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Posts Tagged ‘Ron Zook’

Sly Croom’s Lasting Influence

In College Football, History on October 27, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Since this is a bye week for LSU, I thought I’d reminisce a little. Ed Orgeron’s return to Ole Miss reminded me that he was one of the victims of Sylvester Croom. I don’t just mean his team lost to Mississippi St.’s, but he apparently lost his job in large part because of the 2007 game (the 2005 game didn’t help either).

Sylvester Croom after winning the Egg Bowl in a dramatic comeback in Starkville in 2007.

Losses to Sylvester Croom also factored heavily into Florida’s firing of Ron Zook, Alabama’s firing of Mike Shula, and arguably Auburn’s firing of Tommy Tuberville.

I think part of it was the perception of Mississippi St. up until then. Overall from 2001 to 2003, the Bulldogs went 8-27 and only 3-21 in the SEC. So with how competitive the SEC was, that just wasn’t a team you entertained losing to, especially since they were given heavy sanctions stemming from the Jackie Sherrill era.

In fact I remember a Florida fan (ironically) complaining that the SEC West teams got to play “the Mississippis” ever year.

So I’m not even saying it was altogether fair for Croom that losses to his teams were met with such hostility since he did improve the situation from how he found it.

Ron Zook was the only head coach to defeat Nick Saban’s Tigers in 2003; but that didn’t help him much after the loss to the Bulldogs in 2004.

The Bulldogs’ win against Florida in 2004 (Croom’s first year) was only the second SEC win in three seasons. It didn’t seem to help Zook that Mississippi St. won the next week against Kentucky. The damage had been done, and the fans wanted blood. Without Zook’s firing, who knows how Urban Meyer’s career would have developed?

Mississippi St. would only go 4-20 in SEC play from 2004 to 2006, but all but one of those wins (the one over Kentucky) resulted in a firing. Orgeron wasn’t fired until 2007, but maybe that loss would have been less fatal had he beaten the Bulldogs in his first season in 2005.

Orgeron’s one win over the Bulldogs came in 2006, but Croom did beat Mike Shula’s Tide. The fact that it was in Tuscaloosa couldn’t have helped matters. No only was it the only SEC win for the Bulldogs that year, it was the only win over a I-A (now FBS) opponent in regulation. Alabama lost six games in that regular season, but one of them was by one point in overtime at Arkansas, and the other four (apart from Mississippi St.) were against teams that were in the top 15 at the time of the game. Without that loss, there is a good chance Nick Saban never coaches Alabama. Even if he started a year later, does the Tide win the West in 2008? Do they win the national championship in 2009? Probably doubtful in both cases.

Croom with Mike Shula after a game.

In 2007, the Bulldogs went a respectable 4-4 in conference and won the Liberty Bowl to finish 8-5 overall. (The non-conference loss was to West Virginia, who won the Big East and nearly played for the national championship that year.)

Nonetheless, rivalry games can be funny things (as that same West Virginia team found out against Pitt), and Orgeron was seen as responsible for giving up a late lead (see the link in the first sentence for more details).

Had Ole Miss won, it’s possible that the administration could have held out for that fourth year, which was when Croom finally had a decent year.

It’s arguable that there was another victim, and that was Tommy Tuberville. Had Auburn beaten the Bulldogs in 2007, that would have been four consecutive seasons of two conference losses or fewer after Tuberville had only accomplished the feat once in his first five seasons on the Plains.

Tuberville recently took credit for Shula’s firing (and indirectly for Saban’s hiring) as a result of beating Shula every year, but Croom likely also played a role in his own demise.

Also, one of the two SEC wins in Tuberville’s (and Croom’s) final season of 2008 was a 3-2 win over the Bulldogs. I know that in the minds of some fans, that didn’t count as a win, at least not for the football team. Especially since the offense was under fire at that time, that score was an easy one to recall and complain about. The other SEC win was 14-12, and there were SEC losses of 14-13, 17-7, and 17-13.

It’s hard to argue the decision in hindsight (I don’t think anyone would argue that Dan Mullen hasn’t proven himself better-suited to the position), but I wasn’t that fond of Croom’s firing at the time. He did take a step back in his final season in only going 4-8, but that was still better than any team there between 2001 and 2006. The loss to Auburn was one of two one-point losses that year (the other to Kentucky). Had they won both, they would have been bowl-eligible. They also played fairly close road games against Louisiana Tech (a loss by 8) and then-#5 LSU (a loss by 10). Louisiana Tech had one of its better seasons going 8-5 and winning a bowl game under head coach Derek Dooley, so that was not an embarrassing loss by any means.

Croom coaching at the Titans minicamp in 2014.

If you were curious, Croom went back to being an NFL running backs coach, a position he still occupies today with the Tennessee Titans. Apart from his stint at Mississippi St. and a four-year term as Offensive Coordinator of the Detroit Lions, Croom has been an NFL running backs coach since 1987. Before that, he coached linebackers at Alabama, his alma mater, under Bear Bryant and Ray Perkins. Alabama and Mississippi St. were his only two college coaching stops.

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Rumors of Miles’ Demise Greatly Exaggerated

In College Football, General LSU on November 20, 2015 at 9:38 PM

I know it’s late, but I had to get this out there. Before I forget, here is the LSU-Ole Miss Rivalry blog again. I also recently uncovered a blog I wrote about former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt before his last game against LSU. I’ll talk about him a bit below.

Les Miles is the most successful coach in LSU history.

Charles McClendon won more games, but let’s look at what it took to push him out. LSU lost four games or more in McClendon’s final six seasons. In 1973, his last year in which the Tigers only lost three games, LSU got out to a 9-0 start before dropping the final three. Tulane was one of the three teams to bear the Tigers that season.

So all of a sudden Miles is coaching for his job after a 7-game winning streak (should have been 9 games considering the Norte Dame debacle) turns into 7-2 record? I’m sorry, I don’t buy it.

Miles taking responsibility after the Arkansas loss.

Miles taking responsibility after the Arkansas loss.

Yes, the 1970s were a different era, but we aren’t suddenly in an age where a coach who wins 78% of his games over 10 years is on the hot seat because of two games, one of which was played against the #4 team in the country.

Let’s look at what had to happen to other coaches to get fired.

I’ll just stay in the SEC because some fans will claim anything else is apples to oranges.

Will Muschamp was only 18-8 in his first two seasons, yet he survived a 4-8 year before finally being fired after a 5-5 start the following year. Florida is pretty similar to LSU being that they won BCS titles in 2006 and 2008 under urban Meyer. 2008 of course was just one year after LSU last won. We’re not talking about a patient group of fans and boosters since the Spurrier years.

Spurrier’s successor Ron Zook was only allowed two 5-loss seasons, the most LSU can possibly lose this year, but that was out of only three.

Auburn-LSU was THE GAME in the SEC West before Saban first won the division with the Tide in 2008.

Tommy Tuberville was nearly fired after an 8-5 season in 2003, but Tuberville’s best mark up to that point was only 9-4, a record he had reached twice in five seasons. Of course, he redeemed himself with an undefeated year. I’ll go into why that might be relevant for Miles below. What actually got Tuberville fired was a 14-11 mark over two years in 2007 and 2008. The worst Miles will do is 15-10 over two seasons, but Tuberville only had two seasons with double-digit wins in 10 seasons. Miles has had six.

Staying with Auburn, Gene Chizik was of course fired a couple of years ago despite having won the national championship in 2010. Chizik only went 11-14 over his final two seasons. The team had apparently given up on him in the final season during a five game losing streak and finished only 3-9.

At Alabama, Mike Shula was fired after going exactly .500 over two consecutive regular seasons.

That takes care of the other relevant national-championship-level programs in the SEC being that of course Urban Meyer left voluntarily.

Georgia came close to the national title game in 2012, so maybe you could argue that’s a similar program, but of course Richt has been at Georgia for years longer than Miles has been at LSU and still has his job. Richt survived a 14-12 stretch in 2009 and 2010, by the way.

Is Miles the new Houston Nutt?

So nothing like firing Les Miles has happened.

There is some precedent for firing a generally successful coach after a 5-loss season, and that was when Houston Nutt was fired at Arkansas. Nutt of course was never a national-championship-level coach, although the Hogs were briefly in the conversation in 2006. However, his tenure in Fayetteville was a significant step forward from the years prior to his arrival.

Arkansas went from one winning season between 1990 and 1997 to seven in Nutt’s 10 seasons there.

There are two good reasons for this though. 2007 was the last year of Felix Jones and Darren McFadden, so not only was that season disappointing, but Arkansas was not looking at a good 2008. Bobby Petrino is not without his personal issues, but I don’t think many coaches including Nutt would have done better than his 5-7 mark in 2008.

The other good reason was the fact that Nutt had already survived a bad stretch and was given the benefit of the doubt. Arkansas had gone a total of 9-13 in 2004 and 2005 before surprising everyone with a 10-game winning streak in 2006.

What does 78% as a coach mean?

I also wanted to take a moment to consider how good 78% is as compared to others.

At LSU, Nick Saban only won 75%. Joe Paterno’s overall winning percentage at Penn St. was almost identical depending on how you count ties.

Lou Holtz won 76.5% at Notre Dame and 78.6% at Arkansas.

Woody Hayes only won just over 76% at Ohio St.

Miles does fall a bit short of Hayes’ rival (and Miles’ mentor) Bo Schembechler though. Schembechler won 79.6%.

At Ole Miss, John Vaught only won 74.6%.

At Texas, Darrel Royal won 77.4%.

At USC, John McKay won 74.9%.

At Florida St., Bobby Bowden won 75.6%

At Army, Red Blaik won 76.8%.

There are coaches with better records, such as Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer. Of course, factoring in Alabama puts Saban higher. Are any of them coming (back in Saban’s case) to LSU? I wouldn’t bet on it. Maybe if LSU offers $10 million a year or something ridiculous like that.

I was thinking about photoshopping Carroll in purple and gold, but then I found this.

I was thinking about photoshopping Carroll in purple and gold, but then I found this.

Here are some others that Miles doesn’t quite live up to: Spurrier, Parseghian, Byrant, Osborne, Devaney, Wilkinson, Switzer, Neyland.

So if you’re not of those, you don’t get a job at LSU? Those are absurd standards to live up to.

Young players represent an opportunity, not an “excuse”

There was one other thing I wanted to mention. I made some reference to it above. This is not Leonard Fournette’s last season with next season being some abyss we’re staring into. Brandon Harris is also a sophomore.

I’m not just selectively picking two examples. Look at this depth chart.

Three of the top four receivers are underclassmen. There is only one guard who is older than a sophomore. There is one junior and one senior tackle on the depth chart, the rest are underclassmen. Actually, that’s true on both offense and defense. The #2 tight end right now is a true freshman. Two junior defensive ends, the rest underclassmen. Both strong safeties are sophomores.

I think anyone looking at this team and saying it’s a failure and we need to give up and start over next year with a new head coach is just insane.

Few people expected this to be the year for LSU until they surpassed expectations by starting 7-0. Of course, it almost certainly would have been 8-0 had the first game not been cancelled. Why are the problems that have emerged since then insurmountable because we have some younger players in key positions and it looks like the national semifinals are off the table? That could very well jeopoardize a great year like the one Auburn had in 2004.

Even if some other coach comes in and wins a national championship next year, maybe that same coach leads us to a 3-9 season a few years later like Chizik did. `There is no guarantee of being able to replace and develop talent as well as Miles has even though we can probably find a coach better at calling plays (which I don’t think Miles actually does that often). You might remember a coach named Larry Coker. He went undefeated at U. Miami in 2001 and nearly went undefeated in 2002 before a controversial overtime loss to Ohio St. The ‘Canes have been mediocre for 10 years now.

That said, if we go 8-5 next year with a healthy Fournette in what would almost certainly be his last season, I might see their point.

Edit: Given the third loss in a row which came after this was written, I might see their point with a fourth loss in a row.

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Florida

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

NOTE: The 2016 LSU-Florida game has been postponed to November. This will be the first game in the series outside of the month of October since 1984 and the first in November since 1972. The two teams tied in both 1972 and 1984,

Overall records (edited after the 2016 game)
Florida leads, 33-29-3
In Baton Rouge, Florida leads, 17-16
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 (will try to tie next year)
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 point totals
:
1. Florida, 58, 1993*
2. Florida, 56, 1996*
3. Florida, 51, 2008
4. LSU, 48, 1971
5. Florida, 44, 2001*
6. Florida, 42, 1994*
t7. Florida, 41, 2000*
t7. LSU, 41, 2011
9. LSU, 37, 1967
10. LSU, 36, 1977 and 2002

*=during Steve Spurrier’s tenure

Recent games (since 2004)

10/06/2017 LSU @ Florida 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.

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).