Last week, Poseur wrote of the beginning of the Cholly Mac era. Charles Youmans McClendon will make up 30% of this entire series, which is a testament to the impressive length of his tenure in Baton Rouge. McClendon, in many ways, was the litmus test of what an LSU coach should be, up until Les Miles up and re-wrote the standards. Fiercely loyal to the school where he coached for 26 years of his 27-year coaching career, McClendon was finally undone in by his inability to beat his mentor, Bear Bryant. McClendon is the type of coach that would likely never re-occur in this modern age of football. He won five games in years 13 and 14, rebounding to win just seven in 1976. He was then allowed to coach out a reduced contract, completing three more entire seasons in Baton Rouge. In today’s game, there’s far too much at stake financially for a major college football program to stand by a run of mediocrity to that level. Hell, that same school just fired a coach for “only” winning 8 games and then 9 games.
Back to ‘76. Year 15 of Charlie McClendon. 6 seasons since McClendon’s first and only SEC Title. The fanbase grew restless with McClendon’s tired consistency. Among his most vocal critics was Tiger legend Billy Cannon, who took to campaigning for McClendon to be fired after the ‘76 season. His rationale was that top Louisiana athletes, namely Terry Bradshaw, didn’t come to LSU during McClendon’s tenure. Such was the climate around the program in 1976. McClendon’s tenure had reached a soft boil, which could culminate by season’s end.
The Greatest Game in 1976: Nebraska
McClendon’s back-to-back 5-win campaigns saw no relief coming as the ‘76 season opened inviting no. 1 Nebraska into Baton Rouge. LSU valiantly played Nebraska to a 10-7 defeat, in Lincoln, the previous season. But any remnants of that game were lost as the Cornhuskers entered as 13 point favorites. The preseason favorites to win the National Championship, Nebraska looked every bit the giant up against a young LSU.
McClendon built an offense around Sr. and eventual All-SEC RB Terry Robiskie and a lesser known sophomore running back... Charles Alexander. As is LSU football, the team featured a strong defense and running game and, not much to speak of for QB play. Nebraska featured star QB Vince Ferragamo, an eventual All-American and Sporting News College Football Player of the Year. But this game was no offensive affair. Chet Hilburn wrote it was a game of “unrelenting trench warfare” that left “fans somewhat dazed at the end of the game” in his book, “The Mystique of Tiger Stadium: 25 Greatest Games: the Ascention of LSU Football.”
It’s tough to find details about the game itself. Nebraska scored early on, and dominated the 1st half, racking up most of their offense (the yardage totals vary by source), running 48 plays to LSU’s 21. But they lead only by six after the back-up QB botched the XP snap. And then, they sat on the 6-point lead most of the rest of the way, before sophomore K Mike Conway nailed FGs of 35 and 18 yards to notch the game even in the 2nd half. LSU actually held the ball with an opportunity to win with only 40 seconds remaining in the game, but Mike Conway’s 44-yard FG attempt fell short. This report suggests Nebraska intercepted a pass as regulation expired and attempted to pitch their way the end zone before being pushed out at the LSU 30. Peter Finney, in The Fighting Tigers II wrote that the FG went wide in the final seconds.
The game ultimately concluded in a tie.
“They were a good team. They were just an all-around good football team.” - Nebraska WR Chuck Malito.
Here’s a stellar picture of what is believed to be the last time Nebraska wore red jerseys on the road:
The last time (I can remember) Nebraska wore their red jerseys on the road was the 1976 season opener vs LSU pic.twitter.com/MZmdOrmCCM— Paul Jake Jacobsen (@HuskerTapes) November 21, 2016
And here’s an old school box score from The Lincoln Star:
23-28 @ Florida
45-0 vs. Ole Miss
17-7 vs. Tulane
Not a ton of highlights in ‘76. LSU technically won only 6 games, though Mississippi State later vacated their victory due to NCAA penalties, and history seems to generally record LSU as a 7-win team. LSU pushed a strong Florida, on the road, to a near upset, but ultimately came out the losers. They stomped an Ole Miss team that won just five games that season. It was, at the time, the most lopsided LSU win vs. Ole Miss since 1901. Finally, they beat Tulane which is always a wonderful thing.
But this one is easy. It may not be a victory, but it’s a game widely considered one of the best in the annals of Tiger Stadium and truly one of those masterful defensive showdowns your grandparents tell you about when real men played the game and such. The lack of available record surrounding the game only adds to the mystique. It was almost too brutal to detail. And while LSU didn’t get to add to the win column, tying the no. 1 team in the nation was nothing to be ashamed of at all. Sadly, it wouldn’t be enough. Nothing is ever enough.
What’s the Greatest Game in 1976?
This poll is closed
Tie vs. Nebraska
L @ Florida
Beatdown of Ole Miss
Lol Greenie L