13 March 2020

Go Tigahs!

Go Tigahs!
A football story.

My first memory of LSU football was listening to the LSU-Ole Miss game on All Saints Day, November 1, 1958. I sat with my father at our kitchen table with his transister radio and he explained about the LSU Fighting Tigers and their arch-rival University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Rebels, how both were undefeated, both in the top ten. Ole Miss had defeated LSU the previous year 14-12. The Tigers scored first but we fretted as Ole Miss was a excellent team. LSU scored again and won 14-0. On New Years we watched LSU play the Clemson Tigers at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and the Fighting Tigers won 7-0, cementing their first national championship. I was hooked for life.

The next year we sat at the same kitchen table and listened to the same transister as Billy Cannon raced 89-yards with a sizzling punt return in the 4th Quarter, breaking seven tackles, to put #1 LSU ahead of #3 Ole Miss. The Rebels weren't finished, driving to the LSU 4-yard line. First and goal. With 18 seconds left, Billy Cannon and Warren Rabb stopped Ole Miss quarterback Doug Elmore on the 1-yard line on fourth down for a 7-3 win. It was electric. The following week, LSU lost to Tennessee 14-13 and lost a rematch with Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, 21-0.

Cannon won the Heisman Trophy that year.

Billy Cannon, 1959

It took 45 years for the Fighting Tigers to win another national championship. January 4, 2003, at the Sugar Bowl again. LSU 21 Oklahoma 14. They won the championship again in 2007, at the Sugar Bowl once more. LSU 38 Ohio State 24.

A near-perfect season followed in 2011, only to be dashed in the national championship game with a re-match with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl once more. Alabama 21 LSU 0. Alabama was coached by Nick Saban who was LSU's coach when the Tigers won the championship in 2003.

Few expected what happened last season. Magic. Perfection. Nothing is perfect in sports. With a new Cajun coach Ed Orgeron and a quarterback from Ohio, a new pass-happy air-raid NFL-stye offense, the Fighting Tigers went 15-0 and beat defending national champion Clemson Tigers (again) for the national championship. In the New Orleans, of course. LSU 42 Clemson 25. LSU scored the most points of any team in a single season in NCAA history. An unstoppable force.

A perfect season. In the small town where I live across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, fireworks echoed after the game. People leaned on their car horns. It was perfect. No season could be better. Quarterback Joe Burrow (who wore a jersey with the French spelling BURREAUX before the SEC championship game) won the Heisman Trophy sixty years after Billy Cannon won.

A magic year:
National Championship
SEC Championship
Coach of the Year Ed Orgeron
Assistant Coach of the year Joe Brady
Heisman Trophy Joe Burrow
Biletnikoff Award for Best Receiver Ja'Marr Chase
Jim Thorpe Award for Best Defensive Back Grant Delpit
Joe Moore Award for Best Offensive Line

Quarterback Joe Burrow's emotional acceptance speech when accepting the Heisman Trophy showed the pride brought to Louisiana and this young man's appreciation of the opportunity. His remarks about growing up in an impoverished area touched many people. As he wiped tears from his eyes, Joe said, "I'm up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County (Ohio) that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too." Those impactful words resulted in the food bank in Athens County receiving donations exceeding $500.000.

This Fighting Tiger team was special.

It was a pleasure watching these young men and women achieve what is nearly unachievable, see the joy in the faces of their families, fell the good vibrations run through our little state. Pride. I said women because when they won the national championship, Joe Burrow reminded everyone it wasn't just the players who won the trophy. It was the coaches, trainers, medical personnel and so many other workers responsible for putting the team on the field, many of them women.

Coach Ed Orgeron, from the small town of Larose in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, is a fiery leader with a heavy Cajun accent. He ends every interview with the new montra of LSU – "Go Tigahs!"

During games, when they run, they look like streaking tigers, especially at night. Purple, gold and white.

Outside Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

For a little while, it's the best of times.

I know, this is a writer's blog and what does this have to do with writing. Well, a SleuthSayer wrote it.

Thats all for now –


  1. Roll Tide! -- Sorry, O'Neil, I had to say that. My wife's sitting here and her family is from Alabama. And they all have banjos on their knees which, if I didn't say that, they'd hit me with.

  2. I got a link to your blog from my daughter who is married to Michael Bracken. It certainly brings back lots of memories because I started LSU in the Fall of 1956 so I was there for the Billy Cannon years. It was certainly a different time. My dorm room in the Stadium only cost $50 a semester and the student fee of $25 entitled you to attend all athletic events including football games for free.

    I was there on Halloween night for "The Run" but you are the first person who seems to remember the goal line stand that was just as exciting as "The Run" was. I also remember the Sugar Bowl game against Clemson. I had free tickets courtesy of my brother-in-law. It was a cloudy, cold, overcast day with a good bit of wind. Miserable for watching a ball game.

    Most people don't remember how football was played the the late 1950's. There was limited substitution so when the ball changed hands there was no wholesale exchange of offense players for defensive players and the kicker when you needed one had to be a player all ready on the field. I often wonder how today's players would fair under those rules.

    As for the 2019 season, I enjoyed every minute of it but I don't have high hopes there will be a repeat of a season like that for a very long time but one can always hope.

  3. O'Neil, the emotion you put into writing this article is strongly reflected in the reading. You did an excellent job of writing.

  4. R.T.'s right - I enjoyed reading it and I'm not a football fan.

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Unknown – Temple said she was from New Orleans. Nice to hear from you. I remember the limited substitution rule and watching replay of games from the 1950s is almost painful in their slow, plodding style. So cool you were able to see the great Halloween run and the Sugar Bowl against Clemson.

    R.T. and Eve – glad y'all liked the writing.

    Paul – "Roll Tide?" When reporters said that to Coach O during the season, all he said back was, "We comin'." When I went to Troy State University in Alabama (now Troy University), Bear Bryant was still the coach and everyone was Tide crazy except the Auburn folks. Nearly everyone at TSU liked Bama. The only school everyone hated was the Georgia Bulldogs.

  6. >a SleuthSayer wrote it.

    Love it! Perfect Answer!


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