I've got the keys to the Wayback Machine again, mainly because it seems Billy can only remember Alabama games. So, today, we go back to 1997 - both the high point of the Dinardo era and the most frustrating season in a decade.
When a team stinks, it is somewhat liberating as a fan. You accept anything bad and anything good is sort of a welcome surprise. But there is nothing more frustrating than the stutter start of a team on the cusp of contention.
LSU limped into the Florida game at 4-1, needing a miracle to beat Vanderbilt 7-6. Cecil Collins suffered a career ending injury in the game, making it perhaps the worst victory in LSU history. LSU's only loss was to Auburn in a game that still torments me. Really, I have no idea how we lost that game behind Collins' 232 rushing yards. So, despite the record, spirits were pretty low on game day.
Thanks to rnolan53... again
Florida was a huge, double-digit favorite. They were the defending national champions and the #1 team in the country, looking every bit the invincible juggernaut. After their standard defeat of Tennessee, Florida scored 50 points in back to back SEC games. Oh, and LSU had lost to Florida every single season since 1987.
What I'm saying is, you don't always know when a great game is coming. Because just about everyone on campus, and I'm including the players for each team, expected a Florida victory. Then, something extraordinarily silly happened, which palpably changed the mood in Tiger Stadium.
The student section was packed a good two hours before kickoff. We were singing and cheering, hoping that we had imbibed enough alcohol to give us a buzz to last the whole game. Of course, the rest of the stadium was practically empty, which meant everyone couldn't help but notice the two Florida fans who walked all the way from the visitor's section to the edge of the student section holding a bed sheet reading:
TEN IN A REAUX
Taunting the LSU student section was, is, and always will be a terrible idea. Suddenly, a student burst out of the mass of humanity, running between the two Florida fans and stealing their homemade sign. The two Florida fans then tried to catch the LSU thief, but he managed to avoid their pursuit. He threw the banner into the section as he ran back into the section and safety. We tore the banner to shreds in seconds, and the two Florida fans thought better of entering the student section. Instead, they went to the policemen on duty to complain.
I don't know what was said, but I did see the policeman point them back to their section. The two fans had to walk back the length of the field, as the entire student section sang "Kiss Him Goodbye" at them. It is perhaps the most enjoyable moment I've ever experienced in Tiger Stadium.
After that, the game seemed like a foregone conclusion. It seems strange, but it really did. Game notes after the break...
- This is the first time since 1997 I have watched any part of this game, and I have to say, my memory totally failed me. I remembered it as a game that LSU lead throughout and just held on for dear life, but it was far more back and forth than that.
- Things that I do remember properly: Kevin Faulk's ball security used to drive me up a wall. Look at that swim move he did while avoiding a tackler at about 1:14 in the video. He did that all the time, and it made me insane. Though, the guy who fumbled the ball at the end of the opening drive was Rondell Mealey. So what do I know?
- Who doesn't enjoy watching a touchdown run from Tommy Banks? He has got to be the biggest cult player ever.
Doug Johnson had about as bad of a game as you can have while throwing for over 300 yards. He needed 57 attempts to rack up 346 yards, and he threw four picks. All of them were pretty bad, though Donaldson's pick six was pretty sweet.
- For those of you who don't remember the 1997 team and these highlights are your introduction to them -- yes, Chuck Wiley was that good. Geez, he is all over this video making defensive plays. What a wrecking ball that guy was.
- Actually, both of Cedric Donaldson's returns were pretty great.
- While we're on defensive stars, Troy Twillie had another huge game. Sure, it wasn't Auburn 1996, but I will reiterate, if this guy ever has to buy a drink in the state of Louisiana, we have failed as a fan base.
- God, Kevin Faulk was a great punt returner. Always a threat to take it deep.
- Speaking of great, none of Fred Taylor's three touchdown runs made the video. He could run the football just a little bit. He probably doesn't have fond memories of this game, but he was still one of the best players on the field.
- Herb Tyler's first touchdown run came right after Faulk's return, but notice the blockers upfield: Alan Faneca (#66), Todd McClure (#72), and Rondell Mealey. This team had a pretty decent offensive line, eh?
Mark Roman or Cecil Collins. Who was the bigger waste of talent? Discuss.
- Herb Tyler's TD run was the iconic image of the 1990s for LSU. I can still see his celebration like it was yesterday. It has not faded one bit in my mind's eye.
- Oh, had Abram Booty dropped that pass, he might be the most hated Booty brother by LSU fans. Nah, it's impossible to displace Josh.
- The game marks two firsts: the first time LSU ever beat a #1 team in Tiger Stadium and, of course, the first time fans ever charged the field.
This being 1997, the most frustrating season of my life, LSU followed up this huge, program changing win by promptly losing to Ole Miss. It has not dimmed my memory of this game. I'm not a big memorabilia guy, and I only own one piece of LSU history to display in my home: a crystal dish which holds a handful of Tiger Stadium turf, stolen from the south end zone just moments before I leaped upon a fence to taunt the Gator Band with the chomp, screaming at them at the top of my lungs:
None in a row! None in a row!