The 1993 marked the one hundredth season of LSU football. The school planned celebrations and festivities, honoring the program’s proud history, and it only made the present seem worse.
At this point, the Curley Hallman Era was in its darkest days, as LSU finished the 1992 season with a 2-9 record. In year three, Hallman’s five year plan was now starting over. And a season long reminder of how great the program used to be only served to diminish the current team. It was the most depressing party ever thrown.
The 1993 season started as the previous Curley seasons had, with lots of losing. But an inspired Tigers team managed to win a Halloween Homecoming game against Ole Miss despite a bevy of unforced errors. LSU stood at 3-5 and was staring down the barrel of its fifth straight losing season with a road trip to Alabama up next on the schedule. Eddie Kennison boasted after the Ole Miss win that while he enjoyed the Ole Miss win, he’d be on Cloud Nine after we beat Alabama.
Alabama wasn’t quite the Bama of today, but it was pretty close. They were the defending champs and came into the game with a 31-game unbeaten streak (their win streak had been snapped at 28 games by a tie earlier in the season to 10th-ranked Tennessee).
About the only thing that gave the Tigers any hope was starting quarterback Jay Barker’s unavailability. The problem was, the guy who really made the offense go, all-everything runner/receiver David Palmer, was running on all cylinders.
However, during a practice at Bryant-Denny earlier in the week, center Kevin Mawae noticed grey clouds collecting in the sky over the stadium. He told the team that had a chance to put a grey cloud over Alabama’s entire season… and we’ll be the ones to put it there.
While the players were confident, no one else was. Alabama was a huge favorite, and Jimmy Wigfield of The Mobile Register launched himself into Tiger lore by printing a prediction of a Bama blowout under the headline, “Tide Could Lose, Pigs Might Fly.”
LSU took the ball first and showed the kind of offensive production that made the Hallman years such a delight. Jay Johnson took the first handoff for a two-yard loss. Not to be outdone, Jamie Howard lost 10 yards on a sack on the next play. Then, LSU took a delay of game penalty. Two plays in, LUS faced a third and 27 from inside their own 17. It looked like a typical LSU game in the early 90s.
Scott Holstein only punted the ball 30 yards, which is just as well, as no one wanted David Palmer to return a punt. Brain Burgdorf started under center, and proceeded to guide Bama to the verge of the red zone. On third down, Anthony Marshall and Gabe Northern combined on the sack. Those extra yards counted, as Michael Proctor bounced the 46-yard attempt off the uprights.
The teams would exchange punts, as LSU’s defense began to assert itself while the LSU offense… didn’t. LSU finally got back into positive yards on the game on its third possession briefly, only to have Jamie Howard intentionally ground the ball on third and six., pushing LSU back 17 yards to their own 2.
A good punt by Holstein kept the ball away from Palmer again, and Bama took over at the LSU 44. Still, the offense stagnated without Barker and Bama failed to pick up a first down, punting the ball back to LSU through the end zone. As the first quarter wound down, truly inept offensive performance kept the score tied, though LSU did get its first first down of the game and pushed the ball near midfield. But LSU could get no further to open the second, and punted the ball back to Alabama.
The second quarter was more of the same, only worse. Bama and LSU went three consecutive possessions with a three and out. LSU would then commit a block in the back on a Kennison punt return, forcing LSU to start from their own 9. LSU would earn a first down to get out to the 20 before punting again. Finally, with about five minutes left in the half, a team had a big gain on offense. Burgdorf found Chad Key for a 22-yard gain, only for Marshall to force a fumble recovered by Tory James. LSU took over at its own 42, its best field possession of the game.
Chad Loup came into the game and after a few hand offs, he connected with Scott Ray for a 15-yard gain and a first down at the Bama 33. LSU would inch a bit closer, but Loup took a sack on third down to push LSU out of field goal range.
Bama would run out the half with LSU ahead 0-0. Neither team could manage a thing offensively, but as long as it was close, it had to be scored a victory for the outmatched Tigers. The teams combined for 161 yards, eight first downs, 11 punts, and 0 points in the half.
Burgdorf would start the second half by trying to throw an interception to Tory James. Two plays later, he would succeed. Anthony Marshall continued his monster game by picking the ball off at the Bama 38. Now, it was up to LSU’s offense to take advantage.
Shockingly, they did. Robert Toomer took the ball inside the twenty, and then Chad Loup connected with Chris Hill to get inside the five. Jay Johnson would push it into the end zone from a full house backfield from the two. Suddenly, LSU was up 7-0.
Alabama wasted no time to respond. Freddie Kitchens came in at quarterback and couldn’t manage a first down, but a fake punt by Bryne Diehl gained 43 yards. James Gillyard saved a touchdown by chasing him down from behind. Alabama had all the momentum again, but it would be short-lived. Ivory Hilliard would sack Kitchens for a 14-yard loss. Hilliard would add further misery to Kitchens’ day by intercepting the next pass. He would flip the ball to Tory James for a huge return.
Curley would go for the jugular, calling for a reverse, but the play went backwards, there was a flag on LSU, and Kennison got hurt. It was an utter disaster completely reversed by a Jay Johnson 31 yard run on the next play. Robert Toomer would take over in the red zone, eventually powering through for a touchdown and a 14-0 LSU lead.
Alabama’s third quarter meltdown was not yet complete. Kitchens forced the ball to David Palmer, only to have the ball intercepted by Ivory Hilliard again. A block in the back wiped out a great return to the five, but LSU took over again in Bama territory. LSU couldn’t capitalize, and punted the ball back.
With 3:16 left in the third quarter, Gene Stallings officially got desperate. With neither of his quarterbacks able to get his star player the ball, he simply put David Palmer under center. Palmer immediately rewarded his coach with a 47-yard bomb to Toderick Malone. Palmer kept mixing in the run and the pass, keeping LSU off balance. The quarter would end with Bama facing a first and goal from the three, thanks to another big Palmer run on a busted play.
Palmer would fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Bama would recover. On third down, Palmer blindly threw the ball to the end zone as he was being brought down, only to complete the pass into the end zone to Tarrant Lynch, who made a diving catch with his fingertips. Bama cut the LSU lead to seven.
The fourth quarter would then become an exercise in hanging on for dear life. LSU would go nowhere on its next drive, and a poor punt again would give Bama the ball at midfield. Palmer got down to the LSU 15, but then lost 12 yards to a Hilliard sack. On second down, he would throw Bama’s fourth interception of the half, this one to Rodney Young.
LSU would take over near midfield and would do their level best to bleed clock. It took the Tigers 10 plays to gain just 28 yards, but they drained the clock down to 4:22 as Andre LaFleur extended the lead to 17-7 with a 36-yard field goal.
The All Palmer All The Time continued to flummox the LSU defense, as he would pick up 34 yards on the first play of the drive, immediately putting pressure on LSU and making the comeback seem possible. It took him just five plays to cover 77 yards, capping the drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass on third down. Palmer would prove to be mortal as he failed to convert on the two-point conversion.
With under three minutes to play and down four points, Bama lined up for the onside kick. Alabama initially recovered the kick, but the ball had not gone ten yards, and an LSU hit dislodged the football. Toomer and Johnson would combine to run out the clock, cementing the biggest upset in LSU history, a 17-13 win over Alabama.
19-17 Ole Miss
18-16 Mississippi St.
The aforementioned Homecoming win over Ole Miss was ugly, but it counted. LSU bounced back from an opening season loss to Texas A&M by shocking Mississippi State on the strength of four field goals, three from walk-on kicker Andre LaFleur. Matt Huerkamp missed kicks from 26 and 32 yards, losing his job in the process. LaFleur came off the bench and pushed the ugliest kick you’ve ever seen through the uprights as time expired to win.
The Bama win somehow gave LSU a realistic shot at winning season. LSU followed up the win by taking care of business against Tulane, no sure thing in 1993, to push their record to 5-5. All LSU had to do was beat 4-5-1 Arkansas at home to secure a winning season, make a bowl, and potentially save Curley Hallman’s job. Loup threw an interception in the end zone, returned 99 yards for a touchdown to secure a 42-24 loss and another losing season.
At least we didn’t get stuck with Hallman for longer. Thank God for that interception.
What’s the Greatest Game of 1993?
This poll is closed
Pigs Fly! (Bama)
Walk On Kicks! (Mississippi St)
Homecoming Party! (Ole Miss)
Hogs Intercept! (Arkansas)