ENGSTER: McClendon could have been king

I recently unearthed the LSU Media Guide for the 1979 Tangerine Bowl. It's a collector's item because it was the last game for Charles McClendon, and the head coach of the Tigers featured in the guide is none other than Robert "Bo" Rein.

Rein died in a plane crash 19 days after LSU whipped Wake Forest 34-10 at Orlando to complete Charlie Mac's tenure at TigerTown. In turning the pages of the bowl guide assembled by the late, great SID Paul Manasseh, some fascinating findings are evident.

McClendon posted a winning record against every school in the league except three---Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.


With the hatred rising to a boiling point against Nick Saban and Alabama, it should be noted that every win over the Crimson Tide is not only a payback to Saban for leaving LSU but is evening the score for what Bear Bryant did to his former pupil, McClendon.


Here was the McClendon record against current members of the SEC:


Kentucky                     15-3-0


Mississippi State           15-3-0


Ole Miss                        9-8-1


Florida                           8-6-1


Auburn               4-0-0


South Carolina              4-0-0


Vanderbilt                      2-0-0


Arkansas                        1-0-0


Alabama                       2-14-0


Tennessee                      1-3-1


Georgia                          0-2-0


Total                           61-39-3



The Mac record against Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia was 3-19-1. Against everyone else, it was 58-20-2. McClendon also dominated Tulane and Georgia Tech, who were SEC members for part of his time at LSU. His mark against the Greenies and Yellow Jackets was 18-2.


Clearly, Alabama was the unstoppable force in McClendon's career. If there had been no Bear and the Crimson Tide, Jolly Cholly would have died wearing his spikes in Baton Rouge.


Some other notable changes in the game since Mac departed in 1979 are apparent. Rohan Davey passed for 528 yards vs. Alabama in 2001 and fired for a record 3,347 yards that season. Last year, JaMarcus Russell 28 touchdowns with eleven 200 yard passing games to his credit.


At the close of the McClendon Era, Bert Jones was the all-time leader for passing yardage for an LSU quarterback with 3,225 yards in his All America career as a Tiger.


Jones also held the school record for yards passing in one game with 242 against Alabama in 1972, and the 200-yard mark had been eclipsed only six times by an LSU passer---twice by Jones and once by Y.A. Tittle, Jim Barton, Norm Stevens and Pat Screen.


The aerial game is the biggest change in the modern period of the college game. The result has been an increase in scoring. The most points ever scored against a McClendon defense between 1962-79 was 39 by Texas A&M in 1975. Only nine times did a foe pierce Mac's defenses for 30 points.


The great Nick Saban saw his vaunted defensive units surrendered 38 or more points on five occasions and allowed teams to put at least 30 points on the board 14 times in his five seasons at the helm in Death Valley.


In McClendon's final season, LSU's non-conference schedule featured USC, Florida State, Colorado, Tulane and Rice. It was the toughest non-SEC slate for a Tiger team in history, and it still is. Athletic Director Skip Bertman could take some pointers from his predecessors and schedule more challenging foes outside the conference.


Imagine the ferocity of the Tiger faithful if USC were to invade the stadium as the Trojans did on Sept. 29, 1979. That night, Southern Cal rallied from 12-3 deficit to win a controversial 17-12 decision over LSU. The defeat to the Trojans is the most memorable game at Tiger Stadium since Billy Cannon's 89-yard run beat Ole Miss in 1959.


I was among the 78,322 fans who witnessed Charles White, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott and Co. edge the Tigers on that September night 28 years ago. Many of the LSU partisans were smoking incessantly as the Tigers tried to hang on against the mighty Men of Troy.


This year, fans won't be allowed to puff anywhere in the stadium as LSU yawns its way past Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. Thank goodness for Virginia Tech and an attractive home slate against the league with dates against Florida, Auburn, South Carolina and Arkansas.




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

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