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Greatest Games from Every Season: 1963

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Cholly Mac’s first rebuilding job.

Year one of Charlie McClendon was a resounding success. Even his most hardened critics, and they certainly existed even after year one, could only state the season could have been even better had LSU been able to overcome Rice (who they tied) and Ole Miss, who beat them by 8. Naturally, the criticism mostly focused on McClendon’s somewhat controversial decision to RS high profile QB recruit Pat Screen. Screen took a RS behind the modest QB duo of Lynn Amedee and Jimmy Field.

Still, LSU won 9 games, and beat a dominant Texas team in the Cotton Bowl. In many ways, the ‘62 Tigers were still Dietzel’s squads, in much the same way the ‘05 and ‘06 LSU teams still had Saban’s fingerprints all over them. The ‘62 Tigers are among the greatest defensive units in school history and were heavily senior laden. Even though Dietzel recruits would dot the roster, ‘63 would be Charley’s first shot at shaping the roster in his image. It was a young team, featuring just 18 letterman. Gone were Amedee and Field. Gone were All-American’s Stovall and Fred Miller. It was a total rebuild, even if working with a talented roster.

QB Pat Screen truly loved LSU, though the fan rumor mill of the day would have you believe he was looking for his way out of the program. Screen had a close relationship with Dietzel and many believed he might transfer to Notre Dame if redshirted in ‘62. Screen called the idea ridiculous. As a teen, Screen attended an LSU-Ole Miss game as a guest of Ole Miss coach Johnny Vaught. While seated on the Ole Miss bench, he jumped off the bench and started cheering when Jerry Stovall busted open a 42-yard run vs. the Rebels. This kid was born to be at LSU. And it was his time to lead.

The Greatest Game from 1963: Georgia Tech

In ‘62, LSU and Georgia Tech played a classic in Atlanta, that saw the Tigers come out on top 10-7, largely thanks to the explosive running of Jerry Stovall and a late FG by QB/K Lynn Amedee. Tech were ranked no. 5 nationally at the time and at the peak of their powers under the legendary Bobby Dodd, their stadium’s namesake.

In the early 60’s the Tech game was truly the barometer for LSU’s season, much the way we consider the Auburn game to be in today’s game. The games were routinely competitive. Beat Tech and you probably had a pretty good football team on your hands. LSU and Tech played every year from ‘60 to ‘63 and Tech was ranked in the top 10 three of those times.

LSU’s young squad opened the season beating Texas A&M thanks to another talented RS named Joe Labruzzo. Labruzzo, FB Don Schwab and Pat Screen were the offense of the future at LSU. New substitution rules would also make LSU’s preferred three-team style to be restricted, meaning McClendon couldn’t specialize players quite the same. Now, everyone must prepare to play both ways. Labruzzo found his way into the starting lineup early on and sizzled the crowd with an 83-yard punt return to help defeat the Aggies. Labruzzo actually fumbled the punt initially, but zig zagged and exploded through the Aggies coverage unit to score. Peter Finney wrote he ran like a “scared rabbit.” Labruzzo hailed from Larose, Louisiana, the hometown of Ed Orgeron. He was a HS star, coached by Dudley Hillman, whose name you may recognize, because his son would go on to play QB at LSU. Small-town Labruzzo stepped immediately into the spotlight in Baton Rouge.*

*Here’s a clip of Labruzzo returning a punt 81-yards vs. Ole Miss. It would be the lone highlight of the game.

But LSU’s youth would show up a week later, as they dropped the game to Rice in Houston. 16 of the 34 players seeing time were sophomores. McClendon knew what he had all along. It was a talented team but one that needed to find itself. It would be a team prone to fits of greatness and maddening spells of inconsistency. They could beat Texas A&M (ok, maybe that wasn’t a big deal that year) and then lose to Rice. Who then would show up to welcome no. 7 Georgia Tech to Baton Rouge?

To make matters worse Dave Strange, Buddy Hamic, Ernie Maggiore, and Ron Pere, all starters, were injured. LSU was young and beat up, seemingly a disaster waiting to happen when welcoming Tech into town. Cholly Mac didn’t know what to expect entering the game. QB Pat Screen decided to have his coming out party, breaking free for 94 rushing yards on 16 carries, including a 4-yard TD. The one TD would prove enough and Tech could only muster a pair of FGs. The day was marked by a series of clutch defensive plays. I’ll allow Peter Finney to elaborate:

Buddy Soefker crashed through a wall of blockers to nail Lothridge and prevent a second-quarter touchdown; Ruffin Rodrigue hurtled through the air to block a fourth-quarter field goal try by Lothridge; Danny LeBlanc came from nowhere to tackle Joe Auer on a touchdown-bound screen pass; and Billy Truax tipped, and then intercepted a Lothridge pass to foil Tech’s final bid.

What else from an LSU team other than a ground-and-pound rushing attack and ferocious defense? After the game Dodd called Screen the best running QB they’d see all year and said, “as long as he’s healthy, LSU will be tough.” The next week, Pat Screen was lost for the season.

The Contenders

W 14 - 0 @ Florida
W 20 - 0 vs. Tulane

In the longview, going 7-4 during a rebuild is a pretty successful season. Two of the four losses came to the Mississippi schools, who were both strong that season. Another came in the bowl. Beating Georgia Tech was unquestionably the high point of the season, though stomping Florida with a rag-tag squad may have been the upset of the season. Florida’s only loss on the season was to Georgia Tech, and they had actually beaten Alabama.

Poll

What’s the Greatest Game of 1963?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Beating Tech to cap the 4-year rivalry
    (15 votes)
  • 39%
    The injured squad upsetting the Gators
    (11 votes)
  • 7%
    Beating Greenies, duh
    (2 votes)
28 votes total Vote Now