MULE': Miles now taking Cholly Mac's side

It's a football maxim: What goes around almost always comes around.

Bud Johnson, the former LSU sports information director through much of the Charlie McClendon era, recalls being intercepted frequently on the way home by a neighbor who never failed to complain vigorously about Charlie Mac's two-quarterback system.

 

To refresh some memories, out of necessity in the 1960s and ‘70s, McClendon refined a dual quarterback rotation in which both received significant playing time in each game. It came about because for five straight years – which has to be the all-time record – beginning in 1963, LSU's starting quarterback was lost by midseason to injury.

 

McClendon's insurance policy from then to the end of his career in 1979 was the availability of a  backup who had seen action before. The policy paid dividends.

 

Pat Screen went out against Ole Miss in 1964, and second-string QB Billy Ezell came off the bench to throw a touchdown pass, then a two-point conversion to Doug Moreau in the last minutes for an 11-10 victory against a Rebel team that outplayed LSU all night; The oft-injured Screen eventually lost his starting job to Nelson Stokley, who himself was sent to the sidelines in mid-1965. Both played in the Cotton Bowl against No. 2-ranked Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, but Stokley for just seven plays. It was left to Screen to guide the Tigers to their stirring 14-7 upset.

 

The most contrasting quarterbacks were howitzer-armed Bert Jones and strong running Pat Lyons, who swapped starting slots in part because of Lyons' ability in operating the option, no small inducement in McClendon's run-oriented offense. Jones was the hero in many an LSU victory, Notre Dame, Auburn, Ole Miss, but it was Lyons who set a school record with 304 total yards, 139 rushing, in 38-28 win at Wisconsin in 1971. A season later, with Jones as the starter, Tulane geared its defense to stopping the air game of the All-American, Lyons came in, broke off a 44-yard run late which led to a field goal as LSU escaped 9-3.

 

And so it went throughout McClendon's mostly successful LSU tenure, which ended in the Tangerine Bowl with the tandem of Steve Ensminger and David Woodley, though the system didn't die. Even with the strong presence of Tommy Hodson in the lineup, Coach Bill Arnsparger utilized the talents of backup Mickey Guidry in virtually every game.

 

Against Alabama in 1986, it was Guidry who jockeyed the Tigers to a fourth-quarter touchdown – and a 14-10 victory – against Alabama.

 

It is conventional wisdom that a team with two quarterbacks does not really have one.

 

Balderdash.

 

What is wrong, when there are multiple talents on hand, with using them for maybe a series or two in every game, or just in spot duty? It could give opposing defenses a different look, something different to prepare for. And when the No. 1 guy goes down, someone who has played in front of 90,000 fans before, someone who has taken snaps under pressure and under fire before, someone who isn't going to run on the field bug-eyed and stammering in the huddle, is prepared to do the job.

 

Which brings us to Bud Johnson's neighbor, who is on a new rant these days. With Matt Flynn, who proved himself as the Peach Bowl MVP last season when JaMarcus Russell was in rehabilitation, and Ryan Perrilloux on the LSU roster, he's at wits end trying to figure out why coach Les Miles won't put them in more, to season them, to build depth at the team's most crucial position, to throw a new wrinkle at the opposition.

 

"It's as if we've gone back 40 years,'' Johnson said, "except now he's taking Charlie Mac's side."

 

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Marty Mule' can be reached at MJM981@Bellsouth.net.


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