ENGSTER: Streak was LSU's third longest

Sonny Marks is writing a book about the game that put LSU basketball under Dale Brown on the college map.

It was a stirring 95-94 overtime victory over No. 1 Kentucky on Feb. 11, 1978 in Baton Rouge.


The improbable triumph over Joe B. Hall's Kentucky team came despite LSU losing all five starters to personal fouls. Six weeks later, the Wildcats completed a 30-2 season with a 95-88 victory over Duke in the NCAA championship game, and Kentucky's embarrassing defeat to Dale Brown's bunch became a distant memory.


LSU fans were delirious with excitement after LSU knocked off a seemingly invincible unit from Bluegrass land. Who knew the roles of the schools would completely change in a three-overtime football marathon featuring LSU and Kentucky on Oct. 13, 2007?


The Cats ecstasy over beating the No. 1 team in the country has provided the program directed by Rich Brooks a cache' it did not enjoy previously.  Kentucky's football prowess in the next three years could rival LSU's hoop success after the epic clash vs. No. 1 Kentucky in 1978.


In the three seasons after the court victory over Kentucky, LSU posted an 80-17 record and went 45-9 in the SEC, winning two SEC regular season titles, a conference tournament crown and making one trip to the Final Four.


Kentucky's '78 cagers brushed off the setback at the Assembly Center and won it all in St. Louis the next month. LSU's footballers of 2007 can repeat the feat in 85 days by winning the remainder of their games---a forecast that is not unrealistic.


If the Tigers beat Auburn, Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss and Arkansas, they will be 11-1 as they prepare for the SEC title game. A win over South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky or Tennessee would likely propel LSU into the BCS championship game in New Orleans.


LSU and Nick Saban went 13-1 in 2003 and survived a 19-7 blowout loss to Florida at Tiger Stadium to capture national honors. The current LSU squad could duplicate the 2003 accomplishment if Les Miles and Co. rebound as expected.


Kentucky's Rich Brooks has waited 30 years for revenge against LSU. He savored it in lavish fashion Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium. On the night of Oct. 22, 1977, LSU punished Oregon 56-17 as a 36-year-old Brooks made his Death Valley debut as leader of the less than mighty Ducks.


Charles Alexander rushed for 237 yards vs. Oregon and scored four touchdowns on the ground. The last touchdown came when LSU's Charles McClendon called timeout to enable No. 4 to score again. A livid Brooks responded by bellowing, "I wish he had broken his leg."


Twenty-nine years later, Brooks returned to Baton Rouge as Kentucky's coach and witnessed a 49-0 slaughter to the Tigers.  Even with Saturday's 43-37 loss to UK, LSU has outscored three Rich Brooks teams by a combined score of 142-60. Despite an average margin of victory of 47-20 vs. Brooks in three outings, LSU is 2-1 vs. the 66-year-old coach.


Kentucky is 22-31 in six years under Brooks, including this season's 6-1 start. Brooks was 91-109-4 at Oregon from 1977-94 and directed the St. Louis Rams to a 13-19 mark in 1995-96. His overall head coaching ledger in 25 seasons is 126-159-4.


By contrast, Miles is 56-26 in eight seasons as a head coach, including a 28-5 mark at LSU in three seasons. It is ironic that Miles would bow to Brooks three weeks after being on the winning side of an LSU battle against Steve Spurrier, who is 11-2 vs. the Tigers after the 28-16 loss to the Tigers by South Carolina on Sept. 21.


The odds are strong that Miles will prevail this Saturday at home vs. Auburn and Tommy Tuberville. The War Eagles outlasted Arkansas in a 9-7 struggle at Fayetteville. The intangibles point to LSU avenging last year's 7-3 loss at Auburn.


LSU's 13-game winning streak, which was snapped by Kentucky, was the third longest in school history.


The other streaks:


1957-59: 19 straight wins starting with a 25-6 victory over Tulane on Nov. 30, 1957 and ending with a 14-13 loss at Tennessee on Nov. 7, 1959.


1907-09: 15 straight wins starting with a 48-0 shutout of Baylor on Nov. 30, 1907 and ending with a 15-6 loss to Sewanee on Oct. 30, 1909.


LSU also logged 16 games without losing in the final ten contests of 1961 and the first six games of 1962, but the streak included a 6-6 tie with Rice on Sept. 29, 1962.



The year of 2007 will no longer produce a team of the ages like LSU in 1958 and 1972 USC and 1995 Nebraska, but the Tigers still have ample opportunity to repeat the success of the 2003 team that claimed a national championship trophy with a 13-1 record. The first step on Miles' march to redemption comes this week vs. Tuberville and Auburn.




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

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