MULE': Who is LSU's all-time Bowl MVP?

In LSU's 37 bowl games, who might be the Tigers' all-time postseason hero? Steve Van Buren, who ran for 172 yards in the 1944 Orange Bowl in the first rematch in college football history, a 19-14 victory against Texas A&M? Billy Cannon, who threw a nine-yard halfback pass to preserve LSU's undefeated season in a 7-0 win over Clemson in the 1959 Sugar Bowl?

Joe LaBruzzo, who scored both touchdowns in the Tigers' towering 14-7 upset of Arkansas in the 1966 Cotton Bowl?

Maybe Marcus Spears, the defensive end who returned an interception 20 yards for the deciding points in LSU's 21-14 defeat of Oklahoma – for the national championship – in the 2004 Sugar?

Those are all golden names in the lore of Bayou Bengal football, but it would be hard to not to vote for . . . Glenn Smith.

Smith is kind of a forgotten name at LSU. Heck, he was kind of forgotten while he was playing for the Tigers. Smith, then third-string tailback, never started a game in college.

But 40 seasons ago, he turned in perhaps the most memorable individual performance any Tiger ever did. In a game of many heroes, Smith stood tall.

That season a hard-luck LSU finished the regular season 6-3-1, but just 10 points in the right places from finishing unbeaten. Erratic place-kicking cost the Tigers mightily. Still, because of Tennessee opted to play in the Orange Bowl in those days before the SEC champion was automatically ticketed for New Orleans and contender Alabama chose the Cotton Bowl, LSU was tagged for the Sugar.

The Tigers' opponent was seventh-ranked Wyoming, a 10-0-0 curiosity from the Western Athletic Conference – one, though, that was loaded with names that would become familiar in future NFL seasons.

And the Cowboys had a strong ally in the muddy, choppy Tulane Stadium field.

LSU, which hadn't played particularly well in any of its previous seven Sugar Bowl appearances, and this looked like the same old story. Wyoming dominated the first half, scoring 13 second quarter points on a touchdown by Jim Kiick and two field goals by Jerry DePoster – including a Sugar Bowl record 49-yarder with one second to go until halftime.

Wyoming not only had that 13-0 lead, but had 11 first downs to LSU's 1. The Cowboys had outrushed the Tigers 130-33, and outgained LSU in passing yardage 85-5.

"We were very worried by the half,'' said Barry Wilson, then the Tiger center and now the head coach at New Orleans' Holy Cross High School, where he and Smith had been teammates. "The field turned up a little sloppy, and it upset our plans to block Wyoming low. Because we weren't able to get solid footing, they merely pushed us off and got to the ball-carrier. They were also able to put a lot of pressure on (quarterback) Nelson (Stokley). At halftime we decided to take advantage of their pursuit by starting to the outside and then running back against the grain."

Also, after DePoyster barely missed a 46-yard field goal, Smith was inserted into the lineup.

Immediately, flying out of the backfield, Smith took a pass over his shoulder and sloshed his way down the middle to the 26 for a 39-yard gain – LSU's first real sign of life in the game. Smith went in from the 1, and Roy Hurd's PAT cut the margin to 13-7.

With Stokley throwing medium passes and running the option, and Smith constantly picking his holes and cutting back, the Tigers threatened again. "Glenn was great at (running to daylight),'' Wilson said. Receiver Tommy Morel out-jumped two defenders for an eight-yard touchdown, but Hurd missed the PAT, leaving the score tied with 11:39 to play. Following an interception, Stokley rolled out from the Cowboy 14, spotted a wide-open Morel at the 1 and threw for LSU's go-ahead points.

With 1:37 left, Wyoming made for a wild finish. From his 18, Wyoming quarterback Paul Toscano dropped and threw to a more than adequately covered receiver. One of three Tigers converging on the ball reached up and tipped it – right into hands of tight end George Anderson, who was suddenly racing, alone, for points.

"When I saw Anderson take off with the football," said cornerback Barton Frye, "I started running for my life. I don't know if I can run that fast again."

He caught and brought down Anderson 54 yards downfield, at the LSU 18.

Then it happened again. With one second left, receiver Gene Huey cut across the secondary from left to right and Toscano went to him at the 5. He was immediately nailed by defensive back Gerry Kent, saving the game.

LSU needed play above and beyond the usual requirements from several Tigers to secure the victory, but Smith, with little more than a quarter's playing time, finished with 74 yards rushing and caught one pass for 39 yards to be named the game's MVP.

It was the biggest Sugar Bowl comeback since Tulane fell behind Temple 14-0 in 1935.

When he was informed of that, Smith sighed.

"If Wyoming had beaten us," Smith said, "I wouldn't have been able to go home."

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


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