Published: July 14, 2009, 12:00 AM (CT)
Updated: January 09, 2012, 03:25 PM (CT)
by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports), LSU Sports Interactive
2007 National Champions
2007 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 12-2 | SEC Record: 6-2 | Coach Les Miles
by Chris Macaluso
Special to LSUsports.net
NEW ORLEANS – LSU fans across the world had to wait 45 years between the Tigers’ first and second National Championships. They only had to wait four between the second and third, but the victory tasted just as sweet.
With a crushing 38-24 win over Ohio State in Monday’s Bowl Championship Series Championship Game, LSU left little doubt in the minds of those in the college football universe who the best team was during the 2007 season. Forget USC. Forget Georgia. Forget Ohio State. Remember LSU.
National Champions again!
The Tigers (12-2) became the first two-time winner of the BCS Championship by dominating the most of the game and outscoring the Buckeyes 31-0 over a 24-minute stretch. LSU also improved to 4-0 in BCS games since the series began in 1998, the best record of any team. Ohio State fell to 4-2, both losses in the past two championship games.
Head coach Les Miles, in his third season at LSU, lifted the $30,000 Waterford Crystal football-shaped trophy amid a cloud of purple and gold ticker tape -- a cloud that lifted moments later for the coach who's won 34 games against six losses since arriving in Baton Rouge in 2005.
Tiger quarterback Matt Flynn was nearly flawless, save for a third-quarter interception in LSU territory that gave a brief hint of hope to the Ohio State fans, on his way to winning the offensive Most Outstanding Player Award. Aside from the errant toss, Flynn jabbed and upper-cutted the Buckeyes on his way to completing 19-of-27 for 174 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes in his final game as a Tiger.
“It’s very special to me to be part of such a great team with such great guys,” Flynn said. “We came out here with the right frame of mind and just executed.”
Tiger defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois garnered defensive M.O.P. honors chiefly for blocking a second-quarter, 38-yard field goal attempt that kept the game tied at 10-10 and swung the momentum completely in LSU’s favor. The Tigers scored 31 unanswered points after taking control near midfield following the blocked kick. Jean-Francois also recorded six tackles, including 1.5 for loss and combined on a sack.
“I knew this team was competitive and I knew they would fight like heck,” LSU Coach Les Miles said after winning his first National Championship as a coach and leading the Tigers to three-consecutive 11-plus win seasons. “This (LSU) is a great place to get an education and a great place to win championships.”
Ironically, considering the final score, Ohio State out-gained LSU 353-326 on offense but also made a bevy of mistakes unbecoming a team trying to win a championship game. The Buckeyes turned the ball over three times, compared to LSU’s one while committing seven penalties for a very costly 83 yards. LSU limited its penalties to just four for 36 yards, none in the first half.
Against the nation's top-ranked defense that had allowed only 30 percent third-down convertions this season, the Tigers converted 8-of-9 in the first half and 11-of-14 in the first three quarters. LSU finished 11 of 18.
Buckeye tailback Chris Wells carried the ball 20 times for 146 yards and a touchdown. Most of that production came early in the contest as he was only able to gain 27 yards in the second half.
LSU’s Jacob Hester led the Tigers with another workman-like 86 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown to cap his outstanding and heroic LSU career.
Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman completed 15-of-26 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on one of LSU's five sacks.
Ohio State started the contest impressively as Wells broke a 65-yard touchdown run through the middle of the LSU defense before either team’s fans had a chance to settle into their seats. Wells ran the simple off tackle run on the fourth play of the drive for the longest run from scrimmage in a BCS Championship Game. The gallop gave the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead with 13:34 to play in the first quarter.
LSU hurt its cause even more on the ensuing series when Flynn fumbled the shotgun snap from center Brett Helms on a third-and-7 at the LSU 23. Flynn recovered the botched snap at his 7-yard line, forcing the Tigers to punt from deep in their end zone.
The Buckeyes took over at their 41 after Patrick Fisher boomed a 62-yard punt and the Buckeyes quickly launched into LSU territory again. Boeckman hit a wide-open Brandon Saine who tiptoed down the sideline to the LSU 15. LSU’s defense stiffened though, and held the Buckeyes to a 25-yard Ryan Pretorious field goal four plays later that gave Ohio State a 10-0 advantage with 9:12 to play in the opening quarter.
The Tigers made up the stagger some on the next drive as they methodically drove deep into Ohio State territory on a 14-play, 6:51 drive highlighted by a 20-yard Hester run on its sixth play. LSU’s push stopped at the Buckeye 15 giving Colt David a chance to add the Tigers’ first points with a 32-yard field goal with 2:21 remaining in the first quarter.
LSU made up the stagger completely on its next possession aided by 30 yards in Buckeye personal foul penalty yards. Flynn ended the drive on it’s seventh play when he lobbed a 13-yard pass to tight end Richard Dickson who was standing all alone just shy of the goal line. The drive consumed just 2:07 and tied the score 10-10 with 13:00 left to play in the first half.
Ohio State appeared ready to take the lead again on the next possession, driving to the LSU 28 in just three plays. But, a personal foul too away their touchdown scoring chance and the Tigers shoved a 38-yard field goal field goal attempt back at Pretorious when Jean-Francois knifed through the line. Darry Beckwith recovered the bouncing ball at the 34.
Ten plays later, LSU took its first lead when Flynn capped a run-dominated drive with a precisely tossed 10-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell in the back of the endzone. The David point after gave the Tigers a 17-10 advantage with 7:25 remaining on the first half clock.
LSU scored again before the Tiger fans had a chance to rest their voices from Flynn’s toss. Tiger cornerback Chevis Jackson intercepted a Boeckman pass in one-on-one coverage at the LSU 42 and returned it to the Ohio State 24. Five plays later, Hester plowed into the endzone from the 1-yard line to stake LSU to a 24-10 lead after David’s point after sailed true with 4:16 to play in the half.
“The defense just settled down,” Miles said. “We blocked that field goal, got a turnover on an interception and really stemmed the tide. Our defense started settling down and they really couldn’t score with us.”
LSU ran its unanswered scoring streak to 31 when Early Doucet plowed through two Buckeye tacklers and into the endzone after taking in a Flynn pass at the 4-yard line with 9:04 to play in the third quarter. The catch capped a plodding 14-play, 80-yard drive to open the second half. Again, LSU’s push was extended by two Buckeye personal fouls, the first a very costly roughing the kicker on 4th-and-23 at the LSU 40 that gave LSU a first down in Ohio State territory. The scoring voyage consumed 5:56 and gave the Tigers a 31-10 lead.
But, the Tigers handed the Buckeyes the chance to get back into the game on their next possession when Flynn tossed an interception to OSU cornerback Malcolm Jenkins at the LSU 34. Jenkins returned the pick to the LSU 11, giving Boeckman a chance to find Brian Robiskie just across the goal line on a fourth-down play from the 5-yard line. The catch cut the LSU lead to 31-17 with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Ohio State again penetrated into LSU territory on its next possession but the LSU defense didn’t crack. Facing a third-and-4 at the Tiger 31, Boeckman was pulled to the turf by defensive end Kirston Pittman for a three-yard loss forcing the Buckeyes to try to convert a fourth-and-7. Boeckman, finding no open receivers, was forced to scramble to his right, right into a crushing sack by linebacker Ali Highsmith who forced a fumble which was recovered by defensive back Harry Coleman.
LSU took possession at the Ohio State 46 but could not convert a first down forcing Fisher to punt from the spot where the Tigers claimed possession after a delay of game penalty.
Ohio State pushed its next possession to near midfield, but was knocked into a third-and-15 situation at its 40 when Glen Dorsey sacked Boeckman for a 5-yard loss on first down and batted away a pass intended for Brian Hartline on second down. Tiger defensive back Curtis Taylor intercepted Boeckman on third down at the LSU 43 to effectively salt away LSU’s national championship.
Nine plays later, Flynn again tossed to a wide open Dickson in the endzone as the purple and gold clad erupted in what was sure victory for the Tigers. The 5-yard touchdown toss ran the scoring tally to 38-17 LSU after the David point after as the Tiger faithful chanted “SEC” as the Buckeyes smarted from another lopsided National Championship Game defeat at the hands of a Southeastern Conference team.
Ohio State added its most inconsequential touchdown of the season four plays later on a 15-yard pass from Boeckman to Hartline.
LSU reeled in the ensuing on-sides kick try and Flynn knelt his way to the win as the clock expired.
“We knew we would have to play well to win,” Miles said. “I feel very fortunate that we played the way we did. This is a great group of young men, our senior class, a number of men, who knew how to commit to a team and to fight like hell.”
A Superdome record 79,651 fans attended the game.
2003 National Champions
2003 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 13-1 | SEC Record: 7-1 | Coach Nick Saban
The LSU Fighting Tigers entered the 2003 football season with a potent offense, the potential for a dominant defense, and many unanswered questions.
The 2002 Tigers endured one of the biggest roller-coaster seasons in recent memory, winning six straight games after a season opening loss at Virginia Tech to move into the Top 10, but three losses in the final five regular season games, combined with the "Bluegrass Miracle"--Marcus Randall's 75-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson on the final play of the Tigers' 33-30 win at Kentucky--kept LSU out of the SEC Championship Game.
A 35-20 loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl left the Tigers out of the final 2002 polls and heading into the 2003 season looking for redemption.
The Tigers earned the 15th spot in the pre-season polls by both the Associated Press and the board of coaches of ESPN and USA Today, but question marks were plenty surrounding Nick Saban's fourth LSU team.
Would quarterback Matt Mauck recover fully from the foot injury that ended his 2002 season prematurely? Would Marcus Spears and Marquise Hill develop into the dominant forces at defensive end that they were as Parade All-Americans in high school? Would Chad Lavalais continue to dominate at defensive tackle? Who would replace Bradie James and Jeremy Lawrence in the linebacking corps? And just who would run the football with LaBrandon Toefield and Domanick Davis now in the National Football League?
By time all was said and done with the 2003 season, all of these questions, and many others, would receive resounding answers from the Tigers.
But before the Tigers could begin their 110th season of football, they would have to wait out Mother Nature. A severe thunderstorm rolled over Tiger Stadium prior to LSU's season opener with Louisiana-Monroe, causing a 30-minute delay.
When the season finally started, Mother Nature's fury was tame compared to that of the Tigers. LSU rolled over UL-Monroe in the first meeting between the in-state rivals, 49-7, sending the Tigers with momentum into their first meeting with Arizona since 1984 and first visit ever to Tucson.
The purple and gold blew into the Old West with all of the force of a desert sandstorm, leaving the Wildcats as tumbleweed in a 59-13 rout in one of LSU's most complete games in many a year. The Tigers rolled up an incredible 38-0 halftime lead and finished with 481 total yards in scoring their most impressive non-conference victory away from Baton Rouge since 1986.
The Tigers returned home to face Western Illinois, the top-ranked team in Division I-AA. The Leathernecks put up a good fight, trailing just 6-0 until late in the first half, when LSU finally took control of the game and went on to a 35-7 win, moving the Tigers up to No. 10 for a key early-season showdown with defending SEC champion Georgia, ranked seventh.
The Bulldogs dominated the early going, moving consistently up and down the field on the LSU defense, but when the first 30 minutes ended, it was the Tigers who held a 7-3 edge, and would extend that edge to 10-3, a score that held until late in the fourth quarter.
That's when it appeared Georgia caught lightning in a bottle when David Greene, who had been harassed mercilessly by the Tiger pass rush, hit Tyson Browning with a screen pass that turned into a 93-yard touchdown that tied the game at 10-10. The record Tiger Stadium crowd of 92,251 had to be wondering if the rug would be pulled from under the purple and gold again.
LSU answered that question with an emphatic no. LSU needed only three minutes to take the lead back, with Skyler Green's over the shoulder catch of a Matt Mauck pass with 1:22 remaining pulling LSU into a 17-10 lead. Corey Webster's interception of Greene sealed the Tigers' first win over Georgia in 13 years and propelled LSU into the top 10.
The SEC's other Bulldogs, Mississippi State, provided no such challenge for the Bayou Bengals. LSU jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead in Starkville and never looked back in a 41-6 rout that put the Tigers at 5-0 for the first time since 1973.
Now, the time seemed ripe for LSU to win back-to-back games over Florida for the first time since 1986-87. The Gators were struggling at 3-3 and had a freshman quarterback in Chris Leak going up against one of the nation's most savage defenses in what would undoubtedly be a raucous Tiger Stadium.
Early on, the Gators were on the skinning block. Green returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown, and a goal-line stand in which the Tigers recovered a Florida fumble at the 1-yard line seemed to have LSU on its way to 6-0.
But then, Leak stopped playing like a freshman, and LSU's offense could not get untracked against a suddenly potent Gator defense. Florida would head back to Gainesville with a 19-7 victory, and now the Tigers stood at crossroads.
Prior to the Florida game, there had been talk around the bayou that this LSU team would have the best chance to win the national championship since the 1958 team pulled off the feat. The loss to the Gators may have ended those thoughts for the time being, but many of Saban's goals, most notably those for an SEC championship, remained well within grasp.
That is, if the Tigers didn't slip up in either of their next two games, which figured to be tremendous challenges--a trip to South Carolina followed by a home game with longtime nemesis Auburn.
The Gamecocks didn't have the talent to match the Tigers, but they had one of college football's greatest masterminds in their corner in coach Lou Holtz. Holtz had done the impossible at all of his college stops--William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina--and certainly upsetting a wounded Tiger team wasn't that big of a stretch.
Then again, it was. Led by a trio of freshman running backs in Justin Vincent, Alley Broussard and Barrington Edwards, the Tigers rushed for 263 yards on their way to a 482-yard effort by the offense.
Meanwhile, the defense held the Gamecocks to a net rushing total of zero yards and scored a touchdown themselves on a fumble return by Jason LeDoux as LSU rolled to a 33-7 victory.
Beating South Carolina was a solid accomplishment, but now, LSU faced the same team that one year earlier had sent the purple and gold into its season ending tailspin. Auburn had struggled in early season losses to USC and Georgia Tech, but five consecutive wins had coach Tommy Tuberville's team looking ripe to take control of the SEC West.
The Tigers indeed had control of the SEC West when the game was over--the LSU Tigers. Mauck hit Henderson for a 64-yard touchdown pass on the sixth play of the game, and hit Clayton for an 18-yard score as part of a 21-point first quarter.
LSU's defense limited Auburn star runner Carnell Williams to just 61 yards on 20 carries, and Auburn was never in it as the Bayou Bengals rolled to a 31-7 victory and into the top 10 of the Bowl Championship Series standings at number 7.
LSU didn't show any signs of a letdown in its homecoming game, crushing Louisiana Tech, 49-10, scoring all of its points in the first half. After the game, when asked if LSU compared favorably to the Miami team that beat the Bulldogs 48-9 in the season opener, Tech coach Jack Bicknell replied emphatically, "We played Miami, and I promise you that they are better than Miami."
The Tigers were on a roll, and after an open date, they were back into the nation's elite, at No. 3 in the polls. Now, the dreams of a national championship were alive and well.
LSU's trip to Tuscaloosa was an eerie role reversal for the nearly 84,000 fans jammed into Bryant-Denny Stadium. For decades, it was Alabama who bullied the purple and gold; now, it was Saban's crew doing the bullying, shutting off Alabama in every conceivable way in a 27-3 rout that set up a showdown for the SEC West title the next week at Ole Miss.
Early on, it appeared the Rebels would finally reach the SEC Championship game, as Ole Miss grabbed a 7-0 lead when a Mauck interception was returned for a touchdown on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage.
LSU had dominated the rest of the game, holding a 17-14 lead late in the contest when Ole Miss' Eli Manning got one more chance to lead his team to victory.
It never happened, as Manning tripped over his own lineman on a fourth down in the final minute, allowing the Tigers to escape with a win in the biggest LSU-Ole Miss game since 1970.
To win the West and clinch a berth in the SEC title game, LSU now had a score to settle with the Arkansas Razorbacks, who in 2002 marched 81 yards down the field with no timeouts to score the winning touchdown and claim a 21-20 victory to steal the title game berth from the Tigers.
The first quarter and a half of the game appeared as if neither team could stop the other. The Tigers and the Hogs were tied at 17-17, and Ole Miss was still holding out hope for an Arkansas victory and a trip to the title game.
LSU then showed how it has developed what Saban likes to call a killer instinct. The Tigers scored 17 points in a five-minute stretch late in the second quarter to break the tie, and then scored three consecutive touchdowns in the second half to run away to a 55-24 blowout and punch their ticket to Atlanta.
The week leading up to the SEC Championship game against Georgia centered as much on LSU's status in the BCS as it did on the Bulldogs. Since their win over Alabama, the Tigers had been mired at No. 3 in the BCS standings behind Oklahoma and USC, and all across the country, analysts were frantically trying to figure out every possible scenario as to just what two teams would play in the Sugar Bowl on January 4 for the national championship.
On championship Saturday, LSU made a statement for itself by blasting the Bulldogs in front of a partisan Georgia crowd, 34-13. Game MVP Justin Vincent scored on an 87-yard run and finished with a championship game record 201 yards on the ground.
Earlier in the day, USC routed Oregon State, 52-28, but that night, Oklahoma was blasted by Kansas State in the Big XII title game in Kansas City, 35-7, leaving more speculation than ever as to who would be making the trip to the Big Easy.
At 2:30 the day after the SEC championship game, LSU Chancellor Dr. Mark Emmert got a phone call. It was from Paul Hoolhan, Executive Director of the Nokia Sugar Bowl. The call relayed to Emmert the news that the Tigers would indeed be making the short bus ride to New Orleans for the title game to play Oklahoma.
In the weeks leading up to the Sugar Bowl date with the Sooners, most pundits were debating the legitimacy of the BCS title game, as both the Associated Press poll and the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll had the Trojans in the top spot. The AP was not bound to elect the Sugar Bowl winner champion, and even though the coaches were, some coaches spoke openly of breaking their agreement and voting USC number one if the Trojans beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
In the weeks leading up to the Sugar Bowl, Saban hammered away at a theme, and that was LSU could only control what it did against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, not what USC did or what 65 sportswriters or 63 coaches did.
USC defeated Michigan on New Year's Day, 28-14, and now, the media had their story--the LSU-Oklahoma showdown would be for "half" the national championship.
LSU didn't care. It had waited 45 years for a shot at any national championship, and the Tigers hit the field running, driving to the Sooner 1-yard line on their opening drive. Although LSU came away empty, the tone of this evening was set, and it would be the white-shirted team that would be the aggressor.
No one felt this more than Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, the 2003 Heisman Trophy winner. Time and time again, he was buried by the LSU pass rush, led by All-American Chad Lavalais and the best pair of defensive ends in America in Marcus Spears and Marquise Hill.
When White did have time to throw, he found his receivers blanketed by the Tigers' aggressive secondary, most notably cornerbacks Corey Webster and Travis Daniels.
Indeed, it was Webster, the savior of the first win over Georgia, who set up LSU for its first score of the Sugar Bowl, intercepting White at midfield and returning the pick to the Sooner 32. Four plays later, Green took a reverse around right end to a 24-yard touchdown, and the purple and gold partisans reveled in a 7-0 lead.
A blocked punt early midway through the second quarter set up OU for the tying touchdown, but instead of folding, the Tigers immediately responded with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Vincent's 18-yard touchdown run that would give the Tigers a 14-7 halftime lead.
Two plays into the second half, LSU took one giant leap toward that championship when Spears grabbed a deflected White pass out of the air and rumbled 20 yards into the end zone, sending most of the Superdome record crowd of 79,342 into sheer pandemonium.
That 21-7 lead seemed to grow late in the third quarter when Ryan Gaudet hit a 27-yard field goal. But two penalties on the Tigers erased the score, and if the Sooners were going to make their move, now was the time.
Mauck was intercepted early in the fourth quarter, and the Sooners got a touchdown from Kejuan Jones to cut the LSU lead to 21-14 with 11:01 still to play.
Saban and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, the nation's two premier defensive masterminds, set in for the final chess match that would determine the BCS champion. Stoops gained the upper hand with 5:45 left, as White led his team to the Tiger 12 with a first down.
The nation's highest scoring offense had made teams pay time after time when reaching the red zone. But LSU was no ordinary defense. And in a test of wills, the Tigers held firm, as Oklahoma did not move an inch from that point, with White's fourth down pass getting knocked away by freshman Jesse Daniels.
Oklahoma would get one more chance from midfield in the final minutes, but again, the Sooners were stuck in cement, and on fourth and 10, Lionel Turner buried White to send the Heisman winner off the field for the last time in 2003.
The Sooners had one slim chance, and that was to block a Donnie Jones punt with nine seconds left. But Jones made his last kick one for the ages. As it rolled out of bounds at the Sooner 12 on the west sideline of the Superdome, the clock ticked down to three zeros. The game was over...LSU was national champion!
Vincent won his second MVP honor in a month, rushing for 117 yards. The LSU defense sacked White five times and forced several hurried throws. And Nick Saban would now take his place as the nation's top college football coach.
In 1958, LSU was thought to be a year away from serious national championship contention, but proved the experts wrong. In 2003, the same was thought to be true, but Saban, his talented coaching staff and a group of young men proved that through hard work, attention to detail and playing for 60 minutes, that dreams can and do come true.
1958 National Champions
Overall Record: 11-0 | SEC Record: 6-0 | Coach Paul Dietzel
For years, LSU fans eagerly anticipated the coming of each new football season with talk of the two Tiger teams regarded as LSU's national champions-- the great 10-0 team of 1908 and "next year." After 50 years, next year finally came in 1958.
After seasons of 3-5-2, 3-7 and 5-5 under coach Paul Dietzel, and a team which included only three seniors among its 55-man roster, it didn't seem likely that 1958 would be "next year." Indeed, with a squad dominated by juniors and sophomores, many pointed toward 1959 as the year LSU would make a run at the top.
The LSU Fighting Tigers opened the 1958 campaign Sept. 20 at Houston against the Rice Owls. Although early in the season, Dietzel's Tigers, divided into three units -- the White team, the Gold team (later shortened to Go) and the Chinese Bandits -- showed unusual poise and balance. LSU scored in each period en route to a 26-6 victory over a team it lost to the two previous seasons.
The following week, the Tigers traveled to Mobile to take on Alabama in its first game under Paul "Bear" Bryant. LSU came away with a hard- fought 13-3 win before returning to Baton Rouge for its home opener against Hardin-Simmons. Against the Cowboys, the Tigers built a 20-6 halftime lead and used it to coast to its victory before only 45,000 fans, indicating that few had any idea what kind of team this would become.
LSU, now ranked No. 11, hit the road again the following week and served notice to the college football world. The Tigers routed the Miami Hurricanes 41-0 at the Orange Bowl to improve their record to 4-0, their best start since 1937.
No. 9 LSU completed the first half of its schedule with a 32-7 victory over Kentucky before a home crowd of 65,000, the largest yet to see the Tigers play. Sixty-three thousand turned out the following week anxious to see if the Bayou Bengals could snap a three-game losing streak to Florida in LSU's Homecoming game. The outcome was in doubt until the final three minutes, when placekicker/fullback Tommy Davis booted a 29-yard field goal, giving the Tigers a 10-7 victory.
Now 6-0, LSU earned the AP poll's No. 1 ranking. But the Tigers knew they had to overcome Johnny Vaught's deadly Ole Miss Rebels if they wished to remain on top, something they hadn't done since 1950.
The Rebels drove to second-and-one, just a foot from LSU's end zone, early in the second quarter before 67,500 fans, the first sellout in Tiger Stadium history. They were turned back by a superb defensive effort by the White team defenders. After that, it was all LSU as White team quarterback Warren Rabb and Go team signal-caller Durel Matherne ran for scores in the 14-0 Tiger triumph over their archrivals.
Now 7-0 and ranked No. 1 by AP, the Tigers had yet to impress the UPI board of coaches enough to earn the top rating, staying in the No. 3 position going into a home game with Duke. Although the Blue Devils did some things no other team could do against LSU all season-- take an early lead, outgain the Tigers 353-yards to 285 and put a total of 18 points on the board-- it was simply not enough. LSU bombed Duke for 22 points in the second quarter to take a 28-6 halftime lead and went on to a 50-18 victory.
When the UPI poll came out the following week, LSU was a unanimous No. 1 selection, a position it would not relinquish until it sustained a bitter 14-13 defeat at the hands of Tennessee in week eight of the 1959 season.
One week later, LSU traveled to Jackson, Miss., for a game against Mississippi State. It was a game in which 8-0 LSU could lose everything and the 3-4 Bulldogs could lose nothing. On a muddy field and with the Tigers tense, Miss. State took a 6-0 halftime lead and made it hold up until LSU faced a fourth and goal situation at State's 5 in the third quarter. With a possible national championship on the line, Rabb rolled left and found Billy Hendrix in the end zone to tie the game. Davis' extra point put LSU ahead 7-6 and allowed the Tigers to escape Jackson 9-0.
With one game against ancient rival Tulane separating LSU from its first recognized national championship (in those days, the wire services awarded their national championship trophies before the bowl games), some wondered how the Tigers would approach the 3-6 Green Wave, but a quote from Tulane halfback Claude "Boo" Mason took care of that. After losing to Vanderbilt, Mason told a reporter, "We'll beat LSU because they'll choke."
Whether the Tigers would choke was subject to debate at halftime, as LSU led only 6-0 before a then Southeastern Conference record crowd of 83,221 in Sugar Bowl Stadium. However, LSU took command in the second half, taking full advantage of Green Wave mistakes en route to a 35-point fourth quarter and a 62-0 thrashing of Tulane, the most lopsided score in the history of the series. Incredibly, LSU would defeat the Greenies by the same score in 1961 and 1965.
With a 10-0 record and national championship in hand, LSU accepted an invitation to take on the Tigers of Clemson, in the 25th annual Sugar Bowl Classic on New Year's Day, 1959. Once again, LSU found an opponent with little to lose but much recognition to gain in 8-2 Clemson, as Frank Howard's troops tried to deny LSU its first perfect season in 50 years.
After fighting off a series of bad breaks, including a fractured hand by Rabb in the first quarter, LSU got a break of its own when Chinese Bandit Duane Leopard recovered a fumbled punt attempt on the Clemson 11. On third and eight at the 9, Billy Cannon took a handoff from Matherne and hit Mickey Mangham with a touchdown pass on the halfback option for the game's only score.
The following season, a more experienced LSU team demonstrated how difficult it was to repeat as a national champion, going 9-1 during the regular season. Only the loss to Tennessee separated LSU from the school's second straight title.
2001 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 10-3 | SEC Record: 5-3 | Coach Nick Saban
Following a strong 8-4 2000 season under first-year coach Nick Saban, the 2001 Fighting Tigers were widely expected to capture the SEC Western Division championship and play in the school's first SEC Championship Game.
The Tigers got off to a flying start with home victories over Tulane and Utah State before the terrorist attacks of September 11 postponed LSU's SEC opener against Auburn until December 1.
Instead, the Tigers opened SEC play at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium in front of more than 107,000, the largest crowd to ever see LSU play, where the Volunteers got revenge for 2000 with a 26-18 victory, before LSU returned home and fell to 0-2 in the SEC with a 44-15 loss to Florida
LSU then defeated Kentucky and Mississippi State on the road, but those wins were erased by a 35-24 home loss to Ole Miss that seemingly finished the Tigers' title hopes off, dropping LSU to 2-3 in the SEC.
But instead of folding, the Tigers fought back. First, Rohan Davey threw for 528 yards and Josh Reed caught 19 passes for 293 yards as the Tigers bombed Alabama in Tuscaloosa, 35-21. Home wins over Middle Tennessee and Arkansas closed November and set up the Western division title showdown with Auburn.
The showdown was no contest. LSU rolled to a 21-7 halftime lead and cruised home to a 27-14 victory, sending the Tigers to their first SEC Championship game against a Tennessee squad that would look to punch its ticket to the Rose Bowl and a national championship date with Miami with a second victory over LSU.
Most teams would have wilted under the pressure, especially after losing their starting running back (LaBrandon Toefield) and quarterback (Davey), but LSU didn't just survived, it thrived. Led by the steady play of backup Matt Mauck, the Tigers stunned the college football world by upending the Big Orange, 31-20, sending LSU to its first Sugar Bowl since 1986.
The Tigers capped off this glorious season with a 47-34 pasting of Illinois in the Sugar Bowl, as Davey earned MVP honors by throwing for a bowl record 444 yards and three touchdowns, while Reed caught 14 passes for 239 yards in front of a partisan LSU crowd of more than 77,000, leaving LSU in the top 10 for the first time since 1987.
1988 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 8-4 | SEC Record: 6-1 | Coach Mike Archer
LSU looked to win its second SEC title in three years in 1988, and after a 10-1-1 season in 1987 under first-year coach Mike Archer, the Tigers looked the part of champions in their first two games, thrashing Texas A&M 27-0 in Death Valley, then taking the school's first win ever in Knoxville with a 34-9 rout of Tennessee.
LSU would quickly find itself 2-2, though, as it squandered a 13-point lead in the final five minutes of a 36-33 loss at Ohio State, then dropped a 19-6 decision at Florida before heading into a critical showdown with fourth-ranked Auburn.
In a classic defensive battle, two Auburn field goals gave the Tigers of the Plains a 6-0 lead late in the fourth quarter before Tommy Hodson hit Eddie Fuller in the end zone with less than one minute to play, tying the game and causing such a tremor that it was felt on a seismograph in the LSU Geology Department. David Browndyke then kicked the extra point to give the Bayou Bengals a 7-6 triumph in what will forever be known as the "Earthquake Game".
Tough home victories over Kentucky and Ole Miss followed, then came a trip to Alabama, where LSU fell behind 15-0 late in the first half before the Tigers rallied and took a 19-18 victory on Browndyke's field goal in the waning seconds. The Tigers won the SEC title the following week with a 20-3 win over Mississippi State.
LSU split its final two regular season games, losing to Miami and defeating Tulane, before a loss to Syracuse in the Hall of Fame Bowl ended the Tigers' season at 8-4.
1986 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 9-3 | SEC Record: 5-1 | Coach Bill Arnsparger
The Tommy Hodson era began at LSU in 1986 in Bill Arnsparger's third and final season in Tigertown, which got off to a flying start with a 35-17 upset of Texas A&M.
The Tigers then dropped a shocking 21-12 decision to Arnsparger's alma mater, Miami of Ohio the following week.
The loss to Miami was only a temporary setback. The Tigers began to roll behind their new leader, defeating Florida 28-17 in Gainesville, then coming home for a 23-14 win over Georgia. The Tigers rolled to victories over Kentucky and North Carolina before Ole Miss came to Death Valley and won for the first time in Baton Rouge since Archie Manning's sophomore season of 1968, knocking the Tigers out of first place in the SEC.
Now came a trip to league leader Alabama in Birmingham. In a white-knuckle struggle, the Tigers prevailed 14-10, leaving the Tigers needing only to defeat Mississippi State the next week to win the Tigers' first league crown since 1970.
In front of a pro-LSU crowd in Jackson, the Tigers left little doubt as to who would be kings of the SEC, as the Tigers mauled the Bulldogs 47-0 to win at least a share of the league crown. LSU defeated Notre Dame and Tulane to close the season, then Auburn upended Alabama in the Iron Bowl to give the Tigers the title all to themselves and secure the school's second Sugar Bowl berth in three years.
Arnsparger, who accepted the position of athletic director prior to LSU's game with Tulane, coached LSU for the final time on New Year's Day in a 30-15 loss to Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl.
1970 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 9-3 | SEC Record: 5-0 | Coach Charles McClendon
Archie Manning and Ole Miss left LSU three points shy of a perfect season and the chance to play Texas in the Cotton Bowl for the national championship in 1969. After refusing a bowl berth following a 9-1 season, LSU was determined to remedy this failure in 1970.
The Tigers' hopes took a serious hit on opening night, as Texas A&M came to town and pulled off a 20-18 upset. The loss left the Tigers bloodied but unbowed, as LSU then rattled off seven consecutive victories, including a 17-9 victory at Auburn over future Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan, then a 14-9 triumph in Birmingham over Alabama squad, the Tigers' second straight over Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide.
LSU would have two big non-conference games before its December 5 showdown with Archie Manning's Ole Miss Rebels for the SEC championship. First was a visit to South Bend and second-ranked Notre Dame, where LSU limited Ara Parseghian's powerful offense led by Joe Theismann to under 250 yards, but the Tigers missed several chances to win the game and fell, 3-0. The Tigers now needed two wins to lock up an Orange Bowl berth opposite Big Eight champion Nebraska, and got the first at Tulane Stadium over a pesky Green Wave squad, 26-14, setting up the title match with the Rebels.
Manning would return to Death Valley with a cast on his left arm that severely limited his throwing motion. The way LSU played that warm December night, Manning could have been Superman himself and it probably wouldn't have mattered. Tommy Casanova and Craig Burns combined to return three punts for touchdowns, and Ronnie Estay nailed Manning for a safety as LSU brought Christmas to Tiger Stadium early with a 61-17 rout of the Rebels and send the Tigers to Miami.
In the Orange Bowl against a Nebraska team looking to win a share of the national championship, LSU held a 12-10 lead after three quarters before wilting under the charge of the powerful Cornhuskers, 17-12.
1961 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 10-1 | SEC Record: 5-0 | Coach Paul Dietzel
Coming off of a 5-4-1 campaign in 1960, LSU wanted to get its 1961 campaign off to a flying start, but a 16-3 loss to Rice in the season opener signaled the beginning of what could have been a very difficult season, but as it turned out, the loss to the Owls meant little.
Over the final nine games of the season, LSU would allow a measly 30 points, with 14 of those scored by Kentucky in a 24-14 Tiger triumph in the fifth game of the year. The Tigers blanked Florida, 23-0, then took a 10-7 win over Ole Miss to leave them needing only a win over archrival Tulane to win a share of the league title.
For the second time in four years, Andy Pilney and his Green Wave suffered a 62-0 humiliation at the hands of the Bayou Bengals, and SEC champion LSU was on to the Orange Bowl to face Big Eight champion Colorado.
In what was Paul Dietzel's final game at LSU, the Tigers had little trouble in silencing the Buffaloes, 25-7.
1958 National Champions
Overall Record: 11-0 | SEC Record: 6-0 | Coach Paul Dietzel
In the modern era of college football, many coaches, especially in the hyper-competitive world of the SEC, would not survive seasons of 3-5-2, 3-7 and 5-5, but LSU athletic director Jim Corbett showed patience with the Tigers' young innovator, 35-year old Paul Dietzel, and for his fourth season in Baton Rouge, Dietzel would come up with the innovation that would revolutionize college football, and football on the bayou would never be the same.
Dietzel unveiled his three units -- the White Team, the Go Team and the Chinese Bandits -- in impressive road victories over Rice and Alabama (in its first game under Bear Bryant), before LSU returned home to defeat Hardin-Simmons.
After crushing Miami and Kentucky, LSU moved to third in the polls for a homecoming showdown against Florida in front of the first sellout crowd in Tiger Stadium history. The 67,500 in attendance weren't disappointed, as the Tigers won 10-7 to move to number one in the Associated Press poll, and LSU then backed up that ranking with a 14-0 shutout of sixth-ranked Ole Miss.
A 50-18 victory over Duke moved LSU up to the top spot in the UPI coaches' poll, but the Tigers nearly lost it all the next week against Mississippi State in Jackson, falling behind 6-0 at halftime before Warren Rabb hit Billy Hendrix for the tying touchdown in the third quarter, and Tommy Davis' extra point gave LSU a 7-6 triumph, leaving only nemesis Tulane standing between the Tigers and the brass ring.
The Green Wave held sway in the first half, limiting the Tigers to two field goals and a 6-0 lead at intermission, but in the second half, the Wave was swallowed up, as the Tigers scored an incredible 56 points in the second half, including 35 in the fourth quarter, to win 62-0 and leave no doubt as to who was number one.
LSU then took its victory lap in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson, as Mickey Magnham's halfback option pass to Billy Cannon led to a 7-0 Bayou Bengal triumph and the perfect ending to the first perfect season at LSU in exactly 50 years.
1936 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 9-1-1 | SEC Record: 6-0 | Coach Bernie Moore
LSU started off in fine fashion against a pair of SWC powers, defeating Rice 20-7 at home then tying Texas at Austin, 6-6, before destroying Georgia in the SEC opener, 47-7, and shutting out Ole Miss, 13-0.
The Tigers beat border rival Arkansas in Shreveport, 19-7, then blanked Vanderbilt in Music City and Mississippi State in Birmingham, then returned home to down Auburn 19-6 and Southwestern Louisiana 93-0.
LSU finished the regular season by whitewashing rival Tulane, 33-0, leaving the Tigers as the nation's highest scoring team with 281 points. The Tigers finished runner-up in the AP poll to Minnesota, but took national championship honors in the Williamson poll. The Tigers' season went sour again in the Sugar Bowl, though, as coach Buck Shaw's Santa Clara club shocked LSU 21-14.
1935 SEC Champions
Overall Record: 9-2 | SEC Record: 5-0 | Coach Bernie Moore
The start of the season proved to be tough for LSU as Rice came to Baton Rouge and handed the Tigers a 10-7 defeat.
But led by the exploits of a freshman end named Gaynell Tinsley, the Tigers would not lose again in the regular season. It started with an 18-6 win over Texas in which the Tigers scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the victory, then continued all the way to New York City with a 32-0 rout of Manhattan, then to Shreveport for a win over Arkansas and on to Nashville with a 7-2 victory over Vanderbilt in the SEC opener.
Auburn would fall in a 6-0 tussle in Death Valley, but no opponent the rest of the way would be that close. The Tigers then disposed of Mississippi State and Georgia before crushing Southwestern Louisiana 56-0 and Tulane 41-0 to end the season 9-1 and send SEC champion LSU to its first bowl game ever, a Sugar Bowl date with Sammy Baugh's TCU Horned Frogs.
With heavy rains turning the Tulane Stadium field to slop, the expecting passing matchup between Baugh and LSU's Abe Mickal never developed. Baugh threw an incomplete pass in the end zone for a safety that gave LSU a 2-0 lead, but the Frogs drove for a game-winning field goal and 3-2 triumph in front of an overflow crowd of 35,000.