Battle of the Bayou

Aug. 29, 2004

Corvallis, Ore. - Six days and counting.That's the time left before OSU takes the field down in Baton Rouge to open the 2004 football season at defending BCS national champion LSU on Sept. 4.Seventy-two years and counting.That's the last time a football team from Oregon won a game in Baton Rouge.Odds makers have the Tigers as 20-point favorites next weekend, but Beaver fans everywhere are hoping this current crop of Orangemen will fare better than in previous years.The first time the two teams met was in 1976, in a game in which the No. 16-ranked Bayou Bengals bested OSU 28-11.Five years later, OSU was back for another try and came within a few minutes late in the fourth quarter of pulling off the upset before losing 27-24.In 1982, Oregon State took another stab at upending the Tigers. The Purple and Gold prevailed 45-7.In total, Oregon's two Division I programs, OSU and UO, have made the trip to Tiger Stadium six times since the 1930s, three games apiece. Only the Ducks have managed to come away with a win, a 12-0 defeat of the Tigers in 1932. Back then, Herbert Hoover was the president, Adolf Hitler was a hero to his people, and no one outside the Navy had ever heard of Pearl Harbor.In 1934, UO lost 14-13 on a second-half comeback by the Tigers. In 1977, they were thrashed 56-17.OSU had suffered through six-straight losing seasons when Head Coach Craig Fertig's team traveled to Baton Rouge on Sept. 18, 1976, to play the Tigers. OSU played well in the first quarter, giving up a touchdown after LSU had gone 72 yards in nine plays, then recovering a Tiger fumble on the 35 and cutting the lead to four points on a Kieron Walford 25-yard field goal with 43 seconds left in the period.In the second quarter LSU exploded for two scores, the last a 45-yard punt return to put the home team up at half by 21-7. LSU never looked back but did give up a fourth quarter score and a two-point conversion as OSU tried desperately to rally for the win.For Oregon State, 1981 started in historic fashion. Playing at home before 28,000 fans, OSU set an NCAA record for comebacks, falling behind 28-0 to an outstanding Fresno State team before exploding for four unanswered TDs and a field goal in the second half for an amazing 31-28 win.Thinking the Fresno victory might propel them to their first winning season in 10 years, OSU left for Louisiana pumped for game two against LSU. It almost worked. Joe Avezzano's Beavers went ahead 24-20 on an 18-yard Ed Singler pass to Tim Sim with eight minutes to go in the contest.The capacity crowd of 74,962 noisy fans, anticipating an easy Tiger win over a team that had won but nine games in its six previous seasons, was stunned.With less than a minute to play, Jesse Myles scored on a two-yard yard run to put LSU ahead for good. Final, disappointing score, 27-24. OSU finished the season 1-10.The second largest crowd in LSU history, 78,425, watched on Sept. 18, 1982, as the Tigers crushed Oregon State 45-7. It was a Louisiana State team reminiscent of the Purple and Gold powerhouses of the 1970s; two Tiger running backs each going for over 100 yards against a pretty decent Beaver defense.OSU's best play of the day was an 88-yard return of a kickoff by James Terrell for his team's only score.LSU's season finale in 1934 against the Oregon Ducks produced one of the most bizarre incidents in the annals of college football, in what may be the only time in NCAA history a head coach resigned his job in the middle of a game.This was LSU's Lawrence 'Biff' Jones. By halftime, a favored LSU found itself on the short end of a 13-0 score to the visitors from Eugene.These were the days, and the times, of Senator Huey Pierce Long, Louisiana's 'Kingfish,' the most ardent Tiger fan of his generation. And the most politically powerful, hiring and firing coaches as easy as ordering lunch at Burgerville.Leaving his seat in the stands, Long went to the Tiger dressing room and asked Jones if he could talk to the team. Pete Finney's book, The Fighting Tigers, recounts this exchange between the two:Jones' response to the Senator: 'No!'Long: 'So, who's going to stop me?'Jones: 'You're not going to talk.'Long: 'Well, I'm sick of losing and tying games. You'd better win this one.'Jones: ' lose or draw, I quit.'Long: 'That's a bargain.'After Huey had left, Jones told his team he had never asked for any favors but was asking for one now.He told them he wanted them to go out and win the game for him.They did, 14-13.True to his word, Jones resigned and became head coach at the University of Oklahoma. An interesting side note to Jones' tenure at LSU is that he was on active duty as an officer in the U.S. Army at the time he coached the Tigers. He also taught ROTC classes at the university and had, at Long's request, special permission to hold down the dual-role from General Douglas MacArthur, then the Army chief of staff.-30-George Edmonston Jr. is editor of the Oregon Stater and a frequent contributor to this web site.

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