We completed our Greatest Games from Every Season series this offseason and shockingly, Ole Miss featured heavily in it. We chose a time period starting in 1958, so in the past 60 years, the greatest game from the season was played against Ole Miss nine times.
That’s more than any other opponent. Beating Ole Miss has been an LSU tradition for as long as any of us can remember, even if the series lost much of its intensity in the 1980s and 90s due to Ole Miss spending most of that period in the football wilderness.
But as soon as Ole Miss became a viable program again, the rivalry ramped right back up. It was like they had never left. We might hate Ole Miss and wish them to go to hell at every chance we get, but we need this rivalry. It just feels right. Damning Ole Miss to hell is what bonds Louisiana fathers and sons for generations past and generations to come.
Let’s enjoy those nine games again.
At this point, the Billy Cannon punt return is the LSU origin myth. What truly makes it great is that even though the game happened sixty years ago, it still has the ability to enrage every living Ole Miss fan due to its ubiquitous nature. Think of every Ole Miss fan as they show that grainy black and white footage before this weekend’s game, like they do every year. Think of them, and laugh. More than half a century later, and it still hurts.
In a way, I love this game even more than 1959 because I get to make fun of Johnny Vaught. Ole Miss, ranked #1 in the country and helmed by the great Jake Gibbs at quarterback, had all they could handle from a rebuilding LSU team in Oxford. Down by three in the final minutes, Vaught decided to play for a tie, kicking a field goal with 38 seconds remaining. Ole Miss played for the tie and at the end of the season, the AP (writer’s) and UPI (coach’s) polls remembered, and awarded the national title to Minnesota. Ole Miss claims the FWAA title.
The final game of Dietzel-Vaught trilogy. #1 Michigan St. lost earlier in the day, giving the second-ranked Rebels a chance to climb in the polls. It was not to be. Despite scoring their first touchdown against LSU since 1957, Jerry Stovall would batter the Ole Miss defense and scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Tigers. Dietzel would call it his greatest win, and AD Jim Corbett used the momentum to maneuver LSU into the Orange Bowl to play a racially integrated team. Ole Miss’ greatest era ended in failure. You’re welcome.
1964: Billy Ezell goes for two
The “other” Halloween classic against Ole Miss. John Ferguson called the two-point conversion in this game the greatest moment in Tiger Stadium, and he was certainly in position to know. Starting quarterback Pat Screen went down to injury and Ole Miss took advantage, going up 10-3, and ready to spring the upset. Instead, backup Billy Ezell came into the game and coolly guided LSU to a late touchdown. Unlike Vaught, McClendon went for the win not the tie. Ezell’s two-point conversion pass was tipped by Tommy Luke. The ball fluttered in the air, but Doug Moreau dove for the misdirected pass, made the catch, and kept both feet in bound by mere inches. Conversion good, LSU wins, 11-10.
Technically, it wasn’t a two-minute drill. Bert Jones took over the ball with 3:02 on the clock with the Tigers down 16-10, needing 80 yards to score. Jones tried to squeeze a pass to Jimmy LeDoux on a play that began with four seconds on the clock, but the ball fell incomplete. Unaware of the clock, Jones pleaded with the ref for pass interference, not more time. He didn’t get the call, but he did get one second. More than enough. Jones got off the snap and hit Brad Davis for the score. Ole Miss is still mad at the refs about this one.
Billy Kinard struggled so mightily as Ole Miss’ coach that he was fired and the school brought Vaught out of retirement to close out the year. He rallied the Rebels back to .500, but reality would crash down hard against LSU, as the Tigers would thrash the Rebels, 51-14. I guess we had to make Vaught quit one more time.
Even our offensive coordinator beat Ole Miss. LSU always struggled in Jackson, so Ole Miss scheduled their home games against LSU there for decades. LSU fell behind 21-0 and seemed on its way to another demoralizing loss in Jackson. But Ensminger would rally the team back, completing the biggest comeback in LSU history at that point in time by scoring his third touchdown of the game with 85 seconds left.
2003: Eli falls down
The rivalry lay dormant for nearly a quarter century. The hate seemed to be more performative than anything, and the teams even bonded together in the Chucky Mullins Game in 1989 to raise money for a severely injured Rebel player’s medical bills. But in 2003, Ole Miss had their first chance to be relevant in a generation, squandered in the final minutes, as their desperation drive ended on fourth down with Eli falling over his own lineman. Ole Miss hung a banner to honor the occasion because, as we have already learned, ties count as wins in Oxford.
LSU found itself in the rare position of being an underdog to Ole Miss in Tiger Stadium. The season seemed to be slipping away from Miles, but he pulled it back by going to his old reliable: running Leonard Fournette as often as possible. In order to hold the quick strike Ole Miss offense in check, LSU went so ball control that they had a drive last over nine minutes of game clock. LSU’s final offensive drive went 93 yards on 13 running plays. By the final play, LSU wasn’t even pretending they were going to pass. Ole Miss still couldn’t stop Fournette.
And we were left with one of the indelible images of the modern era of LSU football: Trey Quinn surfing the crowd as it charged the field. Normally, I wouldn’t support celebrating a win over Ole Miss in such a fashion, but if you’re gonna do it, do it with style.