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Greatest Game From Every Season: 1969

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No. Not nice.

LSU fans nurse a massive persecution complex. We are sensitive to every little bit of favoritism doled out to the blue bloods, and are often left wondering where is our cut of the pie? However, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.

If there is one season which gave birth to the LSU persecution complex, it is this one. Charles McClendon had one of his best teams, if not his best, in 1969. The Tigers went 10-1, won the SEC title, with only the brilliance of Archie Manning preventing an unbeaten season.

LSU was set to accept a bid to the Cotton Bowl to play the undefeated Texas Longhorns, the #1 team in the country. However, Notre Dame decided to reverse an earlier decision to not accept a bid to jump the line and accept the Cotton Bowl bid. Texas leapt at the chance to play the high-profile 8-1-1 Irish team, ranked lower than LSU in the polls.

The Sugar Bowl took an Ole Miss team that beat LSU, but had three losses on the season, two of them by one point. By the time the maneuvering was done, LSU was left without a bowl destination and a 9-1 team, and the SEC champion, was left at home. Tennessee also boasted a 9-1 record, but they lost to Ole Miss by 38 points.

Texas would beat Notre Dame 21-17 and LSU was left to wonder what could have happened had they gotten the shot at the Longhorns they had earned. But this is college football, and some programs get to play by special rules.

However, the week before LSU would lose to Ole Miss in Jackson by three measly points, LSU ran its win streak to six games by beating nationally ranked Auburn, and securing its own place in the top ten.

Before 1969, LSU had not played Auburn in 27 years, despite sharing a conference. This was not the hated rivalry that it would become after SEC expansion in the 1990’s. However, Auburn had made itself an SEC contender thanks to Ole Miss’ unexpected early season tumbles.

LSU opened the game with an exclamation point. Jimmy Gilbert took the pitch from the quarterback and threw the ball downfield to Andy Hamilton, who scampered 62 yards for a touchdown. For a guy known for his conservatism, Cholly Mac knew when to open up the playbook.

However, Auburn, led by quarterback and future Heisman winner Pat Sullivan, responded with a long touchdown drive of their own. Sullivan would hit Micky Zolfko for a 12-yard score. Things would get worse for LSU when tailback Eddie Ray fumbled on his own 39 and Auburn recovered.

Sullivan would waste no time, finding Connie Frederick for a 33 yard gain. On the fifth play of the drive, Wallace Clark ran the ball in from two yards. For the first time all season, LSU was behind on the scoreboard.

To this point of the season, LSU had never faced adversity. The Tigers were simply beating the tar out of teams. Miami was the only team so far to even come within 20 points of LSU, and the Hurricanes failed to score a point in a 20-0 drubbing. LSU had swamped Kentucky 37-10 and humiliated Baylor 63-8. But now, LSU was down 14-7, and an offense that had been averaging 32.8 points per game now hadn’t managed a first down since that opening trick play touchdown.

The offense would finally get going behind the legs of tailback Jimmy Gilbert, who did most of the heavy lifting. However, it was QB Mike Hillman who found Jim West for the game-tying touchdown 23 seconds before the half. The game was tied at 14.

Despite Gilbert’s success, Cholly Mac would mix things up on the third quarter’s opening drive. He instead gave a heavy diet of running plays to Allen Shorey. The change in running backs worked, and LSU would take the lead back on a Shorey touchdown run.

Auburn had multiple chances to come back in this game. Bill Thomason blocked Auburn kicker John Riley’s attempt. But Auburn’s best chance came early in the fourth quarter. Sullivan found Micky Zofko again, scoring a touchdown from 14 yards out. All Auburn needed to do was hit the extra point. George Bevan would crash through the line and block the PAT, preserving a 21-20 lead.

LSU would have a chance to extend the lead in the fourth, driving from their own 38 to inside the Auburn 10 yard line. The drive would stall out thanks to a penalty, pushing the ball back to the 12. Mark Lumpkin would miss a 28-yard field goal.

Auburn flipped field position, but couldn’t score, giving the ball back to LSU as time continued to wind down. LSU came one first down short of icing the game, forcing Eddie Ray into the game to punt with 1:26 left. Ray, who had fumbled twice in the game, made up for it with his leg, pinning Auburn at their own 10 with a 54 yard punt. It was Ray’s third punt of the game to die inside the Auburn 10.

Auburn’s desperation drive ended when Craig Burns knocked away a pass on the fourth down. Preserving the LSU win and the undefeated season for another week.

Other Contenders

20-15 Alabama
61-6 Mississippi St
23-26 Ole Miss

LSU would beat Alabama in Tiger Stadium, marking the last win over the Tide in Tiger Stadium for 30 years. Yes, it would get silly. This was a good not great Bama team that finished 6-5 on the year, but they did upset national champion favorite Ole Miss by a point on national TV. Bama would get an invite to the Liberty Bowl.

LSU took the Ole Miss loss personally and closed the season on a mission, beating Alabama, then Mississippi St 61-6, and finally Tulane 27-0. LSU finished the season averaging 34.9 PPG (9th in the country) and allowing 9.1 PPG (2nd in the nation). LSU was essentially denied the chance to play Texas for the national title because LSU didn’t start the season ranked. This team got utterly and completely jobbed.

This is why Ole Miss needs to go to hell. And why my dad hated Notre Dame with every fiber of his being. We got screwed.

Poll

What’s the Greatest Game in 1969?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Edging Auburn
    (12 votes)
  • 10%
    Finally Beating Bama
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Curbstomping Mississippi State
    (0 votes)
  • 8%
    Classic Game Against Ole Miss
    (5 votes)
  • 60%
    The Imaginary Bowl Game In Which LSU Beats Texas and Wins the National Title
    (35 votes)
58 votes total Vote Now