ENGSTER: Miles moving in on another record

As Les Miles preps for his third season at the helm of the LSU program, he needs just six victories to equal his four-year total of victories at Oklahoma State (he was 28-21 at Stillwater). Miles also requires a mere five triumphs to equal the winningest three-year reign in LSU football history.

Here's the list of three-year victory totals of LSU coaches in the modern era.

 

Bernie Moore                           27-5-1                         1935-37

 

Bill Arnsparger                          26-8-2                         1984-86

 

Gerry DiNardo                           26-9-1                         1995-97

 

Nick Saban                              26-12                           2000-02

 

Charles McClendon                   24-7-2                           1962-64

 

Mike Archer                             22-12-1                       1987-89

 

Jerry Stovall                             18-14-2                      1980-82

 

Gaynell Tinsley                          15-15-2                      1948-50

 

Curley Hallman                           12-21                        1991-93

 

Paul Dietzel                              11-17-2                      1955-57

 

 

Miles has a chance to shatter the 27-win standard for three years set by Bernie Moore 70 years ago. But the reality is that any accomplishment short of an SEC title or national championship will be too little for some LSU partisans, who are counting on a second NCAA crown in five seasons for the Tigers.

 

Much of the talk about BCS glory stems from the confidence LSU fans are lavishing on quarterback Matt Flynn. The Tiger signal caller is often compared to Matt Mauck, who steered the Bengals to the Promised Land in 2003. Mauck, like Flynn, was largely untested and responded with the most productive season for an LSU passer, eclipsed only by the monster season of JaMarcus Russell in 2006.

 

In 2003, Mauck completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,825 yards to complement the 1,001 rushing yards amassed by Justin Vincent. For LSU to reach the pinnacle in January of 2008, it will take a Mauck-like season from Flynn and another strong rushing performance from a Tiger back. Last year, the leading ball carrier for Miles and Co. was Jacob Hester with 440 yards.

 

The heroics of Russell offset a lackluster running game for the Tigers in 2006. JaMarcus completed 68 percent of his attempts for 3,129 yards and 28 touchdowns. It not only was the most prolific output for an LSU quarterback, but it ranks with the best in the history of the SEC. Russell guided a team that would have finished 8-5 or 7-6 and carried his mates to an 11-2 campaign. It will take similar deeds from Flynn for LSU to savor Sabanesque success.

 

 

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Tiger Rag Editor Matt Deville recently provided readers with a comprehensive collection of Top Ten lists for LSU football. It was an exhaustive collaboration between Deville and Marty Mule', and it is an issue to keep as a snapshot of LSU football from 1893-2006.

I quarrel with one omission.

 

Billy Cannon was not included among the Top Ten professional Tiger players. Cannon was so good in college that his pro career was considered a disappointment by some followers of his career.

 

But the man from Philadelphia, Miss., and Baton Rouge Istrouma accumulated numbers in professional football that most players would envy. In his rookie season, Cannon helped the Houston Oilers win the inaugural AFL championship. He was the Most Valuable Player as the Oilers beat the Los Angeles Chargers 24-16 in the AFL title game.

 

In 1961, Cannon rushed for 948 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry for the Oilers in a 14-game season. He led both categories in the second year of the American Football League and also caught 43 passes for 586 yards and nine touchdowns. It was a remarkable year for Cannon, who led the Oilers to another AFL championship that season.

 

Six years later, Cannon was the league's top tight end as the Oakland Raiders advanced to the Super Bowl with a 14-1 record. The Raiders lost Super Bowl II to Green Bay by a 33-14 score, but Cannon's season was superb. He snared 32 passes for 629 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch.

 

Cannon certainly ranks as one of the best professional players produced by LSU. He turned 70 on Aug. 2 and has led a full life. Cannon is the only man alive to win the Heisman, be a member of one NCAA and three AFL championship teams, play in a Super Bowl and serve time in federal prison for his involvement in the seventh largest counterfeiting operation in U.S. history.

 

William Abb Cannon had enough faults to rival his prowess as an athlete. But it is appropriate that No. 20 is the Ole War Skule's lone retired football number. There will never be another legend to race through TigerTown like Billy Cannon.

 

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Jim Engster is the general manager of Louisiana Network and Tiger Rag. Reach him at jim@la-net.net.


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