Poseur's trip back to the night No. 1 went down seems pretty popular, and with PodKATT's posting of this video last week, I figured we could take a look back at the Night the Helmets Went White, a.k.a. the Last Hurrah of the Gerry Dinardo Era, a.k.a. the Greatest Night of Rondell Mealey's Career, a.k.a. LSU's 27-9 thumping of Notre Dame in the 1997 Independence Bowl.
- Blustery, cold Shreveport. Ah, Shreveport. Remember when the idea of going there wasn't considered an unacceptable humiliation for LSU?
- LSU entered this game ranked 15th, with a 8-3 record and 6-2 conference mark. That definitely gets you higher up the bowl pecking order these days, but most of us were excited for a shot at avenging Notre Dame's 24-6 ass-kicking of the Tigers a month earlier. The Irish, on the other hand, were mired at 7-5 under first-year head coach BAWWWB Davey. Few remember that before he was a horrible ESPN game analyst, he was a terrible Notre Dame head coach. Even fewer remember that before before that, he was actually a pretty damn good defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and with the Irish.
- Can't remember exactly where yours truly was for this one, but I remember that at 15 years old, myself and most of my friends were still fairly excited about LSU football DiNardo. Yeah, he'd followed up that upset of Florida with an extremely predictable loss to Ole Miss, but the team had some major talents like All-American guard Alan Faneca, stud nose tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland, and of course the ridiculous backfield combination of Herb Tyler, Kevin Faulk, Rondell Mealey, Cecil Collins and Tommy Banks. And we'd just hired Lou Tepper, who had a great reputation as a linebackers coach after producing studs like Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice at Illinois. Reeeally couldn't hear that "click...click...click" sound that the roller coaster makes before you plummet.
The Game Itself:
- Those uniforms. My GOD, those uniforms. Should have been the first sign of what was coming that next year, right?
- Few people remember that Tepper actually coached this game, but kept Carl Reese's scheme intact. We just saw the results, and with the defensive line of Booger, Arnold Miller (who earned MVP honors), Chuck Wiley and Kenny Mixon completely swarming the Irish backfield Notre Dame gained just 243 yards on the night, at 3.7 per play. They'd gashed LSU for 260 rushing yards alone in the November game. Surely this meant we were in store for good things with this new defensive regime, right?
- You're going to see this theme a lot from me over the next few weeks as we get closer to the season: when it comes to an offensive scheme, simpler is better. What's LSU doing here? Inside zone, inside zone, a quick toss here or there, some counter, a little play-action passing. Stick with what works, and let your talent win out.
- Said it before, say it again. Herb Tyler, Jordan Jefferson. Jordan, Herb Tyler. You can learn a lot from him.
- Faulk would sprain an ankle just before halftime, and with LSU trailing 6-3 we weren't really sure what to think. And then Rondell Mealey powered the Tigers to two quick third quarter scores to take the lead, and and suddenly the Irish were completely on their heels. I always had a soft spot in my heart for Mealey, and felt all he needed were more carries and he could be every bit as good as Faulk. Maybe that was because he was from nearby Destrehan and was rumored to have grown up in LaPlace, or maybe it was the fact that he'd had three other 100-yard games that season. But I can vividly remember hearing Lee Corso swear after this bowl game that once Collins came back there would be no stopping the Tigers' run game in 1998.
- 34 carries for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns on the night for Mealey, including 78 and 31-yarders to set up two fourth quarter touchdowns. It was the story of the game, but in hindsight, we can say that for all Mealey's talent, he was a backup for a reason. It's my hope that one day the Humanoids will realize that about Keiland Williams too.