History kind to Tigers in Cotton Bowl

LSU's 47-34 win over Illinois in the 2002 Sugar Bowl evened the school's record to 16-16-1 in 33 postseason invitational games.<br><br>When the Tigers meet Texas on Jan. 1, 2003, in the Cotton Bowl, they will have a chance to move above the .500 mark in a game that has historically gone in their favor.

Dating back to their first Cotton appearance in 1947, LSU is 2-0-1 in the Dallas-based classic and pulled off major upsets in 1963 and 1966.

 

Junior quarterback Y.A. Tittle led an LSU offense that averaged 24 points through the 1946 regular season and had scored a combined 101 points in its last three games. Tittle's 13 touchdown passes would stand as a school record for the next 26 seasons.

 

Dan Sandifer, Gene Knight, Al Heroman and Sam Lyle were LSU's primary weapons on offense, while the Tiger defense allowed just under 11 points a game. A loss to then-Southeastern Conference foe Georgia Tech was the only blemish on the Tigers' record, denying Bernie Moore's LSU squad an invitation to the Sugar Bowl in favor of 10-0 Georgia.

 

Arkansas (6-3), ranked 16th at the end of the '46 season, awaited No. 8 LSU in the Cotton Bowl. The event sold out all 45,507 tickets in a matter of days as fans anticipated a physical hard-fought match between the explosive Tigers and stingy Razorback defense of head coach John Barnhill.

 

But all bets were off when Dallas was hit with some of its worst winter weather in history. Temperatures dropped to the 20's while a cold rain changed to ice and eventually snow. A good many of the ticket holders braved the conditions to witness what would eventually be labeled the Ice Bowl.

 

"(It was) the worst football weather I've seen in 35 years of coaching," Moore said after the game.

 

LSU won the game statistically, posting 271 total yards to Arkansas' 54. The Tigers also managed 15 first downs to the Razorbacks' 1. But as well as Tittle and the LSU offense was able to move the ball down the field, the Tigers could never penetrate an Arkansas defense that stiffened when pushed back close to the end zone.

 

The Tigers put the ball inside the Arkansas 20 five times - twice in the first half and three times in the second - but came away scoreless on each occasion.

 

The Razorbacks were even less productive on offense, failing to complete any of their four passes and fumbling three times.

 

LSU got inside the Arkansas 10 twice in the fourth quarter but to no avail.

 

After reaching the 1-yard line on the first opportunity inside the 10, LSU's Ray Coates attempted a dive on fourth down but met Arkansas defender Floyd Thomas before getting into the end zone.

 

On the final push deep into Arkansas territory, LSU faced third down on the Hogs' 4 and tried to run Willard Landry for the score. When the Razorbacks stopped Landry for no gain, the Tigers elected to attempt a field goal but a bad snap from center prevented LSU from attempting the kick and kept the score 0-0.

 

The 11th Annual Cotton Bowl would end in a scoreless tie and LSU would not return to Dallas for a New Year's game until 1963, capping the first season under new head coach Charles McClendon.

 

The No. 7 Tigers finished the '62 campaign 8-1-1 and accepted an invitation to play the Texas Longhorns in what was essentially a home game for head coach Darrell Royal's team. The Longhorns were ranked No. 4 and had won the Southwest Conference by topping undefeated Arkansas in the waning minutes of their season ending clash.

 

"We had a great team and we were just glad to get the opportunity to play Texas," said LSU quarterback Jimmy Field. "We had a good trip over there. I was in law school at the time and I had to study for exams while everyone else went out for barbecues and stuff."

 

The Tiger defense set the tone of the game from the very first play from scrimmage recalls Field, "I remember the first play Fred Miller broke through and tackled a guy named (Tommy) Ford for a loss. It kind of set the stage and we really shut them down."

 

Offensively, Field and Lynn Amedee, who alternated at quarterback and kicked field goals, led the Tigers. Amedee, the MVP of the game, booted two field goals and an extra point while Field scored the only touchdown of the contest. The combined efforts of the two quarterbacks and the LSU defense resulted in a 13-0 Tiger victory.

 

LSU had been a very conservative running team through the '62 campaign, with All-America halfback Jerry Stovall leading the charge, but McClendon decided to open up the offense against the Longhorns. After attempting only 40 passes all year long, Amedee and Field combined to go 13-of-21 for 137 yards through the air.

 

The game was scoreless until late in the second quarter when the Tigers had to attempt a field goal on third down. With :08 left before the half, Amedee made good on a 23-yarder that was just the fourth three-point conversion in the bowl's history and the first since 1942

 

Texas started off on the wrong foot to open the third quarter, fumbling the opening kickoff at its own 37. LSU converted the turnover into seven points moments later when Field found daylight on a busted pass play for touchdown on third-and-9.

 

"My receivers were covered and I was able to get it in the end zone on a 22-yard run," said Field. "That was the first touchdown scored on Texas on the ground that year."

 

With 4:58 remaining in the game, Amedee set a Cotton Bowl record with 37-yard field goal to give LSU a 13-0 lead. The future offensive coordinator for the Tigers completed 9 of 13 passes for 94 yards, while his defensive teammates surrendered only 172 total yards to the Longhorns.

 

McClendon would lead LSU to bowl games the next three seasons in a row, culminating in the Tigers' bid to the 1966 Cotton Bowl. If McClendon was looking for inspiration for his unranked Tigers heading into their showdown No. 2 Arkansas, he didn't have to look long once he got his team to their hotel in Dallas.

 

"It looks like they decided to show up after all," said a woman, apparently a fan of the 10-0 Razorbacks, as the Tigers milled into the hotel lobby.

 

The comment stuck in McClendon's craw as he prepared his team for the showdown with Frank Broyles' Hogs, who were tabbed eight-point favorites for the Jan. 1 showdown and had an outside chance of winning the national title for the second year in a row.

 

Most observers thought the 7-3 Tigers, who went 3-3 in the Southeastern Conference, didn't stand much of a chance halting Arkansas' 22-game winning streak. McClendon, however, held a different opinion.

 

"We can't hope to stop the Arkansas attack," he said. "Our only hope is to slow it down a little bit."

 

To get his players in the right frame of mind, McClendon outfitted his scout teams with new jerseys. When the Tiger units scrimmaged on the practice field, they saw red jerseys with the No. 23 in bold white numerals across the line. It was burned into their minds to "Stop 23" – Arkansas' quest for a 23rd straight win and a perfect season.

 

The challenge was a tall one for the LSU defense given that the Razorbacks featured two All-American tackles, an A-A tight end and two All-Southwestern Conference players in the backfield, quarterback John Brittenum and tailback Bobby Burnett.

 

Despite leading an offense that emphasized the run, Brittenum still managed to throw for 1,103 yards in his junior season.

 

LSU didn't enjoy the same stability at quarterback in '66, but McClendon settled any controversy when he named senior Pat Screen the starter over ailing sophomore Nelson Stokley, who had shown flashes of brilliance in his first season with the Tigers.

 

In the backfield, tailback Joe Labruzzo had turned in hard-nosed performances throughout the season but had been the target of fans' ire for fumbling too often for their taste.

 

So in what can only be labeled as football irony, LSU put the college sport on its ear on Jan. 1, 1966, when they upset Arkansas, 14-7, in front of 76,200 fans in Dallas. The Tigers did it behind the running of Labruzzo, a bulldozer from Cutoff, and the efficient passing of Screen, a New Orleans product who had decided before the Cotton Bowl to turn down a pro football contract in order to go to law school.

 

Labruzzo, the game's Offensive Outstanding Player, accounted for both of LSU touchdowns and led the Tigers with 69 yards on 21 carries. He and reserve tailback Jim Dousay got the majority of their yards behind the left side of the LSU offensive line which featured All-SEC tackle Dave McCormick, guard Don Ellen and tight end Walt Pillow. 

 

"We knew LSU could run good and they did," said Broyles. "They hurt us on key downs passing and they blocked real good."

 

The protection was good for Screen, who didn't go to the air often but connected on 7 of his 10 passes for 82 yards. The Tigers' offensive play selection allowed them to be effective with a ball-control strategy that denied Arkansas opportunities to take over the momentum of the game.

 

The Razorbacks did strike first, however, on their second possession of the ball game. Brittenum had led the Hogs down to the LSU 19 and hit Bobby Crockett with a first down pass to the 14. Tiptoeing down the sideline, Crockett scored to give Arkansas the lead, 7-0, with 3:35 to go in the first quarter.

 

LSU appeared to strike right back after the Hogs' score, but a penalty nullified their big play. Screen had found Doug Moreau on a deep route for a 47-yard gain down to the Arkansas 15, but the Tigers had an ineligible man downfield for the play.

 

The Razorbacks took possession again early in the second quarter but stalled when their drive reached the LSU 26. A 41-yard field goal attempt missed its mark, and the Tigers took over at their own 20.

 

Hoping to get an offensive spark, McClendon put Stokley in at quarterback and reaped quick results when Stokley found Don Schwab for a gain of 18. After crossing midfield, Stokley called for a sweep around the right end and took a hard hit on his already-injured knee.

 

In addition to losing Stokley for the rest of the game, the Tigers were pushed back to their own 40 after being called for a clipping penalty.

 

Undaunted, Screen re-entered the game and drove the Tigers deeper into Hog territory with a mix of pass and run plays. A 12-yard run from Labruzzo gave LSU a first down on the Arkansas 7, and Screen handed off to him three more times to get the Tigers' first score. Moreau's extra point made the score 7-7 with 4:15 remaining in the first half.

 

On the first Arkansas play following the LSU kickoff, Brittenum suffered an injury and had to be escorted from the field. Broyles turned to back-up Ron South, who fumbled after handing off on two straight plays. Bill Bass recovered for LSU at the Hogs' 34.

 

Screen started the next drive with a 13-yard completion to Moreau and then let Labruzzo do the rest of the work. Successive off-tackle plays to the right side gained 3 and 12 yards and, despite an Arkansas defense that was waiting for him, Labruzzo made the next three carries to get back into the end zone.

 

All of the scoring in the '66 Cotton Bowl was done with 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter, and the last two periods would belong to the defenses and Mother Nature, who saw fit for a light drizzle to start falling at halftime.

 

Brittenum came back into the game for Arkansas on its first drive of the third quarter but didn't get the Hogs moving until the following possession. After advancing to the LSU 15, the Razorbacks went backward on two straight plays and had to try a 36-yard field goal. The kick was short and wide left, preserving LSU's 7-point lead.

 

The two squads traded punts into the fourth quarter, and LSU finally sustained a drive that began at its own 46. Dousay took over ground duties and got the Tigers down to the Arkansas 2, but the Hogs defense stiffened and forced LSU to settle for a field goal try. Uncharacteristically, Moreau's kick was off the mark and the Razorbacks kept uncomfortably close to the Tigers for the remainder of the game.

 

Arkansas would get two more stabs to try and tie the game, but the best chance the Razorbacks came when they reached LSU 36 with less than five minutes to play. At that point, Brittenum elected to go the air when there was ample time to stay on the ground and drive for the score. LSU made him pay when Jerry Joseph intercepted a Brittenum pass that was heading for the end zone.

 

LSU couldn't move much after the turnover, but a booming punt from Buster Brown put Arkansas all the way back at its 11 with 2:35 left in the game. It took a lot of time for Brittenum to bring Arkansas down field and they had only reached the LSU 24 when the final gun sounded.

Compounding the demoralizing loss for the Razorbacks was the score from the Rose Bowl played later on New Year's Day. UCLA tumbled No. 1 Michigan State from its perch, meaning Arkansas could have secured the national title with a win over LSU.


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