LSU entered the 1973 season with significantly lowered expectations from the year before. Bert Jones had gone to the NFL, and the best offensive player returning was guard Tyler LaFauci. This was to be a year LSU relied on the defense and hoped that they could eke out some offense and a few close wins.
Well, the offense was predictably pedestrian. Mike Miley started at quarterback and managed to throw for 69 more yards than starting running back Brad Davis ran for. Nice. Norm Hodgins led the team in receiving with TWELVE catches for 234 yards.
And you thought we had offensive issues nowadays, huh?
It helped to have Warren Capone at linebacker, A.J. Duhe on the line, and Mike Williams at defensive back. Capone was first team All-American for the second consecutive season and Mike Williams, the first African-American LSU football player, made his first All-SEC Team in 1973.
However, the team did more than just eke out a few victories, LSU would win its first nine games, holding their opponent below ten points in five of them. This would come crashing down with a 21-7 loss to Bama on national TV, followed up by a loss to Tulane and then an Orange Bowl loss to undefeated Penn St.
However, the peak of the season came the week of Halloween, when LSU travelled to Jackson to play Ole Miss, a site at which the Tigers had not beaten the Rebels since 1934. The previous year had been the classic Set Your Clock Back 2 Seconds Game, and Ole Miss was bent on revenge.
Ummmm… it would not work out well for them.
Billy Kinard struggled in his third season as the Ole Miss coach, starting the year 1-2, losing to Missouri and then Memphis. This was enough, and Ole Miss fired Kinard and put John Vaught back in charge of the program, naming him coach and athletic director. Vaught got Ole Miss back to .500, and now he set his sights on tormenting his longtime rivals at LSU.
LSU would send Vaught back into retirement, crushing Ole Miss, 51-14.
The blowout would take some time to get going, and for most of the first half, this was a tight, hard-fought game. The game opened with the ceremonial exchange of punts until LSU’s offense found its legs, marching 73 yards down the field on just seven plays. Brad Davis scored from 13 yards out on an option pitch midway through the first.
Ole Miss would respond with a good drive of their own, but would stall out at the 34 yard line. McClendon alternated Mike Miley and Billy Broussard at quarterback in the first, and Broussard failed to provide a spark off the bench. Late in the first, Miley came back in the game, pitched to receiver Joe Fakier, who bombed the ball 73 yards to Norm Hodgins for a touchdown and 14-0 lead.
Undaunted, QB Norris Weese found Rick Kimbrough for a big 45-yard gain and the Rebels were in business. Weese tried to hook up with Kimbrough on 3rd and 13, but was bailed out by pass interference on LSU, putting the ball inside the 20. On 2nd and goal from the one, Weese finished off a 10-play, 80-yard drive by sneaking into the end zone.
On the next drive, Brad Davis broke free from the line on second down, racing for a 51-yard gain. On third down, Miley would find tight end Brad Boyd in the corner of the end zone for an 18-yard score. LSU pushed its lead right back to 14, 21-7.
Ole Miss would respond with another methodical drive, including two third down conversions. Weese found Kimbrough again for a first down at the LSU 28. Bink Miciotto, speaking of outstanding names in LSU history, got a key nine-yard sack on first down. Befuddled, Ole Miss took a delay of game penalty before the next snap. Suddenly, it was 2nd and 24 from the 42. Weese got the Rebs back to the 28, but Lavinghouse missed the 45-yard field goal attempt.
LSU would go into the half up 21-7. It was a decent lead, but hardly decisive. Ole Miss had actually moved the ball better and more consistently, but LSU had the lead thanks to two huge plays, including the wide receiver pass. Fakier actually had more passing yards than the two QBs combined, 73 to 58.
The second half began much as the first half had gone, with Weese finding Kimbrough in the secondary. Thanks to a defensive holding penalty, Ole Miss was in LSU territory when running back Paul Hofer fumbled the ball. It was the first Ole Miss turnover of the game, and it would not be the last.
LSU recovered the ball but couldn’t gain a first down, so LSU punted back to Ole Miss, pinning the Rebels inside their own 10. Cholly Mac positional football strikes again. Ole Miss would quickly punt back to LSU. Mike Williams fumbled the return, but recovered on his own 47. Six plays later, all runs, and five of them to Steve Rogers, LSU was in the end zone.
Weese would get Ole Miss near midfield again, when he was sacked by Capone. The ball came loose and it was recovered by Duhe. LSU would punt the ball right back, so Ole Miss helpfully fumbled the ball a third time in the third quarter, recovered by Duhe. This time, Lora Hinton got the honors of running the ball into the end zone. Ole Miss would get its first good news of the quarter when they blocked the PAT, keeping the score at 34-7.
To the Rebels’ credit, they kept fighting. A steady diet of Weese to Kimbrough finally broke through on a 13-play, 75-yard drive when Weese found Kimbrough on 3rd and 10 from the 21. Ole Miss tightened the game to 34-14, but a comeback was not to be in the cards.
Miley would hit receiver Richard Romain for a diving catch and a first and goal. Miley would keep the option to put LSU back up by 27, under a minute after Ole Miss had tightened the score. LSU would coffin corner punt the ball to the Ole Miss 1, and the Rebs would fumble on the next play. LSU would score a touchdown on fourth and goal.
LSU would mercifully call of the dogs when Ole Miss shanked a six-yard punt to the 36. LSU would gain almost no yards, and kick a 48-yard field goal to cross the half century mark with 2:37 to play.
Ole Miss couldn’t even run out the clock right, fumbling yet again, caused by Warren Capone. LSU would run out the clock and had its last win outside the state of Louisiana for the next three and a half years. But no one knew that yet.
This would be the last truly great Cholly Mac team. The team would go into a three-year flirtation with .500 before his final three seasons, in which he is the Cholly Mac of popular imagination: going 8-4, 8-4, and 7-5.
33-29 @ South Carolina
9-16 Penn St.
Colorado came into the season ranked 10th in the country. LSU outlasted the Buffaloes, and their season never really recovered from there. Florida got to 15th in the polls, but the LSU loss put them in a death spiral, a real theme this year for LSU. LSU would meet its old coach, Paul Dietzel, in South Carolina. It would have meant more had the game been in Tiger Stadium. The Gamecocks built a 10-point lead, and LSU had to claw back to take the win. LSU closed out the year with a loss to undefeated and untied Penn St. in the Orange Bowl. They, being one of the teams more cursed than LSU, would lose the national title to Alabama because of course they did.
LSU would win its first nine games, then close out the season by losing to the two teams with a claim on the national title... and Tulane.
What’s the Greatest Game in 1973?
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