Hello again, friends. Got a bit derailed this week because I had to deal with this:
I have a son! No, wait, I already had him. I have a half-dozen monster old hardwoods now lying prone in my backyard!
Yes, thanks to Hurricane Zeta, I had some unplanned landscaping done. Nothing quite like a sleepless night wondering what havoc a tropical storm will wreak. Anyway, we roll onward!
Each week during this all killer, no filler SEC season, I’m using one of the week’s matchups to highlight a bit of history. This week, it’s Tiger vs. Tiger, as LSU journeys to the Plains to face Auburn at 3:30. Let’s dig into this little tête-à-tête.
One of the remarkable elements of the Auburn-LSU rivalry is the way that both teams seem hellbent on trashing the other’s pretty season, no matter how badly their own is going. It’s a full-on “if I’m going down, I’m taking you with me” kind of deal. Both teams already have two losses in 2020, so this year’s model isn’t for anything more than pride, but pride’s enough to get a hell of a rock fight going.
Auburn’s a one-point favorite heading into today’s game, but LSU owns the alltime series 31-22-1. A few select memories from that series:
1908: While attempting to recover a fumble in the end zone, LSU’s quarterback Doc Fenton (as always: names were better back when) was knocked unconscious by an Auburn fan swinging a cane at him. I have no evidence for this story but I believe it implicitly.
1988: You may know the old legend about how the crowd at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge can set off seismographs in LSU’s nearby geology department. This game was the start of that legend, when LSU beat then-#4 Auburn on a late fourth-down touchdown and the crowd proceeded to geaux crazy.
1996: As LSU held off a furious Auburn comeback, Auburn’s old Sports Arena, dubbed “The Barn,” burned just outside Jordan-Hare Stadium’s gates. The fire was apparently started by tailgaters who moved a grill out of the rain, and, well:
To me, though, the defining game of the series came in 1994. It’s a tale of cruel, unrelenting fate, a test of faith and a testament to some really idiotic coaching. It’s known to the Tiger/Tiger Loyalists as, simply, The Interception Game.
Auburn, at that time, was ranked 11th in the country and riding a 14-game winning streak, while LSU was a pedestrian 1-1. That didn’t stop the Bayou Bengals from carving out a 23-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
And that’s where the troubles began.
Jamie Howard, LSU’s quarterback, needing only to protect a two-touchdown lead, threw not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE interceptions. In the fourth quarter.
Three of those INTs — Howard threw six overall in the game — were pick-sixes, and coincidentally enough, Auburn went and won the game by a score of 30 to 26. You might be wondering what the hell LSU’s coaching staff was thinking, continuing to throw the ball when it was clear Howard was completely spooked by Auburn and the 85,000 Jordan-Hare fans, and you wouldn’t be alone; LSU coach Curley Hallman was fired just a few games later.
“I‘m not going to blame the coaching staff. I’m the one that has to make the plays,” Howard said earlier this year when asked about the game, still nobly falling on the grenade a quarter-century after the fact.
There’s a happy ending, of sorts, for Howard. The very next year, he led LSU to an upset win over Auburn, a 12-6 victory in Tiger Stadium clinched when LSU’s Troy Twillie intercepted a fourth-and-goal Auburn pass in the end zone with four seconds left in the game.
Plus, Howard’s son Walker has committed to Ed Orgeron’s Tigahs for 2022, a nice bit of circularity. And Coach O damn sure won’t let Howard the Junior throw that many INTs.
In closing, and in an effort to mollify those LSU fans traumatized by the bad memory of The Interception Game, please enjoy this clip of Coach O sounding like he’s about to put a bounty out on Han Solo’s head:
That’ll do it for this week. Hey, anybody need any firewood?
This has been issue #32 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. And if you dug this, share it with your friends. Invite others to the party, everybody’s welcome.