No. 4 Texas A&M 21 LSU 14, 1974 Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge
In the previous 16 seasons prior to 1974, Texas A&M football experienced just one winning season (1967 Cotton Bowl campaign w Gene Stallings). The program was insignificant and barely a blip on the college football radar screen. How bad was it? Well, the Aggies were considered a money game for LSU in those days. From 1946-1974, Texas A&M and LSU played 21 times and 20 of those games were in Baton Rouge. The other one was a neutral site game at Dallas in 1955. From 1960 to 1973, the Aggies won just once in 13 tries in Death Valley. Not only was LSU much better, but the game atmosphere was brutal. A&M was the annual early season automatic win for the Tigers in those days.
Going into 1974, Emory Bellard needed to show improvement in the win column. He had recruited well in his two years as head coach, but the talented, young players hadn't put it together on the field. With many of Bellard's recruits now sophomores and juniors, it was time to deliver on their potential. However, the Aggies were starting a freshman at QB with Bellard going with Louisiana phenom David Walker. A&M got off to a good start with a 24-0 thumping of Clemson in College Station (Clemson wasn't very good back in those days), but the annual road trip to Baton Rouge loomed as the real litmus test of this program as the Aggies had to go back into Death Valley to face the highly-favored Tigers.
On a personal note, my father took my brothers and me to that game and while I vaguely remember brief images of earlier Aggie games, this was the first one I can think back and have a good memory of the event and the road trip. I was nine years old at the time. Even at that early age, I knew it was a big game because in the closing moments as LSU was driving for the tying score, I just remember all the Aggie fans stomping and beating on the aluminum bleachers for what seemed like forever and praying for the clock to run.
Early in the game, the Aggies surprisingly had great success running the ball and quickly scored to go up 7-0. I think it was Skip Walker that took it in about 10 yards out. LSU tied it up at 7 before Bubba Bean took a quitter hitter up the middle and into the secondary for a 50 yard TD that put A&M back up 14-7 at the half. The Tigers again tied it up and it remained that way until the fourth quarter when the defense caused a turnover in Tiger territory. A long run by David Walker on the option keeper set-up a short TD plunge by fullback Bucky Sams to put the Aggies in front 21-14, but LSU had one more drive left in them as they marched down the field late with the A&M section beating feverishly on the bleachers for noise. Deep in Texas A&M territory, junior all-American Pat Thomas broke up a fourth down pass and the Aggies finally slayed the Cajun giant.
It was pandemonium and we hung out outside the stadium to wait for the team to exit the locker room. And years before Mean Joe Green threw that jersey to the little kid in the Coke commercial, I asked DL Jesse Hunnicutt Sr. for his empty 7-Up bottle as he was swigging down the last gulp. It was my prized possession of many A&M trinkets and autographs I had. That unwashed bottle stayed in my closet for years. At some point when I was older, I think my mother was tired of having a dirty, sticky 7-Up bottle in the closet and supposedly moved it to the attic. To this day, we have no idea what happened to that bottle, and I constantly remind my mother of the phantom 7-Up bottle.
But seriously, personal memories aside, this was a huge game and one few people talk about. It's probably the one game on my list that you are surprised to see. The 1975 eam received al the headlines because they beat Texas and were on the cusp of playing for the national championship. But most of those same players were a year younger in 1974 and they had to first get over the hump before competing for titles and championships. It started with that 1974 win in Baton Rouge. It wasn't a fluke either. A&M finished with 417 yards rushing which I think still may be the record for the most rushing yards given up by an LSU defense. All three starting RB's (Bubba Bean, Skip Walker, Bucky Sams) ran for over a 100 yards. A&M made a statement that night. That win carried over to the next week when A&M beat Washington on the road.
However, the 1974 didn't get the same recognition as some other great teams because they also had their slips-ups, losing at Kansas and then dropping a game to SMU in the Cotton Bowl, and they ended the season getting drubbed by Texas 32-3. Back then, it was hard getting in a bowl, and the 8-3 Aggies did not see postseason that year.
But, that season was the catalyst to 1975 and really the success of the program in the 1970's. The third deck at Kyle Field was planned shortly after this time, and even with the mediocrity of the late 1970's and early 1980's, Texas A&M did transform itself into a national program. No longer did they need to play three tough non-conference road games like they did in 1974. The Aggies soon became the program that brought in teams for money games, not the other way around.
For example, the Aggies went back to LSU the following year in 1975 and whipped the Tigers all over the field. Shortly afterward, LSU cancelled the annual series. When the series resumed a decade later, it was a home-and-home series…not the money game for LSU from the 1940's-1970's. While the 1974 team didn't have any rings or titles to show for their efforts, they definitely deserve credit for being the first team to take Texas A&M out of the wilderness of college football and transform the program from just another small Texas college football program into what it has become today. This team should not be overlooked or forgotten.
A&M's Most Important Wins: No. 5
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