Bowl Mania Starts Three Week Run
Bowl-mania started in earnest yesterday and since it will be three weeks before the College Football Playoff national champion is crowned, football fans across the country should resign themselves to the fact that they will be spending two weeks of that time period visiting their friendly neighborhood sports bar or home recliner to watch inconsequential games played in less than exotic locations.
Sponsorships have become a vital part of the bowl season, and that extra revenue has contributed to the resultant glut of break-even teams rewarded with a “bowl trip” for mediocre performance. It has now reached the point where the only commercial product without a bowl affiliation seems to be Purina. How about the Purina Dog Bowl in 2015?
Truly meaningful games will begin during the last week of December and finish with top teams competing in long established bowls on New Year’s Day. The newly implemented CFP semi-final games featuring the top
four teams of the season will be played in New Orleans’ Sugar Bowl (No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State), and Pasadena’s Rose Bowl (No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State). The winner of those two contests will face each other eleven days later in Dallas for the 2014 CFP national championship.
While many of the holiday matchups will feature contests played for conference bragging rights or other purposes, there is one game that will have special significance for this writer. The LSU Notre Dame Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville. This will be the eleventh meeting of the two storied football programs and each school has five victories in the series which started under less than friendly circumstances in 1970. An alumnus of one, and a fan of the other, I follow both teams closely. My family has been LSU season ticket holders for sixty years and I have personally traveled to South Bend for thirteen Notre Dame games in the past eighteen years. I pull for both (yeah, I know, no cheering in the press box), but I always have on my purple and gold garb when the two compete. It will be no different nine days from now. Four of the ten games played thus far have been decided by three points or less.
Ara Parseghian’s fourth-ranked Fighting Irish parlayed a field goal with 2:54 remaining and a stern defensive effort to top Charlie McClendon’s sixth-ranked Tigers 3-0 in South Bend to win the inaugural meeting. The whitewashing of LSU came on the heels of a Fighting Irish decision to begin playing in bowl games the year before. That 1969 decision cost McClendon, and one of his best teams at LSU, a chance to play in the 1970 Cotton Bowl. LSU’s 9-1 ’69 team was passed over for the 8-1-1 Irish that lost 21-17 in Dallas to Texas, securing the national championship for the Longhorns. LSU eventually decided not to play in a less regarded bowl game and stayed home that bowl season, a year in which its only loss was by three points, 26-23, to Archie Manning’s Ole Miss Rebels in Jackson.
The 1970 Irish, 9-1, went on to play unbeaten Texas in the 1971 Cotton Bowl and defeated Coach Darrell Royal’s Horns 24-11 to end their 30-game winning streak. The Bayou Bengals lost to Nebraska 17-12 in the
1971 Orange Bowl in Miami on New Year’s night and Coach Bob Devaney’s Cornhuskers were declared national champions. A young reporter in West Palm Beach at the time, I can still remember eating at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach that afternoon and the bad taste of that loss. LSU actually outplayed Nebraska, but stars like quarterback Jerry Tagge and future Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers made the difference. Nebraska took the field that night knowing that a victory would wrap up the national championship and put the trophy in Lincoln for the first time.
One year later quarterback Bert Jones and receiver Andy Hamilton put on a passing clinic (for that era), combining for two touchdowns. Sophomore linebacker Warren Capone intercepted two Irish passes and Tommy Casanova one to spearhead a steady defense that led the 14th ranked Tigers to a 28-8 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame. It was a magical night in Tiger Stadium as Death Valley furthered its reputation as one of the most difficult stadiums to play college football. That Notre Dame team was talented, but nothing seemed to work for the Irish that night. Sophomores on that Irish team were the stalwarts of the Notre Dame team that defeated Alabama 24-23 two years later in the 1973 Sugar Bowl (played on December 31, 1973) to win the school’s ninth national championship.
I was seated right behind the Alabama bench that night and can recall quarterback Tom Clements passing out of his endzone late in the game to seldom used receiver Robin Weber. The third down completion with two minutes remaining allowed the Irish to run out the clock. Parseghian’s after game speech (before Rudy did his
stint and the movie was made) got my full attention. As far as I was concerned, I had gone back in time, to reading about old time ND heroes like Monty Stickles and Paul Hornung as a youngster, to waiting two years before outside the LSU locker room in order to congratulate my cousin for his two-interception game against the Irish. Yes, Warren Capone is a cousin. Forget those early Irish flirtations (Stickles, etc.) or the anti-Irish feelings I felt on that November, 1971 night celebrating a big Tiger win. I was now a dual Tiger/Irish fan! Parseghian, and the 1973 Irish, had given me another team to cheer for during future football seasons.
There was ten-year time gap before LSU traveled again to South Bend in 1981 to face Coach Gerry Faust in his first college game. Faust, a highly successful high school coach at Cincinnati’s Moeller High, was successful in his first home game, defeating a struggling LSU squad 27-9. He never could get back the magic that Parseghian and Dan Devine (he won 1977 National Championship) brought the program. To the school’s credit, realizing it was as much their error as it was Faust’s failure to handle the task, Notre Dame administrators let Faust complete his five-year contract before accepting his resignation.
Both schools were going through a major readjustment period in 1980 as Bo Rein had been hired to replace McClendon after the 1979 season. Rein was tragically killed on a recruiting trip after being hired and never coached a game for LSU. Former Tiger All-American Jerry Stovall stepped in, took over the team, and led the Tigers to respectability after a late ‘70s dropoff in talent during McClendon’s last years. Faust replaced Devine, who retired after the 1980 season.
Notre Dame and Faust went to Death Valley in 1984 and defeated the Tigers and first year coach Bill Arnsparger, 30-22. A year later, former Miami Dolphins defensive guru Arnsbarger, now in his second season in Tigerland, made some defensive changes, took LSU into South Bend and escaped with a 10-7 victory. Quarterback Jeff Wickersham completed twenty one passes in one of his best performances, and Henry Thomas blocked two John Carney (yep, that Saints guy) field goals to highlight the win. The following year Arnsbarger’s troops won another close game with Notre Dame in Tiger Stadium. Quarterback Tommy Hodson and receiver Wendell Davis teamed up to lead the 21-19 victory.
Arnsparger, who loved the coaching part of the business but did not like the recruiting trail, left the Tigers after three seasons and Mike Archer and Curley Hallman followed him with fair to disappointing results. The Tigers did not see Notre Dame again on a playing field until LSU hired former Irish All-American lineman Gerry DiNardo as coach. After a twelve year series stoppage, the Tigers and Irish played twice in 1997. Coach Bob Davie’s Irish beat LSU soundly, 24-6, in Baton Rouge before the Tigers turned the tables on ND six weeks later by winning the 1997 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, 27-9. An amazing 222-yard rushing performance by Rondell Mealey helped LSU complete the 36-point turnaround.
Davie got a measure of revenge for the Independence Bowl defeat the next year as LSU went into South Bend
and lost 39-36, a game that the Tigers led 34-20 late in the third quarter. Despite a gutty performance by Kevin Faulk, it was clear to me that November afternoon that Tiger fortunes had begun to unravel and DiNardo was losing control of the team.
The last LSU Notre Dame game was played in the 2007 Sugar Bowl. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell outdueled Irish signal-caller Brady Quinn in a battle of top college quarterbacks as LSU soundly thumped Coach Charlie Weis’ squad 41-14. Notre Dame finished the season with three losses, all blowouts, Michigan, USC, and LSU each winning by 20 points or more. LSU closed the campaign, Coach Les Miles’ second year at the school, with SEC losses to Auburn and Florida and eleven victories.
Miles finished his tenth year at LSU this season with a 8-4 season. The Tigers, who lost 19 underclassmen to the NFL draft in the past two years, were young and somewhat inexperienced at key positions this year. They consequently lost four SEC games (all in their West Division) and are hoping to use the Music Bowl as a springboard for better 2015 results. Irish Coach Brian Kelly’s team has lost four straight games, five of its last six, and has been unimpressive most of the season. Kelly comments about the weak non-conference opponents played by SEC teams may come back to haunt him. He made them when the Irish had only one defeat, and I feel Miles will use the statement for bulletin board material.
I will have my LSU sweatshirt on the night of the Music City Bowl, but my seasonal ND “Shirt” will be underneath it. Just like the 2007 Sugar Bowl!Thanks For Visiting JV Sport Shots .Com’s Website And Viewing Our Latest Blog(s) / Page(s). We Would Really Appreciate It If You Would Leave Us A Comment Or Remark Below. This Helps Us Provide Great Sports Content; You Would Like To See In Future Posts.
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