Thursday, December 27, 2012

When the LSU - Tulane game was a big deal

With conference realignment over the years or one of the two teams of a particular 'rivalry game' perpetually stuck in reverse, many season ending, or other rivalry games have gone by the wayside. Nebraska-Oklahoma, Texas Aggies -Texas, Penn State - Pittsburgh and Miami (Fla) - Florida no longer play one another on a yearly basis nor will hardly play at all anytime soon. And in long standing games that continue like the "Little Brown Jug" between Minnesota and Michigan and "the third Saturday in October" between Tennessee and Alabama, the Gophers and Vols haven't held up their end of the bargain of late somewhat diminishing the game on a national level. LSU and Tulane no longer play each year,either. Now, the Tigers and Wave really only resonated nationally perhaps in the 1930's and 1940's, if that. But for a brief period in the early 1970's, the game was played in front of some of the South's biggest crowds with as much intensity and drama as any rivalry type game. Few games, period, had the drama, big plays and big crowd as the 1972 game as the 40th anniversary of that early December classic takes place.
  The 1972 LSU-Tulane game had as much drama as any game and a bigger crowd than most

The Tigers and Green Wave each took different paths to the season ending game in '72. For starters, LSU was two years removed from being SEC Champion while Tulane had resigned from the conference following the 1965-1966 academic year. At the time of the decision for Tulane to leave the SEC, school and athletic officials felt the Wave simply couldn't compete anymore in the league after basically 'de-emphasizing' football after the 1949 season, oddly enough, a year Tulane won the SEC in football. State rival LSU also started dominating the series between the two as well.

Unlike their rival "up the river" Tulane has participated in the Rose Bowl, playing Southern Cal in '32

Up until 1950, Tulane was a legitimate "top twenty" program even with more universities and colleges fielding what would be considered "major college football" now. Tulane played in the Rose Bowl two years before the formation of the SEC and played in the inaugural Sugar Bowl and the 1940 Sugar Bowl,too.Tulane won SEC titles in 1934 and 1939 and led the SEC in attendance in 1948.Coach Henry Frnka's Wave was considered by many as a football factory and was The Sporting News' pre-season choice for number one in 1949. The 4th ranked Wave went to South Bend to face the number one ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. That era's version of ESPN's College Gameday, legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice covered the game for his nationwide syndicated sports column. Even though it was only game four of the season, many felt the winner would be on track for the National Title. Notre Dame went on to crush Tulane, 46-7.While the Wave would go on to win the SEC with a 5-1 conference mark, that one loss was a season ending loss to LSU, 21-0, which propelled the Tigers to the Sugar Bowl over the Wave.Tulane football was never the same.

Tulane president Rufus Harris had long been an advocate of scaling back intercollegiate athletics. Oddly enough, it was Harris who hired Frnka. Frnka's early squads had as many as 100 scholarship athletes and finished 14th in the nation in 1948 including a 46-0 win at LSU. But even as Tulane was succeeding on the field and at the ticket box, Harris basically assumed after the loss to the Irish and being overlooked for the hometown Sugar Bowl that if this squad couldn't produce a national champion, no Tulane team could.In 1951 he began to limit football scholarships down to 75,reducing the coaching staff and coaching salaries. Scouting of opponents and future prospects was limited,too as well as making physical education, a popular major of many athletes, a minor only at the school effectively making academic requirements even more difficult. By the end of the 1950's, the once strong Tulane program had been reduced to mediocrity at best with losing seasons in from 1957-1959. Meanwhile, LSU won the National Title in 1958 and narrowly missed a second title in 1959.LSU's 1958 season included a 62-0 win against Tulane in New Orleans. And, the series record between LSU and Tulane widened at the end of the decade . After the '49 game, LSU led the series 24-18-5. Tulane failed to defeat LSU in the 1950's managing two ties and the series lead by the Tigers increased to 32-18-7.

As Tulane's program ended the 50's in a downward spiral, only a controversial missed two pt conversion vs Tennessee kept LSU from consecutive National Titles to end the decade.

LSU continued to distance themselves from Tulane winning an SEC title in 1961 and participating in 7 bowl games in the 1960's , including games in the Cotton, Sugar and Orange. Meanwhile, Tulane had more different head coaches in the 1960's than winning seasons. The Wave had three different coaches and only one winning season, a 5-4-1 mark in Jim Pittman's first season in 1966. Only a few of the Tulane-LSU skirmishes went undecided into the fourth quarter, the 1966 game and oddly enough, the 1967 game in which shortly before the game. What was unusual about the '67 game was LSU, which had the nation's toughest schedule, had just secured a Sugar Bowl bid with only a modest 5-3-1 mark.Still, LSU was only 10 points away from a perfect season and all four blemishes were traced to poor placekicking. The Tigers roared out to 28-0 lead before Tulane roared back to narrow the lead to 34-27.In fact, in the fourth Tulane drove into LSU territory for the tie or possible lead before LSU stopped the Wave and scored one more touchdown themselves for a 41-27 win and 6-3-1 mark allowing Sugar Bowl officials to exhale.

Wayne Francingues (10) almost rallied 3-7 Tulane to a stunning upset of Sugar Bowl bound LSU in 1967

Pittman's arrival and subsequent 5-4-1 mark coincided with Tulane's departure from the SEC. The Greenies' decision to limit its football fortunes in the 1950's made competing in the SEC virtually impossible . Tulane, the only private school in the SEC besides Vanderbilt, had more stringent enrollment requirements that the state schools with very limited deviation for potential athletes. Plus the rest of the league could award virtually unlimited scholarships while Tulane was restricted to self-imposed limited athletic scholarships. Tulane continued to win fewer and fewer SEC games and generally failed to compete as the Wave fell to 0-10-0 in 1962 and accumulated two more 62-0 losses to LSU in 1961 and 1965.1966 marked Tulane's first year as an independent swapping SEC juggernauts such as Alabama and Ole Miss for VPI and Cincinnati,among others. 1966 also marked the year the NFL awarded a franchise to the city of New Orleans, on "All Saints' Day" no less for the upstart Saints to begin play in 1967.
      New Orleans acquiring an NFL franchise along with leaving the SEC didn't help Tulane

The Saints would begin play in 1967 and play in Tulane Stadium until the new Louisiana Superdome would be completed,( a project that wound up taking about four years longer than expected). Tulane while having the ability to schedule opponents more formidable, also began losing local support to the Saints' franchise as only LSU would remain on Tulane's schedule year in and year out from the SEC's upper echelon. Meanwhile up Airline Highway and the few parts of new Interstate 10 that were completed, the Saints' emergence in New Orleans was basically a non-event. Along with the Sugar following the '67 season, LSU played in the inaugral Peach Bowl in 1968 and stayed home in 1969 with an outstanding 9-1 mark and #8 ranking. To this day many LSU fans feel misled by the Cotton Bowl during negotiations for the 1970 game and the Tigers chose to stay home than participate in seemingly lesser bowls as the Bluebonnet and Sun Bowls.

Charlie McClendon holds the first Peach Bowl trophy after a 31-27 win over Florida State in '68

Tulane and Jim Pittman were committed to make the Green Wave a competitive football team. Pittman was a valued assistant on Darrell Royal's Texas staff having followed Royal from Starkville and Pittman's alma mater, Mississippi State to Washington and then the Longhorns where he was on the staff of the 1963 National champions. While he did indeed want to be a head coach, he wanted assurance he'd be given a chance to win. Athletic director Rix Yard assured him he would. Tulane had relented somewhat on Dr. Harris' purge in the 1950's. And while Yard and other Tulane administrators didn't nor have any intention of making Green Wave athletics a model like Georgetown and Miami (Fla) did in the 1980's for athletes at a private school, Tulane did show more of a commitment to football. Pittman, a former Marine who fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa was sold and hit the ground running recruiting and generating interest in the football program. Still, others were surprised he would take the job. Pittman, only 41 at the time of his hiring had already had two heart attacks. Many, including Royal, didn't think he'd want to take on the added stress of being a head coach.

      Tulane hired Jim Pittman to lead the Wave into its journey as a "Southern Independent"

Pittman, like LSU's McClendon was 'defense first' coach. After the successful '66 season, the Green Wave went back to its old ways with losing seasons in 1967, 1968 and 1969.In year five of the Jim Pittman era in 1970, he felt the Wave was a good, rugged football team ready to win. That was good in more ways than one as even with the luxury of scheduling teams more to their ability and not an SEC schedule, Tulane's 1970 schedule was brutal playing 5 teams that would play in bowl games in the newly expanded NCAA approved 11 game regular season. After a close loss to Texas Tech on the road, Tulane stunned the football world, at least in the South, with a 17-14 win over SEC foe Georgia. The Green Wave would take a 7-3 record into the season finale with LSU.

The Tigers were in the midst of a tremendous season themselves. After a last minute upset loss at home to the Texas Aggies following the shocking,unexpected death of teammate Butch Duhe' earlier in the week, LSU regrouped and entered the game 7-2 and was ranked 5th in the nation with the only blemish two weeks earlier in South Bend to then #1 Notre Dame, 3-0. After the game a sportswriter covering the game declared, "if Notre Dame is Number 1, LSU is number 1-A." For only the second time since 1950, the Tulane game wouldn't be the last regular season game for the Tigers as the Ole Miss game , originally scheduled for Halloween night, was moved back to December 5th for National television, the SEC title and an Orange Bowl berth.




The 1970 LSU-Tulane game was the first meeting between the two when each was bowl bound

While LSU was all but assured a bowl bid regardless of how they fared vs the Wave and Rebels, the main suitor for the Green Wave for a bowl bid, the Liberty, let it be know Tulane would be selected provided they beat two touchdown favorite LSU. LSU won,26-14, but Liberty Bowl director Bud Dudley convinced the Bowl's committee to still select the Wave afterall after their gutty effort vs the Tigers. Tulane had become the first team to score a rushing touchdown all season on LSU as both the Tigers and Wave had outstanding defenses that season. Tulane's David Abercrombie's one yard run with 5:58 in the game was the first rushing touchdown allowed in 13 straight games. The following week LSU destroyed Ole Miss, 61-17 to win the SEC title and trip to the Orange Bowl to face #3 Nebraska.

Upon arrival in Memphis, Coach Pittman, David Abercrombie and QB Mike Walker are greeted by Miss Liberty Bowl, Linda Thompson. A native of Memphis, Miss Thompson would date Elvis after his breakup with Priscilla Presley eventually marrying Bruce Jenner


Tulane won its bowl over Big 8 foe Colorado (making its second straight Liberty Bowl), 17-3. LSU lost the Orange Bowl to  Big 8 power Nebraska, 17-12 as the New Year's Day finale turned into a game for the National Title for the Cornhuskers as number one Texas fell to Notre Dame in the Cotton and number two Ohio State fell to Jim Plunkett and the Stanford Indians in the Rose Bowl. LSU led 12-10 midway into the fourth quarter until Nebraska QB Jerry Tagge's one yard leap over LSU's valiant goal line stand gave the Huskers the lead and AP National Title.LSU finished the season ranked 7th in the nation while Tulane finished 17th, their first final ranking since 1950.




Jerry Tagge's (L) 4th quarter dive over LSU's goal line stand gave the Huskers the Orange Bowl title and AP National Title. Tulane's Pittman (R) is carried off the field after the Liberty Bowl win 

Tulane's unlikely success in 1970 did not go unnoticed outside of New Orleans. TCU hired Jim Pittman after the Liberty Bowl hoping to bring the Horned Frogs back to their winning ways of the 1950's and early 1960's(oddly enough, Pittman's departure after the Liberty marked what turned out to be the first of three Wave coaches to leave Tulane after a Liberty Bowl appearance with Larry Smith leaving for Arizona in 1979 and Tommy Bowden leaving for Clemson in 1998). This time the Green Wave looked to the 'family' and hired Bennie Ellender, a former Tulane quarterback who had just led Arkansas State to the "College Division" championship, the forerunner to "1-AA" football and now 'Football Championship Division', FBS. Charlie Mac remained at LSU and big things were expected from both the Tigers and Tulane in 1971. LSU started off ranked 9th while Tulane just narrowly missed the preseason top 20 (the polls didn't expand to 25 until 1989) making the "others receiving votes' which would have made them 22nd in today's poll.

LSU lost its season opener to Colorado, the same team Tulane closed the prior year with, 31-21 in Baton Rouge behind All-American candidate Charlie Davis.Tulane won its season opener but then lost three in a row.LSU regrouped winning its next 5 games and took a #11 ranking to Jackson to face Ole Miss.The Rebels were in somewhat of a transition as legendary coach Johnny Vaught had retired in part to health reasons and after leading Ole Miss on the field for three seasons, Archie Manning had graduated. Billy Kinard was the Rebs' new coach and Norris Weese (from the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette) was the new quarterback.The Tigers, who were without three time All-American Tommy Casanova were still two touchdown favorites as Ole Miss, while 5-2 had lost badly, 40-6 to Alabama and 38-7 to Georgia.Casanova had injured his hamstring earlier in the season and it sidelined him this week. However, Weese led Ole Miss to a 21-0 lead midway in the second quarter before LSU rallied to cut the lead to 24-22 but couldn't move the ball after recovering an onside kick with :19 left as the Rebels got their biggest win of the season.

Meanwhile that same evening, Tulane suffered two losses. Vanderbilt came to New Orleans and edged the Wave, 13-9.The Commodores' Jaime O'Rourke rushed for 187 yards on a still school record 35 carries, the first time Vandy had had a rusher rush for more than 100 yards in a game all season and the first since Mack Brown(Watson's little brother, who would transfer to Florida State before embarking on his coaching journey which of course included a stint at Tulane) rushed for 156 against Tampa the year before.Tulane's points came on a punt return and safety.While Vanderbilt and Tulane had a rivalry of sorts as small private schools playing big time football, the Wave and their faithful could handle a loss to Vandy. But as soon as the game was over, the PA announcer at Tulane Stadium announced to the crowd that just a little earlier in Waco during the TCU-Baylor game, former Tulane coach Jim Pittman dropped dead of a heart attack.Pittman was only 46 and the crowd was absolutely stunned and saddened at the death of the man who help bring Tulane football back to respectability.

Chris Dantin (32) ,along with Bert Jones and his cousin Andy Hamilton helped lead LSU to a big win over Notre Dame in Tiger Stadium before a primetime audience on ABC

Strangely, both Tulane and LSU played Notre Dame before the season finale against one another.The Wave played admirably in South Bend losing, 21-7. But the following week in Baton Rouge, LSU played its best game of the year in blistering the Irish, 28-8 in front a nationally televised primetime audience on ABC. Sports Illustrated featured the Notre Dame-LSU tilt and entitled the article "Irish Stew for LSU". The 20 point loss by Ara Parseghian was the Irish mentor's worse loss since his arrival at Notre Dame in the 1964 season.
Jimmy LeDoux catches one of the few passes not thrown to Andy Hamilton in LSU's 36-7 blowout of Tulane in 1971

With the win LSU officially accepted a Sun Bowl bid. Unlike the prior year, win or lose the LSU game would end Tulane's season. Tulane played as they were ready to end the season.LSU dominated the game from start to finish to win , 36-7. Andy Hamilton, the national player of the week after the Notre Dame game caught two touchdown passes. Tulane only registered one first down in the first half and that one was the result of a penalty. It was 29-0 before the Wave scored late in the third quarter. LSU rushed for 425 yards while Tulane only earned 261 yards in total, many of them in the fourth after McClendon began substituting freely. Tulane finished '71 at 3-8 while LSU's win over Johnny Majors' Iowa State Cyclones , 33-15 in the Sun Bowl gave the Tigers a final 9-3 mark and #11 ranking.

LSU downed Iowa State, 33-15 in the '71 Sun Bowl, the Cyclones' first bowl game. Johnny Majors'(middle) staff included Jackie Sherril, second from left and Jimmy Johnson, third from right

1972 promised big things for both teams. LSU felt poised to make a run not only for the SEC title, but the National Title as well. Tulane was looking to move past the 3-8 nightmare of '71 and shoot for another winning season and possible bowl bid. The Wave also was looking to end the string of losses to LSU which had reached 16 straight with 20 losses and two ties since their last win in the series in 1948. The 36-7 blowout gave LSU an overall series lead of 44-18-7.

McClendon addressed the assembled Sky-Writers' Tour (the SEC's forerunner to today's media circus known as "SEC Media Days".The Sky-Writers' Tour was a stop at each member school where the head coach and various players would address an assembled group of sportswriters and sportscasters who would fly from school to school) and discussed playing two quarterbacks, which in 1971 produced the SEC's leader in total offense. Playing multiple quarterbacks wasn't something new for Mac and with Bert Jones and Paul Lyons in 1972 he saw big things for his team."We're a little more than just fortunate to have two quarterbacks who work so well together,"he said."They compliment one another in the fact that they work hard to help each other and both move the football team very well."

Both Jones and Lyons spoke to the media and stressed the two quarterback system was good for the team,not a controversy.Jones spoke specifically about Lyons and said "if there is anyone that helps me more than Paul, I can't think of who he is.Day by day and step by step, we walk that road together and I think it helps the moral of the team because it really gives them two leaders." Lyons embraced the concept,too, kidding  that "if we used one quarterback,I'd be an unsung hero in the defensive backfield."

The Tigers' experience and schedule was looked upon as a plus.Whereas stars Tommy Casanova and Andy Hamilton had graduated, LSU had one of their deeper teams. Also seven of the 11 games would be in Baton Rouge in addition to a game at Rice in Houston, where LSU would be well represented  and of course the season finale in New Orleans vs Tulane. Only games vs Alabama in Birmingham and in Gainesville vs Florida were games where the Tigers would unequivocally be the "visitor".

After stating that of course the season opening game vs Pacific was first and foremost on everyone's mind several players said the Ole Miss game was the biggest on the schedule.Defensive star Lloyd Daniels went so far to proclaim if the Rebels and Tigers were both undefeated for the November 4th tilt,"the adrenalin could get to flowing like it did in the Notre Dame game last year." The respect and eagerness towards Ole Miss wasn't without merit. Heading into the 1972 season, the Rebels owned the nation's longest consectutive bowl streak.And, LSU's win in 1970 was the Tigers' lone win in the series since 1964.

        "Detailed,cool,collected,serious, and straight forward" Tulane coach Bennie Ellender

Whereas it was indeed the SEC Sky-Writers' Tour, respected Tulane SID Bill Curl used his relationships with many media members and the proximity from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to arrange for Wave head coach Bennie Ellender to meet with many of the writers in Baton Rouge in town to visit LSU.Ellender described as 'detailed,cool,collected,serious and straight forward' felt more optimistic about Tulane's chances in 1972 as opposed to his first year in 1971. He was hired on Christmas Eve in 1970 and wasn't able to recruit like he had wanted to as well as introducing the team to a new system in the Spring didn't work as expected.But his second Spring training went much better with a veteran unit and everyone on the same page."Our defense took tremendous strides and began to jell as a solid unit and with a lot of pride." On offense Ellender was excited about senior Mike Walker's experience and freshman Jaime Garza. On defense, Joe Bullard, Mike Truax, Mike Mullen and freshman Mark Olivari drew raves from the head coach.

The Sky-Writers predicted Alabama to win the SEC with LSU and Tennessee close behind. The AP preseason poll was similar with Alabama preseason #7, LSU #11 and Tennessee #15, Ole Miss #16 and Georgia #17. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated had LSU number one -- in the nation.LSU's games with Ole Miss and Alabama back to back looked huge, not just on the conference landscape,but nationally,too.


While LSU was SI's preseason #1 in 1972, Nebraska became a victim of the 'cover jinx'. The September 11 issue was released before the 'Huskers lost 20-17 to UCLA on Sept 9th

LSU won its opening game, 31-13 over Pacific , whose defense was led by CB Pete Carroll who earned All-West Coast Conference in '71 would again in '72. Carroll, of course coaches the Seattle Seahawks after a highly successful stent at Southern California. The Tigers won their next three games over  the Texas Aggies and Wisconsin at home and rather easily before escaping Rice 12-6 in a sloppy win in Houston.LSU entered SEC play the following week against surprising and now ninth ranked Auburn.

         LSU won the season opener in 1972 against Pacific and defensive star Pete Carroll

Auburn had started the season under the radar unranked and picked anywhere from 5th to 8th in the SEC.But after two uninspiring wins over Miss State and Chattanooga, the Tigers shocked then #4 Tennessee in Birmingham, 10-6, and held on with a goal line stand in the final minute to hold off #18 Ole Miss in Jackson, 19-13.Going into the Tennessee game, the Vols held the nation's longest winning streak, which was ten. After Auburn ended UT's streak, coincidentally Ole Miss had the longest winning streak.Now,for the third week Auburn would be playing the team with the longest winning streak in the nation, LSU, with an eight game winning streak.

     LSU's defense upended All-Big 10 Rufus "Roadrunner" Ferguson and Wisconsin, 27-7

Unlike the Vols and Rebels, the LSU Tigers winning streak continued after playing Auburn. LSU played its best game of the season in handing Auburn what turned out to be their only loss of the season, 35-7.The Bengal Tigers battered Auburn as badly as the score indicated leading 21-7 at halftime and 28-7 after three quarters. LSU outgained Auburn 477 yards to 211 and outrushed Auburn, 259 to 59 yards.LSU entered the month of November at 6-0 and 6th in the nation after a 10-0 win at home over Kentucky.

                     Bert Jones passed and ran all over Auburn in 1972 in the 35-7 blowout

Meanwhile down Airline Highway or the almost completed I-10 (the I-10 as they say in south Louisiana), the Green Wave started out the season a mere 3-4 heading into November. Tulane was trying to balance a tough schedule with teams of similar circumstances like Boston College, Pitt and Georgia Tech, while also playing some "big boys" like Georgia and Michigan.The Greenies started out the season 2-0 after a stunning win at home over then #16 Georgia, 24-13 on ABC regional television. The win over the Bulldogs, Tulane's second in three years put the Wave in the top 20 at #18 as they headed to "The Big House" to face defending Big 10 Champion and #8 Michigan.

Tulane wasn't up to the challenge in Ann Arbor. After taking over at midfield after forcing the Wave to punt on their opening possession, Michigan's Ed Shuttlesworth recorded the first of his three touchdowns as the Wolverines scored in just six plays.Just :41 later, Michigan "Wolfman" ,or middle linebacker Randy Logan, who would go on to have an 11 yr NFL career in Philadelphia, intercepted a Mike Walker pass and returned it 32 yards to give Michigan a quick 14-0 lead that Tulane couldn't overcome.Michigan won, 41-7 as Tulane avoided a shutout win Walker's back up,Steve Foley scored from the one.

 "Wolfman" Randy Logan returned a Walker interception 32 yds for a td and early 14-0 lead
As poorly as Tulane played in Ann Arbor it was still just one loss. After a 38-6 win over Pittsburgh (who would go 1-10 in '72 and then hire Iowa State's Johnny Majors), Tulane then headed to Miami to play the Hurricanes.While Miami had produced some good football teams in the 1950's and 1960's, in 1972 they were light years from what they would become in the early 1980's. Coaching the Hurricanes was Fran Curci , a former Miami QB in the late 1950's, who was in his second year at his alma mater after a successful stint at Tampa, which was proving to be quite a training ground for head coaches.Curci replaced interim coach Walt Kichefski, who took over for the rather successful Charlie Tate who abruptly quit after the second game of the 1970 season.

The game went back and forth with Miami leading 10-6 at halftime. Tulane seemed poised to win 21-17 after two touchdown passes by Mike Walker, who had come off the bench for Foley, the last one a 21 yard pass to Frank Anderson that bounced off two Hurricane defenders.Miami then came back and had a first down on the Tulane 18 yard line.Chuck Foreman, who would go on to an All-Pro career with the Vikings got two yards on first down. On second down, QB Ed Carney threw incomplete.Then Miami was whistled for illegal motion and things got confusing.Carney was sacked for an 11 yard loss and on the next play, the fourth in the series, Carney threw another incompletion.Tulane defenders and Miami offensive players both returned to the sidelines.However, the sideline markers and Orange Bowl scoreboard both showed 4th down was still to be played.

With Tulane and Miami both being "independents", the game was officiated by Southeastern Conference officials, who were as bad and inept in 1972 as they are in the 21st Century. As the officials instructed both the Tulane defense and the Miami offense to return to the field, the Tulane sidelines went rightfully upset motion with their fingers this would indeed be the fifth down. Ellender implored the officials on the field to consult with the official scorer in the pressbox. The officials on the field refused his request and signaled the ball for play.As one can imagine, on the next play or fifth down, Carney hit Witt Beckman for 32 yard touchdown pass. Mike Burke's conversion made the score in Miami's favor at 24-21 which was the final.
Now, unlike the more familiar or "infamous" Colorado and Missouri fifth down play in 1990, Miami wasn't on the goal line nor was this the final play of the game. The clock still showed :54 left to play.These two events factored prominently in Tulane having to live with the bad call. Wave AD Rix Yard said he was immediately going to notify the SEC, who provided the officials, but knew "there is no way to reverse the final score." The following day Tulane president Dr. Herbert E. Longenecker (who had to be groomed for academia once his birth certificate was signed) implored Miami to forfeit the game.After much "soul searching" by Miami university and athletic officials met but with the backing of the Dave Nelson,NCAA rules committee chairman, announced forfeiture would be inappropriate since Tulane indeed had almost a minute to score and change the outcome.

Longenecker maintained had the roles been reversed, Tulane would have forfeited. No one would ever know that for certain. What was certain was the hypocrisy demonstrated by "winning" coach Fran Curci. At the end of the 1971 season on the same field in Miami, Curci went absolutely crazy when Florida head coach Doug Dickey instructed his defense to allow Miami to score a late,meaningless touchdown in an eventual Gator 45-16 win, the infamous 'Florida Flop'.Dickey wanted to give record breaking senior quarterback John Reaves one last chance to break Jim Plunkett's all-time passing record of 7,546 yards.Curci was livid after the game and refused to shake Dickey's hand. Curci, among other things said afterwards,"it was the worst thing I've ever seen in football" and how Dickey "has no class". Now with an opportunity to display the sportsmanship that Curci felt Dickey lacked 10 months earlier, Curci all but blew off the matter.While admitting it "was unfortunate", he felt it was no big deal "and (Miami) won." He pointed to the controversial ending to the USA-USSR Gold Medal basketball game a month earlier as an example of just having to live with it and even added, acknowledging the official scorer in the pressbox's refusal to get involved,"maybe someone up there felt sorry for us and wanted to help us." While none of what Curci said may have been different from many other coaches, his nonchalance about the matter was unseemly considering how brutally he attacked Florida and Dickey's character and class a year earlier.


             Miami's Fran Curci used class and sportsmanship to fit his immediate situation

(If "Karma" is a football fan, 8 years later Karma wore a Tulane cap.Curci, now at Kentucky brought his struggling Wildcats to New Orleans to face Tulane in the Superdome.After the Wave blew 21-6 halftime lead, Kentucky rallied and took a 22-21 lead late in the fourth.Tulane couldn't move the ball and Kentucky was able to run out the lock except for the last :12. Tulane took over on their own 8 yard line. 1980 was the next to last season where pass interference was penalized at the spot of the infraction like the NFL is.Tulane QB Nickie Hall fired a pass to midfield looking for WR Marcus Anderson, who caught three first half touchdowns. The pass was incomplete but UK was flagged for pass interference placing the ball at the Wildcat 46. Now only :05 remained.Again, Hall threw to Anderson down to the Kentucky 4 and UK was flagged for pass interference as time expired.Of course, a game or half cannot end on a defensive penalty, so with no time left, Tulane's Vince Manalla booted a 21 yard field goal to give Tulane a 24-22 win over Curci and Kentucky.)


 At the end of the day, it was a loss for the Green Wave giving them a 3-2 mark. The next two games were road losses to West Virginia and Georgia Tech. The Mountaineers and Yellow Jackets each finished the season in bowl games,but still Tulane's record was now 3-4 entering November. At least the next three games would be winnable prior to the season finale vs LSU.

Controversy wasn't limited to Tulane. While the Wave got back on the right track with a win at home over Kentucky, 18-7, LSU entertained Ole Miss which at the time was still a big game in the nation's eyes.The Rebels who had earlier in the season had the college football's longest winning streak did have the longest consecutive bowl appearance streak going back to 1957. However, after back to back narrow losses in Jackson to Auburn and Georgia and stunning shutout loss to Florida in Oxford, the Rebels came to Baton Rouge 4-3 almost needing a win over LSU to keep the bowl streak alive as a trip to Knoxville to face the Vols loomed two weeks later.A 17 point underdog, this game came down to the wire and then some according to Ole Miss.

In a still talked about game, Ole Miss played LSU as if this were one of their classics in the late 50's and throughout the 1960's. After Steve Lavinghouse missed a field goal, LSU took over on their 20 trailing 16-10 with a little over 3:00 left.Needing a touchdown to win LSU marched downfield and reached the Ole Miss 10 with :04 after pass interference was called on the Rebels. Jones barely missed Jimmy LeDoux for the tying touchdown on what Ole Miss and many others felt was the final play.However, :01 showed and with a reprieve, Jones found Brad Davis for touchdown in the corner of the endzone and Rusty Jackson's conversion gave LSU an improbable if not controversial 17-16 win.(Ole Miss indeed missed a bowl for the first time in 15 yrs and wouldn't play in another until 1983.)


           Jones gets off his pass to Brad Davis with :01 left in the 1972 Ole Miss game

Next up was a trip to Legion Field to face second ranked Alabama in front a nationally televised audience.Oddly enough, in a sign of the times, this would be both teams' only regular season appearance on television.LSU , ranked sixth, not only took the field as an 11 point underdog but without the services of All-SEC receiver Gerald Keigley who was injured midweek in practice.But the Tigers were up for the task, at least in the first half scoring first on a Jones to LeDoux touchdown to go up 7-0 in the first. Alabama, in the second season of the wishbone offense, tied the game up midway in the second after a pass from Bogalusa, La's Terry Davis to Alabama's Wayne Wheeler as the two went to the lockerroom tied at 7.

But in the second half Alabama opened things up. While the running game got untracked, Davis again hit Wheeler for touchdown pass on the Tide's first drive of the third quarter to go up 14-7.After both teams went three and out on their next possession, Alabama recovered a fumbled LSU punt at the Tigers' 25 and on the next play Davis swept around the side for a 21-7 lead.LSU didn't roll over and scored on a Jones to Chuck Williamson pass to narrow the lead to 21-14 going into the fourth.The Tide scored again and then LSU drove to the Alabama five before fumbling. After exchanging punts, Alabama's Joe LaBue busted up the middle for 52 yards and an insurmountable 35-14 lead with three minutes left. Jones,who set LSU's single game passing record with 244 yards,scored on a three yard run with :56 left to make the final score Alabama 35-21. In winning the SEC for the second year in a row, Alabama rushed for 335 yards on 56 carries.

           Alabama's Terry Davis made the cover of SI after the win over then unbeaten LSU

Now 7-1 and ranked 8th, LSU still had two games before the Tulane game, both SEC games. The first was a lackluster home finale over Mississippi State, 28-14.The second game was a road trip to Gainesville vs Florida a week before the season finale in New Orleans vs Tulane. The game with the Gators turned out to be one of the oddest in LSU history. While the Tigers and Gators were slugging it out (literally), Tulane took the week off after recording back to back wins over squads who had trumped the Wave in 1971, Ohio University and Vanderbilt.The 21-7 win over the Commodores in Nashville gave the Wave its sixth win ensuring a winning season in year two under Bennie Ellender.  
   Tulane's Doug Bynum's (with ball) running and Steve Foley's passing led Tulane past Vandy

In Gainesville, LSU took the field wearing purple jerseys for the first time since a 10-7 win in Atlanta vs Georgia Tech in 1962.Fortunately for both teams, "Doug's Rug" the name given to the artificial surface at Florida Field had been installed a year early in Gator coach Doug Dickey's second year. Throughout the entire game it poured with the wind howling off an on.In a game where LSU missed a staggering seven field goals -- two in the game's final :33, LSU and Florida battled to a 3-3 tie.

Both teams had trouble with the elements and each fumbled at the other's goal line preventing touchdowns.Near the end of the first quarter, LSU's Jim Kadi fumbled going into the endzone and future Gator All-America Ralph Ortega recovered.A series later Gator All-Star Nat Moore took a screen pass from David Bowden and raced 79 yards downfield until he was chased down by LSU's Mike Williams at the LSU one.One play later Florida RB Andy Summers fumbled and LSU had it at the Tiger 2.

Florida's Nat Moore was tackled from behind at the LSU 1 by Mike Williams after a 79 yd run
Rusty Jackson and Juan Roca both attempted field goals during the game. Roca missed three field goals in the first half before connecting on a 45 yarder midway in the third to give LSU a 3-0 lead.The Tigers moved the ball fairly well getting over 300 total yards in the rain on the slick playing surface.But once LSU got close into Gator territory, Florida's defense rose up. LSU had 13 running plays inside the Gator 25. The Tigers' net gain was only 12 yards.And, 5 of the seven missed field goals were from inside the 25.Coach Mac would say after the game,"we came a long way not to prove anything.Florida had a gutty defense.We moved the ball well, but I've always said when you settle for field goals, you're in trouble."


Juan Roca missed three field goals in Gainesville, but made a 45 yarder to give LSU a 3-0 lead
Florida freshman kicker John Williams tied the game at 3 with a 35 yarder with 2:08 left. But LSU wasn't finished. Stalling out at the Florida 16, Rusty Jackson tried a 33 yard field goal with :33 that was blocked by Florida's Fred Abbott, but the blocked kick took a weird bounce touching a Gator and crossing the original line of scrimmage where it was recovered by LSU giving the Tigers one more chance.Two plays later, Jackson tried one more, this one from 22 yards that was wide right with :07 left.

But instead of taking a knee and just getting out, Florida tried one more pass, a heave by Bowden past midfield that was intercepted by LSU's Norm Hodgins. Hodgins, who attended Rummel HS outside of New Orleans had grown up a Tulane fan and dreamed of being a Greenie only to be told by Jim Pittman he wasn't good enough. LSU thought he was and Hodgins became a Tiger.Time expired as Hodgins was tackled at the Florida 35 and suddenly a free for all started with both benches empyting. Several different fistfights sprung up all around the field before coaches and officials could settle everyone down and send them to the lockerrooms.

So now 8-1-1 LSU and ranked 11th in the nation would take on 6-4 Tulane in the regular season finale at venerable Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. For the second time in three years the game would have both teams with winning records. Unlike 1970,however, Tulane would stay home win or lose as no bowl selected the Wave. Still, also unlike 1970, Tulane actually felt like victory could be achieved more so that heading into the '70 tilt. The 1970 Tigers were playing as well as anyone in the nation at the end of the season. Now all of the sudden the Tigers in 1972 had only won one of its prior games. There was certainly no shame in losing at Alabama, but the Tide did rush for over 300 yards. And, LSU had chance after chance to have defeated Florida the prior week as attempting eight field goals demonstrates, but the young Gators were still two years away from being an SEC contender so the 3-3 tie gave LSU pause and Tulane hope.

For the first time in years Tulane fans in uptown New Orleans and in small river parish towns felt hopeful they'd be the one getting to ride in the wheelbarrow for the first time since 1948 as a number of Tiger fans felt a little nervous that they'd be the ones pushing . The wheelbarrow rides between LSU and Tulane fans went way back where the fan of the winning team would get a ride from his buddy of the opposing school . There were fewer and fewer Tulane fans around who had ever gotten a ride from an LSU fan.

Earlier during the week of the game, various "All-Star" squads were selected and both LSU and Tulane were well represented. The Tigers featured John Wood, Gerald Keigley (who would go on to make All-SEC in the Spring as a member of LSU's baseball team), Brad Boyd,Mike Williams, Rusty Jackson, Tyler Lafauci, Warren Capone and Bert Jones. In addition to 'all-conference', Capone and Jones were named to various first team All-American squads.


LSU's Warren Capone, along with Bert Jones, made All-American as well as All-SEC in 1972
While Tulane was an independent, due to the large number of independents at the time such as Miami, Florida State, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Memphis State among others, an "All-South Independent" squad was selected . In fact the team was headlined by Tampa's John Matuscak. The Green Wave members of the team were Charles Hall, Mike Mullen, Mike Truax,Mike Koesling, Lee Gibson and DB George Ewing. Ewing, while not on offense scored five touchdowns for Tulane in 1972, three on pass interceptions and two on punt returns.

      Tulane's Charles Hall made "All-South Independent" in 1972 as well as in '73 and '74

LSU took the field with a berth in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl vs Tennessee later that month and as a 10 point favorite. Both teams would take the field in front of 85,372, the largest crowd to see a game at Tulane Stadium or the Deep South. The attendance that night topped the crowds at Super Bowl IV and Super Bowl VI ,both played at Tulane Stadium. The crowd that night was also the largest crowd ever to witness a college football game at night at the time --anywhere.

          LSU's Charlie McClendon and Tulane's Bennie Ellender meet prior to kickoff
The game quickly became a defensive struggle. At halftime, Tulane led 3-0 on a 40 yard Lee Gibson field goal.But in the third quarter LSU started to move the ball. However, LSU's offensive emergence in the game was due mainly to reserve quarterback Paul Lyons' scrambling instead of Bert Jones' passing. Tulane's defense stymied Jones holding him to only 5 of 13 passing for 63 yards and sacking him six times.Late in the quarter Jones had to leave the game because of an injured right shoulder.Going back to what McClendon had told the media at the LSU Sky-Writers' stop about how "fortunate" LSU was to have two able quarterbacks, Lyons responded to the challenge head on as LSU took over on the Tiger 38.Tulane knew Jones didn't want to run and now they'd have to stop Lyons' who was more of a scrambler than passer. The Tigers tied the game at 3 late in the third on a Rusty Jackson 29 yard field goal.
  Lyons (16), shown at Wisconsin in '71 was able to spread Tulane's defense after Jones' injury

While LSU started moving the ball some in the second half, the Tigers' defense kept Tulane at bay. Lyons meanwhile continued to move the Tigers.He had perhaps the biggest play of the game midway in the fourth quarter on a 44 yard run. The drive stalled at the Wave 26 but Juan Roca, who made LSU's lone field goal out of eight tries a week earlier in Gainesville, connected on a 43 yard field goal to break the tie and give LSU a 6-3 lead.After stopping Tulane again, Lyons led LSU on one more tried that ended at the Tulane 19. Rusty Jackson booted a 36 yard field goal to give LSU a 9-3 lead with only one minute left in the game, seemingly salting the game away.
                  Steve Foley almost pulled the '72 LSU-Tulane game out, but LSU hung on

But Tulane wasn't quite done after returning the kickoff to their 25. Behind Steve Foley, who had replaced senior Mike Walker after the Michigan loss as starting quarterback, suddenly got hot.Foley was one of three Foley brothers on the Tulane team.Older brothers Rob, a center, and Mike, a wide receiver were already on scholarship when Ellender got word about the Foley still in HS at New Orleans' Jesuit.Ellender was impressed, but the Wave was out of scholarships for the 1971 season.Tulane team doctor Ken Saer and two other area doctors agreed to fund a one-year scholarship with the tacit understanding with AD Yard that the scholarship was indeed for Steve Foley.Yard complied and in 1972 Steve was awarded an athletic scholarship.Sports Illustrated did a feature article on Tulane and the Foley Boys in October of '72.

After having accomplished basically nothing since the first half, all of the sudden in less than :40, Foley had Tulane at the LSU 45 after three straight completions. With the clock winding down and Tulane out of timeouts, Foley, a scrambler in his own right, ran for 40 yards to the Tiger 5 yard line scooting out of bounds to stop the clock with :05 in the game.All of the sudden Tulane was 5 yards away from beating LSU for the first time since 1948. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers ,who were in the hunt for the National Title just three weeks earlier were 5 yards away from not only not winning the national championship, but being the team that finally lost to Tulane -- all in less than a month.

Here was the ball game. While just a month earlier LSU itself had indeed proven that two plays could be run in four seconds, it was a safe bet that with :05 left, Tulane in all likelihood had one play. First down at the LSU 5 yard line, :05 and LSU ahead 9-3 and no timeouts left for the Green Wave.A week earlier LSU CB Mike Williams made what turned out to be a game saving tackle on the LSU 1. All season All-American LB Warren Capone had made huge plays.Someone needed to step up for LSU after Tulane had moved 70 yards in less than a minute.From the 5 it would be quite a gamble to try a running play with so little time left. Also, with not much room to work that close to the endzone and LSU having a fine secondary a pass would have to be almost perfect.Foley dropped back and found FB Bill Huber,who slipped out of the backfield, alone at the LSU 2. As time expired, Huber,who had only one reception all season prior to this play, spun to the corner of the endzone. All that was between the 235 blocking back and the endzone was LSU saftey Frank Racine.

                    Frank Racine (17) was in the right place at the right time for LSU vs Tulane

Racine only weighed 185 pounds, giving up 50 to Huber. But as the two collided as Huber headed to the corner of the endzone on the LSU 2, Racine corralled Huber and was able to wrestle him down just inside the LSU 1 yardline. It was close, Huber himself later saying only six inches separated him from the goal,but LSU had held on for dear life. LSU won 9-3 to finish the regular season 9-1-1 while Tulane fell to 6-5. The largest crowd to watch a game in the Deep South as well as witness a night kickoff anywhere got its money's worth.

The Tigers and Tulane have met only five times since 1996 and while "talk" of other games continue, nothing is on the horizon. Tulane did finally break the streak the following year in '73 and won three out of four from 1979 to 1982.After a fight to finish in 1987 with LSU winning 41-36 before 70,000, the attendance in New Orleans dwindled more and more and Tulane became an automatic win again for LSU, the game lost its luster all the way around. But for one night in 1972 it was as good and big as any game going.

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