MULE': There seems to be a pattern here

We should have seen it coming. It's as much a Tiger tradition as tailgating.

How many times through the decades have we sat through one of those pulsating, epic, never-to-be-forgotten LSU victories – like the one we experienced against Florida – only to come crashing to Earth a week later with a hard-to-fathom Tiger defeat, like Kentucky Saturday?


You'd almost think it's like a divine balancing out, as if no mortal should be allowed so much football rapture as that brought on by a dramatic, near-heart-stopping episode at Tiger Stadium against what appears to be a near-invincible – and lordly – opponent.

Unless you don't have blood in your veins, that kind of game experience still has you tingling days afterward.


Everything comes with a price, and the cost of that type of thrilling LSU victory is apparently a doleful downfall the next time out.


Think about it.


The Granddaddy of Tiger ecstasy was the 1959 LSU-Ole Miss game, with the home-standing No. 1 Bayou Bengals playing the No. 3 Rebels. No single home game in LSU history had more meaning. The 7-3 victory was won on the Tigers' all-time signature play – Billy Cannon's legendary 89-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a goal-line stand at the LSU 2 in the last minute.


The greatest of all Tiger victories was followed a week later with perhaps the costliest LSU defeat ever, 14-13 at Tennessee. The Tigers out-gained the Vols 334 yards to 112, with Cannon (122) and Johnny Robinson (115) each individually out-gaining the entire Tennessee team. The outcome was fueled by a couple of missed short Tiger field goals, an interception run back for the first touchdown scored on LSU in 40 quarters, and a converted fumble at the LSU 26.


Tiger coach Paul Dietzel said bitterly, "Tennessee was only close to LSU in performance for about 15 seconds of the 60 minutes we played." Johnny Majors, then a Vols assistant and later Tennessee's head coach, concurred years later, saying, "It was no contest."


But that single point differential on the scoreboard knocked LSU out of the No. 1 spot. Then the Tigers got caught up in the crunch of bowl politics as the postseason games were filling up. Eventually, the Tigers accepted a bid they didn't want – a Sugar Bowl rematch with Ole Miss, a team LSU had already beaten and an opponent with all the incentives. The result was a lackluster 21-0 defeat.


Perhaps the single-most euphoric moment in Tiger Stadium annals also came against Ole Miss, in 1972.


The underdog Rebels outplayed unbeaten LSU for almost 57 minutes. Then, in the last 3:02, Bert Jones quarterbacked the Tigers 80 yards to a 17-16 victory – the touchdown coming on a 10-yard pass on the last play with no time remaining.


The nation's longest victory streak was now 12 straight for the No. 6-ranked Tigers.

It ended the next week at Alabama, 35-21.


Foggy Tiger Stadium was at its colorful best in 1982, on "The Night it Rained Oranges," when LSU played Florida State for the right to go to the Orange Bowl.


Even Dalton Hilliard, then a 5-foot-8, 185-pound freshman who turned out to be the hero of LSU's 55-21 victory with 183 yards rushing and four touchdowns, says that game is still the way he thinks of Tiger Stadium. "When people speak of the mystique of Tiger Stadium, I always think of that night with the oranges and the fog."


He doesn't quite remember the next week the same way. Tulane players were taking oranges thrown from the stands, biting into them and spitting the fruit onto the hallowed turf of Tiger Stadium.


The four-touchdown underdog Greenies had just pulled one of the biggest upsets in Tiger football history, 31-28.


In 104 seasons, LSU had never beaten a No. 1-ranked team, going 0-7-1.


On one magical Tiger Stadium evening in 1997, quarterback Herb Tyler altered history.  He guided the Tigers past top-ranked Florida, winners of 26 straight SEC games. Scoring two touchdowns in the 28-21 upset, Tyler later remembered that memorable night by saying about the victory, "Just the greatest feeling God can fill a human with is what went through me. It was a moment I'll never forget."


As ecstatic fans flooded the field with joy at the accomplishment, coach Gerry DiNardo forced his players inside, away from the celebration. He didn't want them participating or even watching. He said he didn't want his Tigers enjoying the moment because LSU historically did not handle success well.


DiNardo was "protecting" his team from their accomplishment.


The next week, Ole Miss beat the Tigers 36-21.




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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