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Greatest Game From Every Season: 1992

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Jamie Howard’s big game on the Plains. No. The other one.

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Jamie Howard
There was a time he represented hope and rebirth

There were no good games in 1992, much less a greatest one.

Honestly, I had planned to run that as the entire article when we first started this series because its funny, but I think its disrespectful to the 1992 squad. It’s easy to give your blood, sweat, and tears to a winning team, but its much harder to give your all to a sinking ship helmed by incompetents.

In no small way, the players of 1992 are the truest of Tigers with the darkest purple and gold blood running through their veins. They stuck things out when times were the hardest, and they did it before ever-dwindling crowds to diminishing results.

There’s a reason why “May you live in interesting times” is a curse. The 1992 team may not have been any good, but it sure was interesting. I have a deep respect for the players of this era, and its high time they were brought back to Tiger Stadium to receive the cheers they were denied during their playing days. It’s not their fault that Curley Hallman was a terrible coach.

1992 is the midpoint of the LSU Dark Ages, the six year stretch of losing seasons. But this was the absolute nadir. LSU hired Hallman to right the ship, and in Year One, he largely relied on the freshmen youth movement Mike Archer started in 1990.

It did not bear fruit. Archer’s recruits didn’t take to the new regime, forcing Curley to look to hit the reset button on the youth movement. 1992 would be the first team in 50 years that LSU would not yield a single player to the NFL draft. The only upperclassman draft prospect was left tackle Kevin Mawae, who would shock everyone in town by returning for his senior year. Curley Hallman would promptly move him to center in 1993.

After two years of relying on underclassmen like Chad Loup, Odell Beckham, and Harold Bishop, Curley decided to go with his own recruits in 1992. He hit the recruiting trail hard and landed a lauded class. Max Emfinger, the guru of recruiting at the time, rated the class No. 1 in the nation on the strength of our own version of the Fab 5, a group of five highly touted running back recruits.

Astute readers will see the problem right away. There is only one football and it would have taken a great coach to manage the touches and his roster to keep everyone happy. And Curley wasn’t exactly gifted in roster management.

Only two of the five made it three years in the program, and only one finished his career as an LSU running back. It was a dismal return for such a vaunted class. Hallman forced the ball to all of them their freshmen year, as seven running backs had at least 25 carries that season. Curley still had to find touches for Odell Beckham and Germaine Williams, his two returning vets.

To be fair to Curley, the class wasn’t a total disaster. David LaFleur was a star tight end, and the twin receiving threats of Eddie Kennison and Sheddrick Wilson became a virtual folk tale. Gabe Northern and James Gillyard were everything they were billed to be on defense, and Mike Calais and Tory James also became defensive standouts. And then there was the complicated case of Jamie Howard.

Even 25 years later, it’s almost impossible to fairly evaluate Howard’s career. He will almost always be remembered for the 1994 Auburn game, but there was a time that Howard represented hope. He, along with all of these freshmen running backs, was going to rebuild LSU into a power. He was going to be the new Tommy Hodson.

Chad Loup had tenuously held the starting job for two seasons as an underclassmen, and hadn’t ever truly impressed. Instead of nurturing the junior quarterback, Curley essentially threw him overboard in the first half of the first game, inserting Ryan Huffman, back to Loup, and then Jesse Daigle into the Texas A&M game. He started Loup against Mississippi State, only to replace him with Daigle in the second half.

Curley played musical chairs at nearly every position. He was balancing seven different guys at the running back slot and three guys at quarterback. Twenty-three different players recorded multiple tackles against Mississippi St. He was even juggling his kickers, benching Pedro Suarez for missing a kick, and replacing him with Matt Huerkemp… who promptly missed three.

Two games into the year, LSU was 1-1. Virtually every position was in flux, and no one really had any idea about the quality of the team or anyone on it, not even the coaches. Curley was already floundering in this new era, but no one quite knew how bad things were about to get.

Thanks to SEC expansion, LSU now found itself in the same division as Auburn, a team that LSU had played twice in the past decade and just four times in the past 20 years. No one knew it, but a new rivalry was about to be born. So was the career of Jamie Howard.

The Game

Yes! Early nineties JP Sports! Remember when the SEC was a podunk league? Unfortunately, this predates the Three Daves golden era, but please stop to enjoy the crappy graphics and outdated even at the time production values.

Hallman’s random starting lineup generator popped out Daigle at QB and Robert Davis for this one. Davis made sense as he was the first among equals of the recruiting class. Davis was Alabama’s Mr. Football, and spurning the Tide was a major coup for LSU. However, he couldn’t do much on LSU’s first few possessions, and LSU’s most effective runners were the veterans Williams and Beckham.

Sean White threw a pick on Auburn’s first possession, but Jesse Daigle gave the ball right back with an interception of his own. Auburn couldn’t take full advantage because White tripped over the center on the snap, and Auburn settled for a field goal and the early lead.

LSU went three and out again, and Auburn took over the ball in LSU territory. Relying on their rushing attack keyed by James Bostic, Auburn drove down inside the five yard line. Bostic took it over the goalline himself this time, and Auburn was up 10-0 in the first quarter.

LSU would fittingly end the first quarter with another punt. After one quarter, the new look offense had netted nine yards on nine plays. Auburn moved the ball well again, but Etheridge missed a 47-yard kick. In response, Curley went back to his random lineup generator, and in came David Butler at RB and Ryan Huffman at QB.

The offense did start to move, but Butler fumbled on two of his carries. LSU recovered each time, allowing the drive to continue, but out went Butler and in came Davis again. Davis would get the ball down to the six, and then Robert Toomer would come in relief and stretched the ball over the line just before it came out to cut the lead to 10-7, thanks to a quick signal from the refs.

Auburn would use up the rest of the quarter on a long 72-yard drive, kicking a field goal on the half’s final offensive snap. Auburn would take a 13-7 lead into the locker room. LSU had been consistently outplayed, but they had held it together and were only down six. Now, they just needed a good third quarter to give themselves time to right the ship.

It didn’t happen. Auburn would march down the field and score on their opening possession of the half. LSU would respond by Beckham fumbling the ball back to Auburn. Etheridge would boot a long field goal. LSU wouldn’t gain a yard on its next possession either, and Auburn added another field goal to push the score 27-7.

Out of options, Hallman looked down the bench and saw Jamie Howard there. Artie Moore made an ill-advised return of the kickoff deep out of the end zone, resulting in the drive starting at the seven-yard line. The exact perfect time to put in a true freshman quarterback. On the road, down 20, and in the shadow of his own end zone. Howard promptly fell down on first down. An inauspicious start. LSU would take a false start penalty, and Huffman came back in the game.

Huffman converted third and 17 while running for his life in the end zone, allowing Curley to put Jamie Howard back in the game. Howard completes his first two passes, but the drive then fizzles out and LSU punts the ball away to start the fourth quarter.

On third and long, Sean White threw a bad interception deep in his own territory, which was essentially an arm punt. The LSU drive was herky jerky, with quite a lot of incompletions, but Howard made some big passes. He converted a third and 10, he would find Sheddrick Wilson for a big 45-yard gain, and then finally would hit Sheddrick again on fourth and goal from the four for a touchdown.

Auburn responded with a three and out, punting the ball back to LSU. Carlton Buckels broke free and returned the ball inside the five, only for it to be called back by penalty on Gabe Northern. Instead, LSU took over on its own 45 and on the first play from scrimmage, Jamie Howard found Scott Ray streaking down the sideline for a 55-yard touchdown. After getting dominated all game, suddenly LSU was down just 27-21 with 8:49 to play. Plenty of time to complete the comeback.

Things kept going bad for the Auburn offense. Their next possession went nowhere and they punted back to LSU. The Tigers took over on their own 43 with plenty of time and all of the momentum. On third and 7, Howard would throw the first pick of his career, right there in Jordan Hare Stadium, the future site of his primary misery.

The reprieve for Auburn was short-lived. James Bostic would fumble the ball on third and one, and LSU took over again with plenty of time on the clock. Now it was the visiting LSU fans going crazy. Howard took a sack on first down, so on came Huffman again for one down and an eleven yard run. Then back to the bench, and Howard would convert on fourth down. Howard would guide the team inside the 10, and then back to back runs by Germaine Williams would result in a touchdown. LSU had come back from 20 points down to take the lead, 28-27 with 1:43 left in the game.

Of course, this is Curley Hallman, so every silver lining came with a dark cloud. After this amazing comeback, keyed not only by the freshman QB but by the defense consistently getting the offense great field position by causing turnovers and three and outs, there was still one last chance for Auburn to salvage the game.

Sean White would guide Auburn down the field with LSU playing the prevent defense, even after Auburn crossed midfield. Ethridge would kick his fifth field goal of the game, this one from 43 yards, to steal the win, 30-28. LSU lost the game, but the team delivered hope. This was to be the foundation upon which the new golden age of LSU football would be built.

I mean, after we fired Curley Hallman.

Other Options

24-3 Mississippi St
24-12 Tulane

LSU did prove that even when it wins only one game in SEC play, that win would be Mississippi St. The wheels would come off after the Auburn game. Jamie Howard would earn the start the next week, the infamous loss to Colorado State in Tiger Stadium. Howard’s gig didn’t even last to the end of the first quarter, as Curley inserted Huffman into the game in a clear panic move with LSU up 7-0. Huffman would go 0-for-6 with an interception.

Howard would be the starter for the rest of the year, though Huffman would come in occasionally to run. After Howard took beatings at the hands of the SEC, Curley took his starting job away for Tulane, allowing Loup to notch the win against an outmatched foe. I’m sure that would have long term ramifications on Howard’s confidence. Like Howard, Loup would not hold on to the QB1 position for the first quarter of the next game.

The Arkansas game closed out the worst season in LSU history, a 30-6 loss that wasn’t even as close as the score. After a full season to find his guys, Curley would have achieved precisely no clarity. All seven running backs got at least one carry, none more than Davis’ 8. Loup and Howard each had over 10 attempts, and Huffman had seven. Ten different players caught a pass in a two-receiver offense. Two different punters evenly split the duties. Curley hadn’t even decided on a kick returner, which split evenly between Butler and Pegues. The season ended where it began, with no one knowing their role. The hope from that recruiting class and the fourth quarter comeback against Auburn lay in ashes.

They were interesting times.

Poll

What’s the Greatest Game of 1992?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Ugh. This one.
    (11 votes)
  • 40%
    State? I guess?
    (23 votes)
  • 19%
    Meh. Tulane.
    (11 votes)
  • 21%
    Screw it. Colorado St. At least it was memorable.
    (12 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now