan St. won 48% of its games. What are fans today supposed to thank him for again? Other than memories of the 1999 Citrus Bowl?

It doesn’t take a great coach to have a single ten-win season in five years. I don’t think any major programs are beating down the doors of Will Muschamp, Larry Coker, Gerry DiNardo (Saban’s full-time predecessor), or even Gene Chizik, who has a national championship to his credit. Another example from the SEC, David Cutcliffe, took a long time to get back into a head coaching job despite having led Ole Miss to its best season in decades in 2003.

Saban did step things up in his fourth and fifth years at LSU, but the Tigers had a combined 12 losses in his first three years. The conference championship in 2001 was a fluke. How often has the SEC champion had three conference losses? How often does the SEC champion have a loss by 29 points at home?

LSU had worse in the previous two seasons than Michigan St. had had immediately before Saban but had two season of the previous four with wins of 9 games or more, whereas the last time Michigan St. had won even 8 games was five seasons before Saban got there.

LSU likely had better athletes to start with. After being a dormant program for 6 seasons, DiNardo did have some initial success. In his first season, he led the Tigers to only their second bowl win in 16 years, and it was over Saban’s first Michigan St. team. This was followed by a 19-5 record over the next two seasons, which included a win over defending national champions Florida in 1997. Also, Louisiana is more fertile recruiting ground for recruiting than the state of Michigan, and LSU isn’t “little brother” to anyone in the state of Louisiana.

It was not that difficult to have a spike in Louisiana recruiting. It also wasn’t the case that DiNardo couldn’t develop players, which he clearly did given some of the close results against good teams. He just lost the ability (partly due to turnover among his assistants) to manage the team to wins.

I’m sure that put a damper on recruiting in the 1998-99 offseason, but LSU would finish the 1999 campaign with a strong win over a ranked Arkansas team (with an interim coach), and the hope that the hire of Saban brought (probably as much as or more than Saban himself) kept the recruiting after the 1999 season from being a problem. If they could beat a ranked team with a no-name interim coach at the helm, the sky was the limit.

Nonetheless, Saban’s first three seasons were actually worse than DiNardo’s first three by record, and there had been no winning seasons that preceded any of the recruiting classes DiNardo worked with in that time.

Saban’s 9 wins in his final season were good in the context of the 12 years before his arrival, but I don’t remember Les Miles getting a ton of credit for following a national championship season with 8-win and 9-win seasons, respectively. Nor did he get a lot of credit for winning 33 games in the past three full seasons combined. Saban’s best three years at LSU together didn’t account for that many wins.

One of the other coaches I mentioned likely could have coached Saban’s 2004 team to 9 wins or more. Also, the loss to Georgia that season was reminiscent of the handful of bad losses Miles has had. So there was really only one season at LSU that was better than what had taken place at LSU the five seasons before Saban’s arrival.

As he did at Michigan St., he did raise the floor at LSU. When things didn’t go well, he went 8-5 and 8-4 instead of 4-7 and (starting) 2-8. That was an improvement, but just like with Michigan St., he only raised the ceiling in one year.

In both instances, those singular seasons caused his stock to go through the roof (continuing with the housing analogy), although he did decide to stick around at LSU another year anyway. Also, it’s not just wins and losses on their own. There were baffling losses under Saban. In his first season, he lost to Florida by 32, he lost to UAB (with only 10 points scored), and he lost to an Arkansas team (which had gone into the game with a losing record), 14-3.

It’s not good if you have three games where you score 10 or fewer points and four games where you score 17 or fewer.

The next year, they had the opposite problem. The offense was only held under 20 twice, but they allowed 44 to Florida, 25 to a bad Kentucky team, 35 to Ole Miss, 38 to Arkansas, and 34 to Illinois.

2002 was all over the map. They scored 14 or fewer four times, but they scored over 30 seven times. They allowed over 25 points five times.

2003’s team only had a single loss, but it was an ugly one: 19-7 at home against Ron Zook’s Gators. The Tigers struggled offensively at times against the better teams such as Georgia, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma. It helped that that team was able to play 6 teams with losing records and a I-AA opponent. Before the last four games of that season, LSU had not played two teams back-to-back that would finish with winning records. Contrast that with Miles’ last couple of seasons.

The 2004 team did not have a stellar offense, and LSU actually hurt themselves by trying to start JaMarcus Russell too soon. They nearly lost to Florida before Marcus Randall came off the bench to lead a comeback. They also needed Oregon St. to miss a few extra points in order to win the opener by 1 point in overtime. I already mentioned the Georgia loss that year.

LSU scored over 40 points three times that year (against teams with a combined 11 wins), but their highest point output otherwise was 27 against an Ole Miss team that finished 4-7. They only managed to score 24 apiece against the likes of Troy and Vanderbilt.

This was with Jimbo Fisher as the offensive coordinator. To apply the criticism Miles gets to Saban, he must have been holding the offensive coordinator back, right? It would seem to apply to Saban even more. In fact, I’m calling it right now: Cam Cameron is not going to be the head coach of a national-championship team in the next 10 years.

One could have also argued Saban only developed one “real” quarterback (Matt Mauck, whom he actually first recruited during his Michigan St. days) in those five years.

Saban was there when Russell came to LSU, but I’m sure that had more to do with Jimbo. Also, Russell didn’t really come into his own until the middle of his last year, which had nothing to do with Saban.

Point being, if you start from the perspective of looking to blame the head coach for everything, Saban could have taken a lot of blame as well as credit during his time at LSU. I think people just don’t realize how much their expectations have changed, which made every big win Saban had wonderful and every loss (or sometimes even close win) under Miles tragic.

So if we’re going to be assigning blame, we can blame Saban for causing LSU fans to forget what a losing season feels like. I still don’t think we have him to thank for the 7 double-digit-win seasons since he left, although of course he was instrumental for at least the first couple of them.

The LSU fans who do have this pathetic sense of longing for Saban are misguided. Alabama has certain advantages that LSU just isn’t going to have.

I don’t buy into conspiracies, but I think there is a natural degree of deference they get from recruits, from referees, from the media, from conference officials (who, perhaps not coincidentally, are based in Alabama), etc. Notre Dame has not had a sustained presence atop college football in 20 years. For Nebraska, it’s been about 15 years. So Alabama is the focal point of the historically great programs right now. There is just a different level of mystique for such programs. Nick Saban or not, that wasn’t going to be LSU.

People can’t accept that though. They just think that had Saban been here in 2009, 2011, and 2012, we would have had three national championships in those years rather than none. Maybe Saban wins in 2011 with either team (although even that’s arguable), but I’m doubtful about 2009 and 2012.

What if LSU (rather than Alabama) had been undefeated in 2009 and threw an interception on the game-clinching drive against Alabama. You think that gets ruled incomplete and LSU goes on to kick the field goal anyway?

LSU got some flak for winning in 2007 with two losses, but at least they won the conference, unlike Alabama in 2011.

Let’s say LSU loses a home game to Alabama like they did this year and everything else plays out like 2011. Do you think LSU gets a re-match over a one-loss champion of another conference? I doubt it.

LSU hasn’t gotten a soft touch at all in their slate against the SEC East even though their annual opponent (Florida) has been better than Alabama’s annual opponent (Tennessee).
The previous two seasons have had “bridge” schedules, temporary stop-gaps before they started off the new rotation, which was formalized before this season.

Alabama drew Missouri in 2012. Missouri played in the 2011 Independence Bowl, but they had an anticipated lull in adjusting to the SEC slate in 2012. In addition to the one good Muschamp team (which would only lose one SEC game), LSU had to play South Carolina, which had gone 11-2 in 2011. South Carolina would finish with the same record in 2012.

If you switch both SEC East opponents around, chances are LSU goes to the SEC Championship game instead of Alabama in 2012, even assuming Alabama still beats LSU in the closing seconds. Point being, I don’t think had Saban coached LSU that year (even if he had players just as good as the ones he had at Alabama), he would have beaten both Florida and South Carolina.

In 2013, LSU got Georgia, which had nearly beaten Alabama in the 2012 championship game, while Alabama played Kentucky, fresh off another losing season. Again, that scenario does not get reversed if Saban coaches LSU instead of Alabama.

It was an extra advantage for Alabama because what turned out to be their top challenger, Auburn, had to play Georgia also. Auburn had a favorable bounce and there were some unfortunate injuries to Bulldogs players between playing LSU and Auburn, but that could have easily been another Alabama divisional win (even with the Iron Bowl loss) owing in significant part to the schedule.

A Saban team might have won another game last season at LSU, but if they don’t end up winning two more, they don’t win the championship anyway.

So all things considered, maybe Saban wins one more championship than Miles did over the last 10 years (that’s right, this is the 10th LSU season after Saban). On the other hand, maybe they don’t win in 2007. You might blame Miles for the OT losses, but maybe Saban loses games to Florida and Auburn (there were some gutsy calls Saban may not have made) and they either lose a third somewhere along the way or someone else wins the division. So it could even be the same number of championships.

I don’t mind the idea of looking at the unmatched level of success Alabama has had over the better part of the last seven seasons (the only time a program had done anything like that in my memory was Nebraska in the mid-1990s) and wanting to match that, but just get over the fact that the head coach there coached LSU 10 years ago. That goes for people who want to insult him and those who wish he’d stayed (or fantasize about his return) alike. For those who persist in being hung up on Saban, at least get your facts right.

Vanderbilt, All Hail!

In College Football, History on November 11, 2012 at 7:20 PM

I’ll post my top 25 blog later in the week, but I have updated the LSU/Mississippi St. rivalry post and released my weekly computer ratings.

After the impressive first six teams of the SEC, a lot of commentators look down the standing and seem to focus on programs in decline. People are wondering what is going on at Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee, even Kentucky (which was on the verge of bowl-eligibility last season). But I think it’s been overlooked that Vanderbilt has become bowl-eligible for the third time in five years. Their 2008 appearance against Boston College had been their first bowl game since 1982.

Things were looking so bad at one point that in 1995, LSU actually hired Gerry DiNardo, who had been the Vanderbilt coach, because he had accomplished the feat of winning 5 games in a season there not once but twice. I guess that was harder to do when it was an 11-game season though, to be fair. Only once in the following 10 years would Vanderbilt win 4 games or more (going 5-6 in 1999).

Something is different this year though. When Vandy went 6-6 in 2008, they had lost 6 of 7 going into the bowl game, only becoming bowl eligible in a close game against Kentucky after having lost three similarly close games (to Mississippi St., Georgia, and Duke) in consecutive weeks at the beginning of a 4-game losing streak.

In 2009 and 2010, Vandy started 2-2 and 2-3, respectively, before finishing with 2-10 marks in both seasons.

Then last season, the Commodores started 3-0 only to finish 6-7.

This is also the fifth time in eight seasons Vandy has won 5 games or more. In 2005, Vanderbilt won the first 4 games before losing 7 in a row then beat Tennessee in the finale. In 2007, the ’Dores started 5-3 then lost 2 games by a touchdown or less (either of which would have made them bowl-eligible) as they ended the year with a 4-game losing streak.

Granted, this was partly because the end of the season has a lot more conference games than the beginning does, but I think it was more than that. I think that confidence and killer instinct goes away, and it’s more a sense of “not again” and playing not to lose game after game.

This is the first time I’ve seen Vanderbilt as the team that’s making things happen rather than having things happen to it.

The Commodores started this season 1-3. They gave South Carolina a good game then lost to Northwestern. When (after beating FCS Presbyterian) they were dismantled by Georgia, 48-3, I thought they were giving up already and they would be back to the usual. Then they beat Missouri on the road the next week, and their only loss since that point has been to then-#4 Florida by a somewhat respectable score of 31-17.

I also wanted to talk about their series with Ole Miss. Ole Miss and Vandy are one of the lesser-known permanent rivalries in the SEC. This means that despite being in different divisions, they play each other every year. In fact, they have played every year since 1970 and in all but two years since 1945.

Vanderbilt dominated the series early in the rivalry, only allowing Ole Miss a total of 16 points in their first 16 games against the Commodores, but every game in the series until 1948 was played in Tennessee (though many were at Memphis, fairly regarded as a neutral site).

But then Vanderbilt went winless in the series from 1952 to 1973 and had only one win from 1952 to 1980. In total, the Commodores only won three times at Ole Miss from the beginning of the series until 2007. Since then, Vanderbilt has won three times at Ole Miss (that’s three in a row).

Vandy has also beaten Ole Miss 5 times in 6 seasons. This is despite the fact that Ole Miss went 9-4 twice in that time period and still has a shot at becoming bowl-eligible this season. In all, the ’Dores have beaten Ole Miss a total of 6 times from 2005 to present after only defeating the Rebels 7 times from 1952 to 2004.

I’ve always respected Vanderbilt as an academic institution and I have a soft spot for underdogs, so they’re the #1 team I cheer for out of the East. I don’t see them making the SEC championship game anytime too soon, but I’m hoping they will be regularly competitive for some time. If only we can convince Kentucky to care half as much about football as they do about basketball, there might not be any long-term doormats in the SEC.

Les Miles (and former LSU coaches) by the numbers

In College Football, General LSU on January 14, 2011 at 6:51 PM

Although obviously he inherited a good team in the wake of Nick Saban’s departure, Les Miles hasn’t coached for just one or two seasons. He has been the LSU head coach for 6 seasons now, fifth all-time. If he coaches through next season, he will be in a tie for third in that category. He’s not another Larry Coker (for example), who won 41 of his first 44 games at Miami (including all of his first 24 games) before going 19-12 in the next two-and-a-half seasons and being fired. Not that I thought Coker being fired was necessarily the right move, but I think the team was on a clear decline over that time, so I understood why he was fired.

There may have been some doubt about Les being different from Coker after his 13-9 stretch between October 2008 and January 2010, but with this year’s 11-win season that cannot in any way be traced to Saban (except for the program’s good will), I think now we can look at how he stacks up compared to past LSU coaches. But before I do that, I also wanted to note that, despite a disastrous run at the end of his tenure, Gerry DiNardo was 26-9-1 in his first three years at LSU (better than Saban’s 26-12 in his first three seasons) and recruited almost all of the players who led LSU to the SEC Championship in 2001. So Saban didn’t take over in a vacuum either, but he deserves a good bit of credit for what he did with the players who were there (as Miles does for the players who were there when he arrived).

I’m not just writing this because Miles stayed either.

Miles is #1 or #2 on all of these lists of accomplishments except for number of seasons coached, which makes this information all the more impressive, and number of wins (only because of the relative number of seasons coached).

Seasons
1 Charles McClendon 18
2 Bernie Moore 13
t3 Paul Dietzel 7
t3 Gus Tinsley 7
5 Les Miles 6*
t6 Mike Donahue 5
t6 Gerry DiNardo 5
t6 Nick Saban 5
*2011 would be Miles’ 7th

Wins
1 Charles McClendon 137
2 Bernie Moore 83
3 Les Miles 62
4 Nick Saban 48
5 Paul Dietzel 46
6 Gus Tinsley 35

Winning % (More than 20 games)
1 Les Miles 0.785
t2 Nick Saban 0.750
t2 Bill Arnsparger 0.750
4 Biff Jones 0.741
5 Charles McClendon 0.692

Bowl appearances
1 Charles McClendon 13
2 Les Miles 6
t3 Nick Saban 5
t3 Bernie Moore 5
t5 Gerry DiNardo 3
t5 Paul Dietzel 3
t5 Bill Arnsparger 3

Bowl wins
1 Charles McClendon 7
2 Les Miles 5
t3 Nick Saban 3
t3 Gerry DiNardo 3
5 Paul Dietzel 2
t6 Bernie Moore 1
t6 Bill Arnsparger 1

10+ win seasons
1 Les Miles* 4
t2 Nick Saban* 2
t2 Paul Dietzel* 2
t4 Gerry DiNardo 1
t4 Mike Archer 1
t4 Bill Arnsparger 1
t4 Edgar Wingard 1
*Miles has 4 of the 6 11+ win seasons. Dietzel and Saban have one each. These three coaches are the only ones to win major-poll national championships at LSU.

Top 25* finishes
1 Charles McClendon 10 (2 split)
2 Les Miles 5
t3 Nick Saban 4 (1 split)
t3 Bernie Moore^ 4
t5 Bill Arnsparger 3
t5 Paul Dietzel 3
t5 Gerry DiNardo 3 (1 split)
8 Mike Archer 2 (1 split)
9 Gus Tinsley^ 1
*AP poll became top 25 in 1989, UPI became top 25 in 1990. Most polls were top 20 before then, but AP only ranked 10 teams from 1962-67. AP began in 1936; UPI began in 1950, was succeeded by USAToday in 1991 (although some media reports an overlap), and has had various titles since. “Split” means that it was only in one of the two major polls.

^AP poll was the only relevant poll during these careers. These also apply to the top-10 list.

Top 10 finishes
1 Charles McClendon 7 (3 split)
2 Les Miles 4
t3 Paul Dietzel 3
t3 Bernie Moore^ 3
5 Nick Saban 2
t6 Gus Tinsley^ 1
t6 Mike Archer 1
t6 Bill Arnsparger 1 (split)

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Texas A&M

In College Football, Rivalry on January 6, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Recent games
2010 (Cotton Bowl) LSU 41, Texas A&M 24
2012 LSU 24, @Texas A&M 19
2013 @LSU 34, Texas A&M 10
2014 LSU 23, @Texas A&M 16
2015 @LSU 19, Texas A&M 7
2016: LSU 54, @Texas A&M 39
2017: @LSU 45, Texas A&M 21
2018: LSU 72, @Texas A&M 74 (7 OT)
2019: LSU 50, Texas A&M 7

Unofficial promotional t-shirt for 2012 game

2011 New Year’s post

UPDATED RECORDS (after 2019 game)
LSU leads, 33-21-3
(The first game was in 1899, in LSU’s seventh “season” and only the second of more than three games.)

There are a few different ways of looking at the records by location:
In Baton Rouge, LSU leads, 26-10-1.
In Louisiana (the 1908 game was played in New Orleans), LSU leads, 27-10-1.
In College Station, Texas A&M leads, 8-4-1 (LSU’s one win before the Aggies joined the SEC was in 1987, in what had been their first visit since 1922).
In Dallas (1914, 1955, and 2010), Texas A&M leads, 2-1.
In other cities in Texas (Houston, Galveston, and San Antonio; from 1913 to 1917), the teams are tied, 1-1-1.
Overall in Texas, Texas A&M leads, 10-6-2, but lost four in a row going into the controversial 2018 game.
In bowl games (The Jan. 1944 Orange Bowl and Jan. 2011 Cotton Bowl), LSU leads, 2-0.

In the Cotton Bowl overall, LSU is 3-1-1.
LSU handed the Aggies the sixth straight loss in Cotton Bowls in which A&M has played, and dropped them to is 4-8 overall. Texas A&M has since improved its record with the win over Oklahoma after the 2012 season. (This italicized section is not updated.)

GAME FACTS
Largest margin of victory—54, by Texas A&M, 1914 (in Dallas)
Largest LSU margin of victory—43, 2019 (Baton Rouge)
Largest shutout win—46, by Texas A&M, 1922 (College Station)
Largest shutout win by LSU—37, 1971 (Baton Rouge)
Longest winning streak—7 games, LSU, 2010-2017
Longest A&M winning streak—5 games, 1991-1995
Longest unbeaten streak—LSU, 10 games (9-0-1), 1960-1969

Highest-scoring games:
2018: @Texas A&M 74, LSU 72 (7 OT)
2016: LSU 54, Texas A&M 39
1914: Texas A&M 63, LSU 9
2017: LSU 45, Texas A&M 21
2010 (Cotton Bowl played in Jan. 2011): LSU 41, Texas A&M 24
(2018: Regulation score: LSU 31, Texas A&M 31)
1972: LSU 42, Texas A&M 17
2019: LSU 50, Texas A&M 7
1992: Texas A&M 31, LSU 22

As of the 2019 game, the Aggies tied Kentucky for the seventh most-played opponent. Florida and Arkansas had passed up the Aggies between the regularly-scheduled non-conference game in 1995 and the bowl game after the 2010 season. Since they’re all annual opponents, the Gators and Razorbacks will stay ahead.

LSU is Texas A&M’s 8th most commonly-played opponent, and this has not changed. LSU is ahead of only one SWC team, Houston, but is the only non-SWC program ahead of Houston. Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. are the only two other programs to have played the Aggies 20 times or more (at least as major teams).

After the Aggies break the tie on LSU’s list with Kentucky, neither team will move up until some time after 2030.

SERIES SUMMARY (going into the 2014 game)

LSU’s success in the series corresponded with the Tigers becoming a consistently strong program, beginning after World War II. When the series took a break (there was a gap in the series between 1923 and 1942), Texas A&M led, 7-3-2.

LSU was strong in some of the years before World War I (going 1-0-1 in the series from 1908-1913) and in the 1930s (no games against A&M at all). From 1914 to 1921, the series was tied 2-2-1. The Tigers had some declining years in the early to middle 1920s, so the Texas Aggies (as a side note, LSU is an A&M school too) won the last two games of that installment of the series. LSU had no wins against current SEC teams in either of those two years and did not win any such games until defeating Auburn in 1926.

The rivalry went back and forth when it was renewed in the early 1940s, but LSU would win every year from 1945 to 1949. There was a home and home in 1955 and 1956, both games Texas A&M wins (with Bear Bryant as head coach), but by the time the rivalry became a semi-permanent fixture in 1960, LSU had one of its strongest periods in history, and Texas A&M had only one winning season between 1960 and 1973. LSU failed to win only two of those games. To be fair, they were all played in Baton Rouge, but that likely had something to do with the disparity between the teams. Texas A&M had good years in 1974 and 1975 while LSU was mediocre, so the Aggies won those two, but then the series ended until 1986.

The ten-year run from 1986 to 1995 was back to a home-and-home format. LSU won 4 of the first 5 games in this set to take a 26-15-3 series lead. But then Curley Hallman, the worst coach of more than 10 games in LSU history, took over and went 0-4 against the Aggies. Four consecutive double-digit-win seasons by Texas A&M didn’t hurt their cause either. In Gerry DiNardo’s first game as LSU head coach, his team traveled to College Station to face an A&M team that had gone undefeated the year before, so not surprisingly, the Tigers lost. So that’s why the LSU lead is still smaller than it used to be.

The intervening 17 years were better for LSU than they were for Texas A&M, and despite the emergence of “Johnny Football,” LSU has won its first two games against the Aggies as SEC rivals, holding A&M to below 20 points in each game. The Aggies actually scored more points in the Cotton Bowl against LSU after the 2010 season than in either game. The 10 points scored in 2013 is the fewest A&M has scored against LSU since 1990.

The rivalry was also interesting over the years because of the fertile recruiting ground between Texas A&M and LSU. East Texas and Louisiana have supplied a much higher percentage of major-college and NFL talent than their population would warrant; and this is true over decades, not just recently.

LSU went to no bowl games from 1989 to 1994 (inclusive), and their improvements as a program since the first game of 1995 (bowl games in all but two seasons, a minimum of 8 wins ever year since 2000) obviously were not reflected. Certainly, there were some potentially interesting games that the cessation of the series caused us as fans to miss.

A&M COACHES

That’s what I had to say by way of general series summary, but it seems like a more interesting story to me if you place Texas A&M in the context of rivalries with the following three former Aggie coaches (LSU scarcely went a year from 1949 to 2003 without facing one or more of these coaches), although much of the story is away from Texas A&M:

2019 was LSU’s largest margin of victory in series history, which had been 37 (in 1971, Gene Stallings’ last season). That win had also followed a two-point upset loss in the previous year that ended a significant LSU unbeaten streak in the series (10 in that case; it had been 7 going into last year’s game).

LSU would also get some vengeance in 1993 (under head coach Curley Hallman, who was an A&M grad) by beating Stallings’ undefeated Alabama team. There was another coach you might have heard of who coached Alabama and A&M by the name of Paul “Bear” Bryant, who had been the last A&M coach to beat the Tigers before Stallings did.

In 2018, Jimbo Fisher (who had been LSU’s offensive coordinator for 7 seasons before going to Florida St. [where he did not face the Tigers]) became only the fifth Texas A&M coach to beat LSU since World War II (joining Bryant, Stallings, Emory Bellard, and R.C. Slocum). A couple of Aggie coaches (Bellard and Jackie Sherrill) went on to beat LSU as Mississippi St. head coaches, although Sherrill (an Alabama grad) only beat the Tigers twice in 16 tries overall as a coach. Dennis Franchione was actually the Alabama coach before becoming the A&M coach. He went 1-1 against Nick Saban’s Tigers but wouldn’t get to coach against LSU while at A&M.

Jackie Sherrill
Texas A&M vs. LSU (1982-1988), 0-3
Mississippi St. vs. LSU (1991-2003), 2-11

In Sherrill’s last three seasons at Texas A&M, the Aggies won 9 games, 10 games, and 7 games, respectively. But he couldn’t quite beat LSU, and only came within two touchdowns in his one game against the Tigers in College Station in 1987. LSU won 9 games, 10 games, and 8 games, respectively, so talent-wise, maybe it should have been closer. One of Sherrill’s best years was the SWC Championship team in 1985 (losses only to Alabama and Baylor), and the Aggies would win the Cotton Bowl over Auburn, but they did not play LSU that season.

Sherrill defeated LSU for the first time when he faced them as head coach of Mississippi St. in 1991, and it was in Tiger Stadium no less. But things mostly went downhill from there.

LSU’s one loss in the last 19 games was by 1 point at MSU in 1999. MSU would finish 10-2, while LSU would finish 3-8.

Although it is not surprising that LSU has dominated Mississippi St. for the last 10 seasons, it was strange how the recent run against the Bulldogs began.

LSU would only win 2 games in 1992, Jackie Sherrill’s second season with the Bulldogs, but they beat #20 Miss. St., 24-3. Mississippi St. finished 7-5 that season after a loss to North Carolina in the Peach Bowl. The LSU loss was only one of two they suffered before Nov. 14. Sherrill would only defeat the Tigers in his first season (1991 in Baton Rouge) and 1999 in Starkville, when LSU was going through an 8-game losing streak that was only broken after coach Gerry DiNardo was fired before the last game of the season against Arkansas.

Although LSU would finish only 5-6 in 1993 and the game was in Starkville, the Tigers won on a last-second field goal by Andre LaFleur, 18-16. Miss. St. would only finish 3-6-2 though.

Miss. St. would finish 8-4 the following year, once again losing the Peach Bowl, and LSU would finish 4-7, but once again, that didn’t stop LSU from winning, 44-24 this time.

1998 was the Bulldogs’ only appearance in the SEC Championship and LSU would again finish 4-7, but the Tigers beat the #24 Bulldogs, 41-6. It would be the last conference win for DiNardo.

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

The aforementioned Curley Hallman’s 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). LSU was the first team to beat Alabama after the Tide’s 1992 national championship, putting an end to a 30-game undefeated streak. Hallman was an assistant at Alabama for Bryant after playing at Texas A&M under Gene Stallings, who was Alabama’s coach in 1993.

As head coach of Southern Mississippi, Hallman also defeated Stallings in 1990.

LSU had also come 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 in Tuscaloosa.

Stallings’ one win against LSU while at A&M was one of only two wins in 1970, the other against Wichita St. (which stopped having a football team in 1986), in a year in which LSU would win the SEC outright. The Tigers have not gone unbeaten in the SEC since (this changed, at least nominally, with the 2011 season… LSU won all 8 regularly scheduled SEC games as well as the conference championship but lost to an SEC team, Alabama, in the postseason). All contests against the Tigers during Stallings’ 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 interceptions 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.

Emory Bellard
Texas A&M vs. LSU (1972-78), 2-2
Mississippi St. vs. LSU (1979-85), 5-2

Other than what seemed to be a fluke 2-point win by Gene Stallings’ squad in 1970, Bellard was the first coach since Bryant (I saved the best for last) to have success against LSU as the A&M head coach. He lost his first two games against the Tigers but had a breakthrough in 1974 before blowing out the Tigers 39-8 in 1975. They were both fairly weak Tiger teams, but it was seemingly enough to convince the Tigers not to play the Aggies for a while.

They would get more of Bellard anyway. The Bulldogs went a then-characteristic 3-8 his first year and lost to the Tigers by 18. After that season though, he became the only coach (or combination of coaches) in Bulldog history to beat the Tigers five games in a row. In fact, since he left Starkville, the Bulldogs have only beaten LSU a TOTAL of five times. Three of those LSU teams won at least 7 games, so it wasn’t a random grouping of bad LSU teams either. His last win over LSU, in 1984, kept the Tigers from winning the SEC. After winning 17 combined games in 1980 and 1981, he had no more winning seasons though. During his fourth losing season in a row his Bulldogs would lose a close game to LSU in 1985. He would not coach in college again after that season.

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

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 next LSU coach to beat Alabama two years in a row would be Nick Saban in 2000 and 2001. 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.

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Auburn

In College Football, Rivalry on October 21, 2010 at 9:29 PM

(Alternate title, LSU/Auburn: Battle of the Nicknames)

Overall records (Now includes 2019)

LSU leads, 31-22-1
In Baton Rouge, LSU leads, 19-5-1
In the state of Alabama, Auburn leads, 17-12

      In Auburn, Auburn leads, 12-8
      In Birmingham, Auburn leads, 3-2
      In Mobile, Auburn leads, 2-0
      In Montgomery, LSU leads, 2-0

Longest winning/unbeaten streak–6 wins by LSU, 1926-1937

Longest Auburn winning streak–4 wins, 1989-1994

Home/away streaks
LSU won 3 in a row at Auburn, 1926-1936
Auburn won 2 in a row at LSU, 1997 & 1999
LSU has won 10 in a row at home, 2001-present
Auburn won 4 in a row at home, 1981-1994 and 2000-2006

Longest streaks with only one loss (pure winning streaks excluded):
LSU, 6/7, 1969-1988 and 2007-2013
Auburn, 5/6, 1981-1994

Biggest wins:
LSU, 35, 45-10 in 2011
Auburn, 34, 41-7 in 1999 (@ LSU) and 2014 (at home)
LSU’s biggest win at Auburn was 20-6 in 1973. Their largest point total at Auburn was 31, in a 12-point win in 1998.

Highest-scoring games:
@LSU : LSU 45, Auburn 21, 2015
@Auburn: Auburn 30, LSU 28, 1992

The lowest-scoring post-war game was a 7-3 home win for Auburn in 2006. There has not been a shutout in this series since 1935.

Highest scores by either team:
45, LSU in 2011 and 2015
41, Auburn in 1999 and 2014
35, LSU in 1972 and 2013
34, Auburn in 2000
31, LSU in 1998, 2003, and 2009; Auburn in 1997

2016 reaction blog

In 2011, LSU once again tied up Auburn in games since the start of the 1980 season, 12-12. It also tied the teams at 10 since the start of the 1992 season. (Both ties were of course broken by LSU’s win in 2012.) The 1999 Cigar Game (see below for more background) is no longer the record-holder in a couple of aspects, but it remains Auburn’s last win at LSU. It is one of only four Auburn wins at LSU ever. The first happened in 1939, but the last three all happened from 1993 to 1999. The one tie took place in 1941, and then Auburn did not return to LSU until 1969. It is also worth noting that LSU surpassed the 1999 Auburn point total in the first 38 minutes of the 2011 game.

Intro (written before 2010 game)

I called it the battle of nicknames, because they’re both nicknamed, in the simplest sense, “Tigers” but have other monikers. LSU added “Fighting” at some point to their nickname. Supposedly “war eagle” was always just a live mascot/battle cry and never a nickname, but people have called them War Eagles (I fail to see how that’s a bad thing, but far be it from me to judge other fans’ sensitivities). Auburn’s teams have also been referred to as the Plainsmen, and LSU’s teams have also been referred to as the Bayou Bengals, both in reference to the local geography. (Who said sports weren’t educational?) Many of the recent games have nicknames as well.

With the win last season, LSU became the first team to win three in a row in the series since Auburn won four in a row from 1989 to 1994 (obviously non-consecutive seasons…this corresponds to the six consecutive seasons in which LSU finished with a losing record). But even at that time, even though Auburn won 9 games or more in three of those seasons, three of those four games were still decided by 4 points or fewer.

Before 2008, the home team had won for 8 consecutive seasons. This was one reason LSU has never won the SEC West in an even year (which, since SEC expansion in 1992, are the only years that LSU has traveled to Auburn).

LSU’s 21-point win {in 2009} was the largest margin since LSU won 31-7 in 2003, but the 5 games from 2004 to 2008 were decided by a total of 19 points. That’s actually a deceptively high number since the whistle blew after LSU’s go-ahead touchdown in 2007 with only a second left, and LSU won by 6. Also, the games between the two teams are typically defensive struggles. In 1988, LSU won, 7-6. Since 1988, there have also been final scores of 10-6, 12-6, 19-15, 20-17, 10-9, and 7-3. There have only been 3 games since 1972 in which either team scored more than 31 points (all Auburn wins).

This may be quite a different game in light of Auburn’s SEC-record-breaking 65-43 win last week. On the other hand, LSU has played in four games (Vanderbilt, Mississippi St., WVU, and Tennessee) this season with a combined point total under 37. Auburn has played in one, a 17-14 win at Mississippi St.

The series is knotted up at 11 wins apiece since 1980 (inclusive), so I’ll say it could go either way. Both teams were also undefeated in 2008, 2006, 2004, and 2000, but none of those games were after September. Each team had one loss in 2005, the mutually best recent October match-up. Except for 2001 (only due to 9/11), 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007, all of the games since 1992 (inclusive) had been in September.

The following is mostly copied and pasted from a post on TSN on October 17, 2007, so some references are to that time and not to the present…

The rivalry

(In the following, I’ve used “Fighting Tigers” to denote LSU.)

This is different from many of the other LSU series since I actually remember most of the significant games in the series. I think that has helped endear the rivalry to those my age (late 20s) and younger. When people start talking about Bear Bryant or John Vaught (prominent opposing coaches, neither of whom I remember, for rivals Alabama and Ole Miss, respectively), it doesn’t really register as well. LSU and Auburn only played 6 times between 1942 and 1988. Even though this became a yearly event in 1992 and Tulane left the SEC after the 1965 season, Auburn still played Tulane more times in the 20th century than it played LSU.

The flashpoint in the LSU/AU rivalry was the 1988 Earthquake Game, when an earthquake was actually recorded at LSU’s geology department after Tommy Hodson threw the winning touchdown to Eddie Fuller with less than two minutes left in the game. Likely contributing to the earthquake was the fact that the score was the Fighting Tigers’ only in the game, as LSU won 7-6.

Auburn had been ranked #4 in the country and LSU had lost consecutive games, at Ohio St. and at Florida, to fall out of the top 25. The two teams would be co-champions that year, and despite LSU having beaten Auburn, the Tigers went to the Sugar Bowl as a one-loss team. Auburn would lose in the Sugar Bowl to Florida St., and LSU would lose in the Hall of Fame Bowl (now known as the Outback Bowl) to Syracuse to finish with 4 losses. The Fighting Tigers’ only regular-season loss after the Auburn game was to #3 Miami.

The Earthquake Game had been the first meeting between LSU and Auburn in 7 years. It was only the 26th meeting between the two teams, and the first meeting had been in 1901. The two teams met in 1989 then didn’t meet again until 1992, when the SEC split into two divisions, mandating annual meetings between LSU and Auburn.

A long series of games with nicknames followed. They weren’t consecutive, but there are a lot of them.

Close games intensify rivalry

The 1989 and 1992 games did not merit any nicknames that I know of, but they were close as well, with Auburn winning 10-6 and 30-28, respectively. Auburn had hosted both games.

The 1993 meeting (the year of Terry Bowden’s undefeated probation season) does not have a nickname that I know of, but it was the first time Auburn had won @ LSU in 54 years. It also gave Auburn its first three-game winning streak over LSU since 1924. Auburn, of course, would finish undefeated but would not make a bowl game or join any serious national championship discussion because the Tigers were on probation.

The Disaster on the Plains

The 1994 game, the fourth game in the series after the Earthquake game, was hosted by #11 (AP) Auburn, who was still on probation so was unranked in the coaches’ poll, in the third week of the season.

LSU had not qualified for a bowl game since the year of the Earthquake Game but had scored a major victory over then-undefeated Alabama (see Alabama link below) the prior year on the way to finishing 5-6. After starting the previous season 2-5, LSU had won 4 of 6, one of the losses by only five against #15 Texas A&M to start the season.

When the Fighting Tigers beat a good Mississippi St. team (who would finish 8-4) by 20 in week 2, it seemed that LSU head coach Curley Hallman may have finally been turning the team around in his fourth season. Hallman was starting to be seen as the opposite of his predecessor Mike Archer, who was a good game manager but after his first two seasons seem to waste away the talent that had been recruited by Bill Arnsparger.

Seemingly maintaining this momentum, the Fighting Tigers led the 2-0 Tigers 23-9 with 12 minutes left in the game.

On second down, deep in his own territory, LSU quarterback Jamie Howard inexplicably threw the ball into triple coverage, and it was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. LSU got the ball back, and Howard did the same exact thing, but on third down this time. The game was now tied.

The Fighting Tigers responded though, driving down to the Auburn 5 before kicking a field goal. LSU would lead by 3 with 2:14 left in the game.

On third and short at the LSU 30, the Fighting Tigers should have run the ball again, followed by a punt if unsuccessful, to force the hapless Auburn offense into the two-minute drill, which probably would have resulted in no worse than a tie since the Tigers had not had an offensive touchdown all game.

But Howard threw to a crossing wide receiver, once again into triple coverage. That was tipped and a fourth defender caught it and ran for a touchdown as well. Auburn won 30-26.

Auburn fans call it The Comeback Game or The Interception Game. Auburn would finish the season 9-1-1, losing only to Alabama.

It was the third time in four meetings and fourth time in six meetings that the game was decided by 4 or fewer.

It was almost all downhill from there for Hallman, who was fired after LSU lost five of its next six–six of seven including the Auburn game–before relatively meaningless wins over Tulane and Arkansas to end the season. Hallman has not been a college head coach since and briefly (and unsuccessfully) coached a high-school team in Alabama.

More close games

In 1995, after only losing 1 game over the previous two seasons and starting 2-0 again, Auburn was ranked #5 in the AP poll (#6 in the coaches poll), and made a return trip to Baton Rouge to face its benefactor from the previous season, Jamie Howard. LSU had recently hired as head coach Vanderbilt’s Gerry DiNardo, whose most impressive record as head coach had been 5-6.

LSU had again lost to Texas A&M and had beaten Mississippi St.

The Auburn offense had a similar performance to the one in 1994, but their defense was held scoreless this time; the Fighting Tigers won, 12-6. Although that wasn’t exactly an impressive achievement for LSU’s offense, the redeemed Howard was carried off the field as a hero.

LSU would end that long bowl-less streak by beating Nick Saban’s Michigan St. Spartans in the Independence Bowl. Both Auburn and LSU would lose four games on the year.

The Night the Barn Burned

LSU also won the next year (1996) at Auburn, 19-15, on the way to a 10-2 record. During the game, an old gymnasium caught fire on the Auburn campus (this has been blamed on LSU fans, although I’ve never heard of any actual evidence substantiating this), and smoke could be seen from the stadium. This also happened to be LSU’s first win @ Auburn since 1973.

But Auburn took a road game back the next year, winning 31-28.

Back and forth

In the nine years beginning in 1998, LSU won 4 and Auburn won five.

1999 was the last game of the series under DiNardo, who, after beating Auburn on the way to a 3-0 start in 1998, would lose 15 of his last 18 games as head coach.

This didn’t stop Tommy Tuberville from lighting up a cigar after his Tigers’ 41-7 win in Baton Rouge, hence “The Cigar Game.” Auburn has not won a road game in the series since.

In fact, every game in the series since then {no longer true} has been won by the home team. Of possible interest to those other Tiger fans, Auburn was 3-2 against Saban with all three wins coming at home.

Auburn won by 17 in 2000, followed by a 13-point loss in 2001, which, due to Sept. 11, had been postponed to December and acted as a playoff for LSU’s first SEC West Championship. LSU started only 4-3, so the timing may have affected the outcome. In 2001, LSU won its first outright SEC Championship since 1986 and its first Sugar Bowl since the 1967 season. LSU has won 2 Sugar Bowls, 2 SEC West titles {now 3}, and once SEC title {now 2} since.

The two teams then exchanged 31-7 victories, the second of course by LSU on the way to the Fighting Tigers’ first national championship since 1958.

2004 – The Extra Point Game

This set up quite a meeting in 2004, as LSU was ranked #4 and #5 (AP) and visited #13 Auburn, who had gone through a tumultuous off-season that had almost ended Tommy Tuberville’s employment on the Plains.

After an impressive opening drive and a missed extra point, the Fighting Tigers led only 9-3 at halftime. That score stood until Auburn got the ball with about 8 minutes to play. LSU at one point forced Auburn into a 4th and 12 from LSU’s 28-yard line.

Not only did Courtney Taylor catch Jason Campbell’s pass for a first down on that play, but he also later caught his first touchdown pass with 1:14 to play, also on fourth down.

In what seemed apropos, John Vaughn then missed the extra point after a low snap.

Vaughn got another chance though, as Ronnie Prude was whistled for doing something (I still don’t quite understand this rule or why it applied) that involved trying to use another player for support in an effort to block the kick when actually he hit the player coming down from a jump.

Even if it was the correct call, I think it should be like the opposite of roughing the punter. If he successfully blocks the kick, then make it a penalty. If not, why call a penalty? Because he could have hurt himself? So what? It’s football. That seems to be how it’s called in practice—I’ve only seen it called twice at the most since then—but I think it was a rule modification and therefore fresh in the official’s minds. Nick Saban was on the rules committee and claimed not to understand the rule himself.

This game is now known as the “Extra-Point Game.” The winning points are shown on YouTube.

You could probably guess that Vaughn’s second try sailed through and Auburn held on for a 10-9 win. That game and the 8-point win over Alabama were the Tigers’ only games decided by fewer than 18 during the regular season that year. Saban’s last LSU team would finish 9-3 after a hail-mary loss to Iowa in the CapitalOne Bowl.

2005 – The Field Goal Game

Maybe it was bad juju from 2004, but Vaughn (same guy) missed field goals from 41, 54, 37, and 49 yards during regulation. He did make one from 26 yards and converted both extra points attempted without any drama. LSU’s two kickers were 1 for 2 in regulation.

Vaughn missed the 49-yarder in the waning seconds of regulation, after LSU had tied it with about 90 seconds left in the game, sending the contest into overtime.

Chris Jackson redeemed himself from a 38-yard miss with a 30-yard successful attempt for his only field goal of the game (Colt David, LSU’s primary kicker {in 2007}, had kicked the first from 44 yards). Auburn, unlike LSU, could not pick up the initial first down when it got the ball. Ronnie Prude (same guy who was flagged for the penalty on the try in 2004) broke up Brandon Cox’s third-and-long throw to Anthony Mix, who had caught Auburn’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Vaughn’s 40-yard attempt at the tie hit the left side of the upright, putting him at 1 for 6 for the game and ending the game.

LSU won despite being out-gained by 112 yards and only converting 4 third downs to Auburn’s 8.

2006

The game is known as Ref Gate–you know which side calls it that since the official final score was 7-3 Auburn. It’s also called “The Play,” and I think I’ve also seen it called “The Call,” since the most pivotal referee decision was to pick up a flag that had been thrown for pass interference. But there were a number of important calls that went against LSU. Also, the Mad Hatter may have played a role in this one (although Jimbo Fisher was the offensive coordinator, and I think Miles deferred more to him at the time), as LSU had many potential field-goal chances that the Fighting Tigers bypassed in an effort to get in the end zone. I don’t want to post the video of calls again, but it can easily be found on Youtube.

Auburn won despite being out-gained 311-182.

More series facts from the 2007 blog

Auburn has not led in the series since it lost in 1934.

The only Auburn opponents that the Plainsmen have played 10 times or more and have a worse winning percentage against are Alabama and, wait for it…

Tulane. It is a compliment to only have losing records against three teams that you’ve played that many times, but I wasn’t expecting one of them to be Tulane. Also in Auburn’s defense, they’ve only played the Green Wave once since playing them every year from 1921-1955.

The largest margin of victory in the series was 34 in the 1999 Cigar Game, surpassing the previous record of 28 (Auburn had won by 28 in 1901, and LSU had won by 28 in 1972). The 31-7 contests are in a 3-way tie with Auburn’s 34-10 win in 1993.

Right now (2010), LSU has won 3 in a row and 8 of the last 11 contests in Baton Rouge, the first of the group being in 1969.

Last year was only the second time in 6 years that the winner of the LSU/Auburn game did not win the SEC West. Along with LSU’s co-championship in 1988, Auburn of course finished with the best record in the SEC in 1993 but was not eligible for the SEC Championship.

Auburn is only LSU’s 10th most-common opponent, and LSU is Auburn’s 8th most-common opponent, but Auburn appears in the list of the top 15 Tiger Stadium crowds three times, for each of the last three games there. Arkansas and Florida, with 2 each, are the only other teams on that list more than once.

The two teams have also done a good job filling Jordan-Hare stadium recently. According to the Auburn CSTV website (I’m not sure when it was last updated, I assume after the 2004 season), the Extra-Point Game was tied for first with only two other contests (Georgia and Arkansas in 2004). LSU also appeared in the top 15 for the 2000 contest won by Auburn, 34-17. LSU’s two appearances were tied for second with Alabama, among others.

The other blogs in this series can be accessed through the LSU Rivalry Series tab above.

Post-2014 Additional info

LSU lost by an identical score when the Fighting Tigers started 0-7 in conference before Gerry DiNardo was relieved of his duties (leading to the hiring of Nick Saban in the following offseason).  LSU won by 35 in 2011, so that’s still the biggest win in the series by either team.  This is the fifth time Auburn has beaten LSU by more than 20 (49 games dating back to 1901), but it is only the third time since 1938.  The closest of the three was by 24 in 1993.

LSU did have five losses of 28 or more since then, but only once was under Les Miles.  They were Florida 2000, Florida 2001, Alabama 2002, Georgia 2004, and Florida 2008.

Since the SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992, LSU has traveled to both Auburn and Florida in every even year.  LSU has never won both games and not coincidentally has never won the SEC West in an even year, so this pretty much assures it won’t happen this year either. This pattern momentarily changed when LSU and Florida traded home games in 2016 and 2017. This allowed LSU to win a road game against Florida in the same year they beat Auburn for the first time since 1980.

I didn’t realize this going into the 2017 game, but this was actually the first competitive LSU-Auburn game in Tiger Stadium since 2007. That was when LSU only needed a field goal to win, but Matt Flynn threw a touchdown to Demetrius Byrd that was caught with about 3 seconds left (although the ensuing kickoff was with 1 second left). Appropriately enough, the 2007 team was in attendance on Saturday. The 2007 game came two years after an overtime win by LSU which resulted from multiple missed field goals by Auburn.

It was nice to get another close win against Auburn in light of the 4-point loss in 1994 (the disaster on the plains), the 1-point loss in 2004 (the extra point game), the 4-point loss in 2006 (Refgate), the 7-point loss in 2010 (I don’t think it had a nickname; it was just a good close game on the way to Auburn’s national championship), and the 5-point loss last season (I guess we can call it the final nail in the Miles coffin game). The other games mentioned in this paragraph were all at Auburn, where LSU has only won twice since 1998.

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Florida

In College Football, General LSU, History, Rivalry on October 14, 2010 at 10:50 PM

Overall records (edited after the 2019 game)
Florida leads, 33-30-3.
In Baton Rouge, the series is tied at 17.
In Gainesville, Florida leads, 16-13-3.

Longest winning streak–Florida, 9 wins, 1988-1996
Longest LSU winning streak–4 wins, 1977-1980

Home/away streaks
Florida won 4 in a row at LSU, 1989-1995
LSU won 3 in a row at Florida, 1959-1963
Florida won 7 in a row at home, 1988-2000
LSU won 3 in a row at home, 1937-1954 (the middle game was played in 1941) and 2011-2015

Longest streaks with only one loss:
Florida, 13/14, 1988-2001
LSU, 5/6, 1958-1963, 1977-1982, and 2010-2015

Biggest wins:
Florida, 55, 58-3 in 1993 (@ LSU)
LSU, 41, 48-7 in 1971

Biggest shutout wins:
LSU, 23, in both 1961 (@Florida) and 1962
Florida, 20, 1985 (@ LSU)

Highest single-team point totals
:
1. Florida, 58, 1993*
2. Florida, 56, 1996*
3. Florida, 51, 2008
4. LSU, 48, 1971
5. Florida, 44, 2001*
t6. Florida, 42, 1994*
t6. LSU, 42, 2019
t8. Florida, 41, 2000*
t8. LSU, 41, 2011
10. LSU, 37, 1967

*=during Steve Spurrier’s tenure

Recent games (since 2004)

10/12/2019 LSU vs. Florida W 42 28
10/06/2018 LSU (10-3) @ Florida (10-3) L 19 27
10/14/2017 LSU (9-4) @ Florida (4-7) W 17 16
11/19/2016 LSU (8-4) vs. Florida (9-4) L 10 16
10/17/2015 LSU (9-3) vs. Florida (10-4) W 35 28
10/11/2014 LSU (8-5) @ Florida (7-5) W 30 27
10/12/2013 LSU (10-3) vs. Florida (4-8) W 17 6
10/06/2012 LSU (10-3) @ Florida (11-2) L 6 14
10/08/2011 LSU (13-1) vs. Florida (7-6) W 41 11
10/09/2010 LSU (11-2) @ Florida (8-5) W 33 29
10/10/2009 LSU (9-4) vs. Florida (13-1) L 3 13
10/11/2008 LSU (8-5) @ Florida (13-1) L 21 51
10/06/2007 LSU (12-2) vs. Florida (9-4) W 28 24
10/07/2006 LSU (11-2) @ Florida (13-1) L 10 23
10/15/2005 LSU (11-2) vs. Florida (9-3) W 21 17
10/9/2004 LSU (9-3) @ Florida (7-5) W 24 21

The italicized games were all decided by one possession.  The records above are final records for the season.

See here for more stats.

2011 to present (for more in-depth details from 2004 to 2014, see here)

LSU ran over almost everyone in the 2011 season on the way to an SEC title before losing a rematch in the BCS Championship to Alabama.  Florida was no exception, as LSU won, 41-11.

In 2012, with LSU struggling to break in a new quarterback (Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger), Florida won 14-6 on the way to an 11-1 regular season.

LSU was strong in 2013 despite the eventual three losses (all in close games to teams that were very good at the time), but Florida only had four wins that year.  LSU won a fairly uneventful contest, 17-6.  Florida had been ranked going into the game but would not win another game all season.

LSU won close games in both 2014 and 2015.  Both games were tied late in the game.  In 2014, it appeared the Gators may be driving for the winning points, but LSU came up with an interception before hitting a long field goal to win.  This was slightly surprising given that the same kicker had missed an extra point earlier in the game.

In 2015, Florida tied the game on a 72-yard punt return with just over 1 minute left in the third quarter.  With 10:40 left in the game, LSU got into field goal position.  Even though it was a fourth and long, it wasn’t exactly shocking to see the kicker run around the end and catch a pass from the holder.  Unlike Josh Jasper in 2010, Trent Domingue made it all the way to the end zone.  Florida made it to midfield a couple of times, but one drive ended after an incompletion on fourth and 10 and the other ended when the clock ran out and Florida QB Treon Harris threw the ball out bounds.

This is only the second time LSU won three home games in a row against the Gators.  The previous time it was three games spread out over 18 seasons.  This was also the third time and first since 1982 that LSU has won five times in six contests against the Gators.  Also, since 2007, LSU is 12 for 16 on fourth downs against the Gators with at least four successful fakes, three of them fake field goals.  LSU has converted its last six fourth-down-conversion attempts against Florida.

In 2016, it was Florida stopping LSU on fourth down, avoiding what would have been a 17-16 LSU win in Baton Rouge.

That happened to be the exact final score in Gainesville in 2017.

This was the first year since 1980 in which LSU beat Auburn and Florida with at least one of those wins coming on the road. Just like this year, there were also wins at Florida and at home against Auburn that season. That year was the last of four consecutive LSU wins against Florida, which has not been repeated since then. LSU has won 6 of 8 against the Gators and 3 of the last 4 in Gainesville though. All three of those wins in Gainesville were decided in the final moments, and this was the ninth LSU-Florida game since (and including) 2004 that was decided by one possession.

Before the loss to LSU, Florida had won 14 of 15 home games and 10 of the last 11 decided by 8 points or fewer (with the previous close loss coming to LSU in 2015). Now both LSU and Texas A&M have won close games in the Swamp (by 1 and 2 points respectively) in consecutive weeks. The Gators’ remaining home games this season are against UAB and Florida St.

New narrative, 2002-2010

The original TSN post is below after the date it was written (10/2/07), but it was written before one of the best games in the series, at least in my recollection. 2007 was not the game that made Urban Meyer cry (see below for 2005), but it was Urban’s next visit to Tiger Stadium. I meant it was the best because of the play, not because of how it seemed to affect the Florida coach. I think even Florida fans would be hard-pressed to say the 2007 game wasn’t an incredible display of college football. I’ll get to the details below.

Actually, I’ll go back to 2002 since that’s the year this became a competitive rivalry again after Florida had won 13 of 14 before that. The series did not turn around with LSU’s hiring of Nick Saban but with Steve Spurrier’s departure from Florida. LSU did win the SEC in 2001, but only after a 44-15 loss to the Gators, which followed a 41-9 loss in Saban’s first year. I’ll give the ESPN links for the game recaps.

In 2002, LSU essentially was two different teams. One rebounded from an opening loss in Blacksburg to put together a 6-game winning streak, during which they looked much like the team that ended 2001 with a separate 6-game winning streak on the way to LSU’s first undisputed SEC title since 1986 (and first of any nature since 1988). That is the team that played Florida in Gainesville and won easily, the first win @ Florida since 1986 (no, that’s not deja vu or a copying error). (See below for the historic significance of the margin of victory.) The other LSU team is what we ended up with after Matt Mauck (who would be the hero of the 2003 season) fell to injury and Marcus Randall took over, although the downward spiral wasn’t entirely the fault of that one position of course. The Tigers would finish the season with 4 losses in 6 games, including a 1-point loss in the regular-season finale against Arkansas that kept them from returning to the SEC Championship game. Florida would finish with the exact same record of 8-5.

Florida (3-3 going into the game) wasn’t intimidated in their return trip to Baton Rouge, where they had won 6 out of 7, to face the 5-0 Tigers. Despite impressive numbers against weaker teams, 2003‘s offense had shown some weakness against Georgia three weeks before. Florida’s defense apparently came out with something to prove after giving up 36 points to the Tigers in Gainesville the season before and Florida won, 19-7. LSU would get the last laugh, as they finished 13-1 with a BCS title and Florida once again finished 8-5. On the other hand, it is still annoying to LSU fans that we’re supposed to “share” the national title with USC, and that is largely Florida’s fault.

In 2004, Florida had started 3-1 with a 2-point loss to Tennessee as the only blemish. LSU already had two losses and would have had three were it not for several missed extra points by Oregon St. kicker Alexis Serna. LSU’s first two road trips were a last-minute one-point loss to Auburn and a 45-16 thrashing at the hands of Georgia the week before (tied for the third-worst loss of the Nick Saban era…two of those top four were losses to Steve Spurrier’s Gators). I don’t recall the spread, but it could not have been surprising that Florida got out to a 14-0 lead. LSU outscored them the rest of the way, however, 24-7. Consecutive home losses to LSU for the first time since 1980 and 1982 were probably not the reason, but LSU broke the tie against Ron Zook, and the record has remained 2-1 ever since. This time LSU would finish the regular season on a 6-game winning streak before giving up a hail mary to lose to Iowa in the bowl game, in Nick Saban’s final game. Florida once again finished with 5 losses (can’t do that three years in a row in Gainesville).

Since then, it has been Urban Meyer vs. Les Miles and surprisingly to some, the two are now dead even.

I mentioned that despite Urban Meyer’s tears (maybe because he lost to Les Miles, come to think of it), 2005 wasn’t as good as 2007 would be. Meyer refused to answer a question about Miles in the post-game press conference this year, by the way. Interestingly enough, Florida was LSU’s first home win in 2005, despite it coming on Oct. 8. LSU had their regularly scheduled opener postponed, their next scheduled home game against Arizona St. was moved to Tempe, and the Tigers lost a heart-breaker to Tennessee before road games against Mississippi St. and Vanderbilt. LSU was more sloppy that year, and the Florida game was decided based on mistakes rather than great plays. LSU turned the ball over 5 times, suffered 5 sacks, and was penalized 11 times in the win. This came after 4 turnovers and 14 penalties in the prior game against Vanderbilt. This time, LSU got out to a 14-point first-quarter lead before falling behind. The Tigers won with the only fourth-quarter points, a touchdown with about 12:30 left. Until the final Florida drive ended due to the clock running out, every other drive from then on ended with a punt.

I don’t know if it was Katrina or Les Miles’ first season or just the leadership that we had on the team, but that team was like a derailed train at times. It was really fast and could run you over, but it could also crash and burn at a moment’s notice. Although LSU finished 11-2 that year, LSU nearly lost to Arizona St. before a second-half comeback, it blew a 21-0 halftime lead over Tennessee to lose in overtime, and it was also lucky to escape with a win over Auburn in overtime (as it was lucky to beat Florida). In the second loss, LSU just ran out of steam and got destroyed by Georgia in the SEC Championship game. It didn’t help matters that the Tigers already knew the national championship was out of reach. In other games that year, LSU beat Alabama by 3 in overtime and Arkansas by 2. LSU was certainly ready for Miami in the Peach Bowl, which they would win, 40-3. Combined with losses to Alabama and South Carolina, the Gators’ win over Georgia in their next game was not enough to give Florida the East title, but the Gators won the Outback Bowl to finish 9-3.

In the 2006 game, the sloppiness continued for LSU, but this time Florida took advantage. LSU turned the ball over 5 times. LSU took a 7-0 lead after a 9-play, 73-yard drive, but then gave the ball to Florida with a fumbled punt return that led to a tying touchdown for the Gators. The Tigers then had the ball on the Florida 2 with a chance to take the lead again, but JaMarcus Russell fumbled. Florida would instead take the lead in the waning seconds of the first half. Then, LSU fumbled the second half kickoff for a safety, giving Florida a 9-point lead. Tim Tebow had a good game, but that one was lost by LSU five times as much as it was won by Florida. Florida would win the national championship over Ohio St., and LSU didn’t do too poorly for the season either, finishing 11-2 after winning the Sugar Bowl over Notre Dame.

2007 was won simply by virtue of Les Miles’ refusals to send out the punting team and Jacob Hester’s refusals to go down. This might sound vaguely familiar…After taking some chances, LSU scored a touchdown on its final drive, beating Florida by 4 to go 6-0 for the season. Good thing LSU isn’t traveling to Lexington next week. The earlier parts of the game went a little bit differently. Florida had three separate 10-point leads before a combination of ball control and defense kept the Gators scoreless for the fourth quarter. LSU had two fourth-down conversions on the final drive alone and was 5-5 on fourth downs for the game. Not coincidentally, LSU had a time of possession of almost 36 minutes and Florida had the ball for less than three minutes in the fourth quarter. LSU’s final drive was 15 plays for 60 yards and took up 8:11. LSU only led for the final 70 seconds of the game, and the only tie had been at 0-0. LSU would become the first team in recent memory to be the consensus national champions with two losses, 12-2. Florida, which had entered the game with a 4-1 record, would finish 9-4.

I’m going to be a bit lazy and forego reliving 2008 and 2009 except for a condensed version of events. In 2008, Florida got out to a 20-0 lead. LSU rallied to get back to within 6, but two quick touchdowns for the Gators followed. It was officially over on the first play in the fourth quarter, LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee threw a touchdown to the wrong team to give Florida a 41-14 lead. With an LSU touchdown instead it would have been at least conceivable for LSU to complete a comeback, but our defense just couldn’t keep up quite well enough. Florida would win the national championship while LSU would finish 8-5. Last year, it (obviously) was more of a defensive struggle, 13-3. It was every bit as week an offensive performance by LSU as the score indicated. LSU had under 100 passing yards and under 70 rushing yards. The Tigers had nine penalties and were 1-9 on third downs. It’s truly amazing that the defense was able to hold Florida to 13 with such little assistance. The Gators dealt LSU its first loss for the second consecutive season and for the third time in 7 seasons. Florida of course lost the SEC title rematch with Alabama for their only loss of the season before winning the Sugar Bowl over Cincinnati. LSU finished 9-4 after a CapitalOne Bowl loss to Penn St.

Finally, that takes us to 2014. With the win, LSU became the only team to have beaten Florida on the road three times since 2002 (inclusive). Ole Miss is the only other team to have done it twice in that time period. I’m almost certain Florida is the only team to have won at LSU twice in that same time period. Anyway, this year wasn’t like 2007 where LSU was battling from behind the whole night or 2005 where Florida’s ineptness on offense saved LSU’s mistakes from hurting them. This was the best LSU looked as compared to Florida (again, they both played great in 2007, but LSU didn’t look much better if better at all) since 2002 despite the close score. The Tigers outgained the Gators, 385-243. There were similarities to 2007 in that LSU converted two fourth downs (including the crazy fake field goal) and had the ball for almost 10 minutes longer than Florida did. Also, the 2007 game and just now were the only instances of a second consecutive loss by Florida under Urban Meyer.

Florida had kept it close by taking over (and then scoring touchdowns) at the LSU 17 twice, once after an interception and once after a punt. Both gave the Gators 4-point early leads. LSU also had what should have been a safety canceled due to an incidental facemask on the tackle before either of those touchdown drives. It was very reminiscent of 2006 except despite all of that, LSU still led by 6 at the half. I’ll give credit to Andre Debose for his return that brought the Gators to within 5, but still, it was set up by a short kick and all but a few Tigers ran past him before they seemed to realize it had been a short kick. So LSU could have easily ended up winning in a blowout, but like I told one of my blogging colleagues, I’ll take a win at Florida however they can get it, especially when throughout the 1990s, that seemed like a complete impossibility.

2005, 2007, and 2010 (LSU’s last three wins in the series) were each by exactly 4 points. Five of LSU’s last 7 wins in the series were by four points or fewer (including 3-point wins in 1987 and 2004). LSU won by 7 in 1997 and by 29 in 2002. The 2002 win was LSU’s biggest since 1971, which was the first of 40 consecutive seasons in which this series has been played now. 2002 was also the only times since 1980 that LSU even won by two touchdowns or more.’

LSU has never dealt Florida its only loss. The Gators finished 13-1 in three of the last four seasons and beat LSU every time. But aside from those, LSU has won 4 in a row.

Original SportingNews blog


Oct 02, 2007 04:18 AM

As I mentioned in that rankings blog, this is LSU’s first AP #1 appearance since 1959, and when they relinquished #1 that November, it was because the Tigers had suffered their first loss after 19 consecutive wins.

LSU has won 7 SEC games in a row, 8 SEC home games in a row, and 16 home games in a row overall. The Tigers also have the nation’s second-longest winning streak at 12 games. The last loss? Florida.

Since losing to Ron Zook’s Florida Gators in LSU’s national championship year of 2003, LSU has won 14 of 15 SEC home games and 26 of 27 home games overall. The one loss was the Monday night game against Tennessee in overtime shortly after Hurricane Rita left the area in 2005.

Recent history of LSU and the rivalry

I have a couple of TSN friends (if not more) who are in high school, and people that age—or people that don’t remember the late ’80s and early ’90s in college football for whatever reason—don’t realize just how low the LSU program had gotten and that it was a very difficult process over 9 seasons that eventually led to a national championship in 2003, an event still dismissed by USC fans as charity (a couple tangents are below).

Where did LSU come from?

I know this is a compliment in a way, but I actually see people who list LSU as their least-favorite team. Usually least favorites are teams with a significant resume of dominance—USC (slowed down in the ’90s but still were usually a bowl team, had won a national championship almost 20 years more recently than LSU had before 2003), Alabama (claims 13 national championships; although a few are sketchy at best, that’s still impressive), Florida (LSU wasn’t the only SEC they dominated from the late ’80s until the Ron Zook era), Notre Dame (0-5 doesn’t erase being the one of the most successful and storied programs in college football), Michigan (not far behind N.D.), etc.

My point is that I can’t imagine that, for all teams you can choose to be the #1 team you want to lose, you’re going to target a program with 8 losing seasons of the last 18? LSU finished with 4 or fewer wins four times from 1992-1999, with a fifth in 1989.

Anyway, I thought reclaiming the #1 spot before this game was interesting, and you’ll see why in a minute. Where did LSU come from? After six consecutive losing seasons, LSU hired former Notre Dame player and then-Vanderbilt head coach Gerry DiNardo, who had more than doubled Vandy’s average number of wins per season. His recruiting wouldn’t quite take, but he was hired for his ability to get the most out of a small talent pool. He managed 16 SEC wins in 3 years when the Tigers had had only 14 in those six losing seasons combined.

Background for 1997 game

After an “only” 18-point loss to #3 Florida in 1995, a match-up between undefeateds in 1996—#12 LSU @ #1 Florida—was picked up by CBS. LSU had already gone on the road to knock off #14 Auburn, whom they had beaten the year before when Auburn was ranked #5, which had garnered LSU its first national ranking since early starting 0-2 in 1989. Not only would Florida defeat LSU for the 9th consecutive season, but they humiliated the Tigers, 56-13. It was the second time in 4 years Florida had beaten LSU by over 40 (the first, a 58-3 loss at Tiger Stadium in 1993 which ESPN actually apologized for broadcasting) and third time in four years the Gators won by more than 3 touchdowns.

LSU would finish the 1996 season 10-2, the only other loss a continuation of an Alabama undefeated streak in Baton Rouge that would be 30 years old before it ended. Florida, of course, finished with 1 loss, @ Florida St. by a field goal, before winning the national championship that year.

In preseason 1997, the Gators held onto #1, and LSU actually got its first top-10 ranking that pre-season since its loss @ Ohio St. in week 4 of the 1988 season.]

Florida rolled into the LSU game in early October still undefeated, and after a 3-point loss to Auburn and 1-point win against Vanderbilt, the Tigers had slipped to #14, lower than they had been the year before. But, not wanting to pass up on a chance to have the #1 team on its airwaves, ESPN decided to give the Florida-LSU series another shot. They wouldn’t regret it, as the Tigers won, 28-21.

See the connection? Loss to Auburn by 3 at home…#1 team in the country…LSU-Florida…upset.

At least the #1 team is at home this time, and the other team isn’t trying to get revenge for the year before, or for the nine years before for that matter.

And if this game needed an extra boost (not likely), it will be the debut of Mike VI, LSU’s new live tiger mascot. A Mike the Tiger has intimidated visiting football teams since 1936, almost the entire history of LSU’s membership in the SEC. Terry Bowden commented that on his first visit to Tiger Stadium, he was given a rude welcome by Mike V and was reminded why coaches wear dark pants.

Urban Meyer wouldn’t have provided as many meals, and Mike V was in his old age (3 days shy of his 16th birthday), so Meyer didn’t mention anything about the tiger, but Urban’s first visit to Tiger Stadium, a 21-17 loss two years ago, caused him to weep openly after the game.

The all-time series

(See above for updated overall records)

Since going 1-13 against Florida from 1988 to 2001 (including 1-11 against Spurrier, see the link to the South Carolina series below), LSU has won 3 of 5 in the series, but only one of the three (Urban Meyer’s first visit, mentioned above) was in Baton Rouge.

The only other times that a 3-2 record occurred for either team were between 1954 and 1961. There were two windows of time that the teams were 2-2-1 over five years, 1980-84 and 1982-86. But even those years can also be viewed as parts of various streaks.

LSU went 3-0-1 in the first four games between the programs, which took place between 1937 and 1954. Since then, there has only been one gap in the rivalry, from 1968 to 1970.

Florida responded with a 3-0 streak to tie but would not take the lead until after one-time LSU head coach Bill Arnsparger hired Steve Spurrier at Florida, where Arnsparger had become the AD.

LSU then won 5 of 6, the first game of that group was in LSU’s championship season in 1958, which earned LSU its first of those 19 straight weeks on top, and in the second LSU was ranked #1. So LSU is 1-0 against Florida with LSU as #1, but this is the first time LSU was ranked #1 while hosting the Gators.

Florida and LSU then repeated the first 7 games, but in reverse: Florida went 3-0 followed by LSU going 3-0-1 from 1967-73.

Florida responded with yet another 3-0 streak. LSU then won 4 in a row. Florida went 3-1-1 over the next five years, from 1981-85. After the Tigers won the next two in a row, they didn’t win again until 1997.

1977-1987 was the best long-term LSU run, 7-3-1, which included 4-0-1 at Florida. The second-best was 8-4-1 to start the series, from 1937 to 1963.

LSU has not won 4 of 6 against the Gators since it won 5 of 6 from 1977-82.

Florida is LSU’s seventh most-common opponent. While the LSU-Kentucky series (which I’ll get to next) takes its next break, the Gators will move up to fifth, as Florida is only one behind Kentucky and Rice, who will be tied for fifth after this year, and LSU has no plans to renew its rivalry with Rice.

This will be the 37th consecutive season that LSU has played Florida, the sixth-longest streak overall for LSU and fourth-longest active streak after Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Alabama. Tulane and Kentucky are the longer streaks that have ended.

Other installments of the LSU rivalry series:
(Obsolete; see here instead)

Approval Rating: 100% (out of 8 reviews).