The Tigers and the Atlanta-based bowl have a long history together that dates back to 1968. The Tigers are an unbeaten 3-0 in the Peach Bowl. And besides that, each game occurred during a pivotal point in the storied LSU football history.
The 1968 season marked the first year of the Peach Bowl. The inaugural contest featured an 8-3 LSU team that squared off against Florida State. It also marked the seventh season of the Charlie McClendon era which was only two years away from being SEC champs. That year's team featured losses to Miami, Ole Miss, and number nine Alabama. Bill Fortier earned first team all-SEC honors while Mike Anderson wound up on the second team.
The Tigers brought an aggressive offensive attack to Atlanta and it matched up nicely with the always explosive Seminoles. It was a shoot-out before the word was a football staple. LSU quarterback Mike Hillman had an terrific performance with 229 passing yards and two touchdowns. All the more impressive was the muddy, rainy condition that he did it in. By the time the rain stopped and the passing ceased, LSU won 31-27.
28 years and 14 bowl appearances later, the Tigers found their way back to Atlanta to take on Clemson. This took place during the glory years of Gerry Dinardo. He led the Tigers to a 10-2 (6-2 SEC) record that included an upset victory over the then number fourteen ranked Auburn Tigers. This would also be Dinardo's finest year of his tenure at LSU. One of those reasons were the quality players he had on that squad. Running back Kevin Faulk and tight end David LaFleur were both All-American selections. They, along with guard Alan Faneca and defensive tackle Chuck Wiley, were first team All-SEC. Those players all went on to success in the NFL.
But before their NFL success came bowl game success. On the strength of those mentioned above, LSU defeated Clemson 10-7 on a game filled with nail biters. Kevin Faulk had a three yard touchdown run. Later the game was knotted at seven points apiece. Although it might surprise some, the difference in the outcome was a 22 yard field goal by Wade Richey. Then to cap off the excitement, LSU's Aaron Adams blocked Clemson's field goal attempt that would have tied the game with a little less than 2:00 remaining. LSU escaped with a close victory and marked the first time since 1987 that they had a ten win season.
The man behind the 2000 LSU Tiger Peach Bowl team is the one who made ten win seasons the benchmark in Baton Rouge. In his first season as the head coach, Nick Saban did a valiant job in turning around the woebegone Tigers. The 1999 season was a disaster and it coincided with Gerry Dinardo's last season. Dinardo's final stint in the purple and gold saw a 3-8 Tiger team with little hope for the future.
That all changed when somewhat of an unknown took over the helm. Saban's no-nonsense approach transformed a Tiger team that was mired in rumor and innuendo. All the discussion surrounding off the field incidents were quickly put to rest. His approach yielded a successful and surprising season. This year saw LSU lose to UAB and upset a Tennessee team that was ranked eleventh. This was followed by another upset over then number thirteen Mississippi St in an overtime thriller. This was also a sneak-peak at the team that would surprise most and win the SEC in 2000.
But first they had to focus on a Georgia Tech team that was ranked fifteenth and heavily favored. And during the first half, there was little wonder as to why the Yellow Jackets were picked to win. They were leading 14-3 at the break and that was with four turnovers in the first half.
Then a funny thing happened.
Looking to spark a fledgling offense, Saban removed quarterback Josh Booty and inserted Rohan Davey. He had not seen action since the Oct. 7th game against Florida. But the rest must have done him good because he ignited the LSU scoring attack. He got things started with a three yard touchdown pass to fullback Tommy Banks. The point after was no good and LSU was trailing 14-9.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers scored 19 unanswered points and Davey was christened as the future of the program. He orchestrated the go-ahead score with a touchdown pass to Josh Reed. He followed it with another touchdown pass to Banks. Both of those scores were capped off with successful two point conversion attempts. John Corbello then added the icing on the cake with a career long 49 yard field goal. For the game, but really only the second half, Davey was 17-25 for 174 yards and three touchdowns. This win began what could arguably be labeled the most successful run in LSU football history.
So for Tiger fans unhappy about LSU's bowl season destination, remember this: history is bound to repeat itself. But in order for that to happen, they must defeat the Miami Hurricanes. History is full of hurdles.
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