LSU’s New Year’s Day game with Central Florida will mark the Tigers’ first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. It will also be their farthest trip west ever for a bowl.
Two firsts. Increasingly rare things for LSU when it comes to bowls.
Over the past 80-plus years, the Tigers have been just about everywhere. Done just about everything. The Fiesta Bowl will be LSU’s 50th appearance overall, tied with Ohio State for the eighth-most all-time.
Here are a few highlights (and lowlights) from eight decades of LSU bowl history:
LSU’s first bowl trip was right down the road in New Orleans in the 1936 Sugar Bowl to take on TCU. What was billed as a top-notch quarterbacking duel between the Tigers’ Abe Mickal and the Horned Frogs legendary Slingin’ Sammy Baugh devolved into a punting contest between the two, as days of rain turned the field at old Tulane Stadium into a quagmire. TCU won 3-2, with LSU’s only scoring on a safety when Gaynell Tinsley harassed Baugh into throwing an incomplete pass that landed in his end zone.
Victory on the Atlantic
LSU lost Sugar Bowls in 1937 and 1938 before finally tasting its first bowl victory in the 1944 Orange Bowl against Texas A&M. World War II was at its height and fuel for civilian travel was rationed. The team traveled to Miami by train and by car, using fuel stamps saved by LSU fans for the latter.
Steve Van Buren, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, accounted for all three Tigers touchdowns in the 19-14 win, passing for one and running for two. To get the team home a long-time booster, Louis Gottlieb, purchased 18 used cars for the drive from South Florida.
The Ice Bowl
Weather was even a bigger factor in the 1947 Cotton Bowl between LSU and Arkansas. The Tigers outgained the Razorbacks 271-54 and had a 15-1 edge in first downs, but the game still ended in a 0-0 tie. Rain, sleet and snow gripped Dallas that Jan. 1, with LSU players on the sideline and spectators in the stands burning small fires to keep warm as both offenses fell into a deep freeze. LSU quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who went on to a 17-year Hall of Fame career in the NFL, called it the coldest game he ever played.
The pass the Lord threw
The Tigers got their first Sugar Bowl win in five tries on Jan. 1, 1959, a 7-0 win over Clemson capping LSU’s national championship season. The only score came on a 9-yard halfback toss from Billy Cannon to Mickey Mangham, a pass of which Cannon said, “I didn’t throw it, the Lord did.”
It seems strange to think now, but LSU could have lost to or tied Clemson and still been national champions. Back then, the AP and UPI national titles were awarded before the bowl games. In the case of the AP trophy, LSU coach Paul Dietzel accepted it on New Year’s Eve at a New Orleans banquet.
Not No. 23
For LSU in the Fiesta Bowl, the goal is to avoid becoming UCF’s 26th straight victim. For LSU in the 1966 Cotton Bowl, the goal was to keep from becoming the 23rd straight team to lose to Arkansas. For once the polls decided to hold their final rankings until after the bowl games, in part to see if No. 2 Arkansas would beat the 7-3 Tigers. They could not. In one of the greatest upsets in LSU history, Joe Labruzzo scored on a pair of 1-yard runs and Jerry Joseph’s fourth-quarter interception fueled a stunning 14-7 LSU upset that denied Arkansas a national title.
The bowl trip that never was
In 1969, LSU was pounding toward a 9-1 record but was denied a major bowl. The Tigers were angling for a trip to face No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, but 8-1-1 Notre Dame lifted a bowl ban it imposed on itself going back to 1924 and was more appealing to the Cotton for its national following. The Sugar snubbed the Tigers because LSU had shown more interest in the Cotton, picking Ole Miss (7-3 going into the Sugar but a winner over LSU behind Archie Manning) to face Arkansas. LSU could have gone to a lesser bowl like the now defunct Bluebonnet or Sun bowls (back then there were 11 bowl games total), but in an unheard of move today the players voted to stay home. After the season, LSU players got a “trophy” of a big gold screw jammed into a wooden base.
The bowl trip that never was, Part Deux
The one major bowl LSU has never played in is the Rose Bowl, but a trip to Pasadena, California, appeared as a major possibility at the end of the 2006 regular season. With a 10-2 record and No. 5 BCS ranking, and with LSU fans preordering 42,600 tickets, the Tigers appeared likely to face Michigan in the Rose. That was, however, contingent on No. 2 USC beating 6-5 UCLA, putting the Trojans in the inaugural BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona (site of the Fiesta Bowl). It didn’t happen.
The Bruins pulled the 13-9 upset, sending USC to the Rose to play Michigan and opening the door for SEC champion Florida to meet Ohio State in the BCS final. LSU went to the Sugar and crushed Notre Dame 41-14 to finish No. 3 in the final polls and set the stage for the national title the next season.
One and 1-A
Clearly LSU’s two biggest postseason victories were the ones in which the national championship was on the line. The Tigers squeaked into the 2004 Sugar Bowl to play No. 1 Oklahoma in the game then designated as the BCS championship game, turning back the once mighty Sooners 21-14 to win the national championship, the winning play an interception return by defensive end Marcus Spears.
Four years later, LSU was back in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game (the Sugar Bowl was a week earlier between Georgia and Hawaii). In that game, LSU spotted the Buckeyes an early 10-0 lead but stormed back for a 38-24 victory behind four touchdown passes from MVP Matt Flynn.
Great LSU bowl performances
• Leonard Fournette rushed for 212 yards and 4 TDs in the 2015 Texas Bowl against Texas Tech.
• Rondell Mealey rushed for 222 yards in the 1997 Independence Bowl against Notre Dame.
• Kevin Faulk rushed for LSU bowl record 234 yards in 1995 Independence Bowl against Michigan State (Nick Saban was the Spartans coach).
• Rohan Davey threw for an LSU bowl and then Sugar Bowl record 444 yards against Illinois in the 2002 Sugar Bowl; Josh Reed caught 14 passes for 239 yards, both LSU bowl records.
• Matt Flynn threw for an LSU bowl record four TDs in the 2008 BCS title game in the Superdome against Ohio State.
• JaMarcus Russell threw for 332 yards against Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.
• Kevin Minter had an LSU bowl record 19 tackles in 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson.
LSU Bowl history (25-23-1)
Bowl Date Result
Fiesta Jan. 1, 2019 LSU vs. UCF (noon, ESPN)
Citrus Jan. 1, 2018 Notre Dame 21, LSU 17
Citrus Dec. 31, 2016 LSU 29, Louisville 9
Texas Dec. 29, 2015 LSU 56, Texas Tech 27
Music City Dec. 30, 2014 Notre Dame 31, LSU 28
Outback Jan. 1, 2014 LSU 21, Iowa 14
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31, 2012 Clemson 25, LSU 24
BCS Championship Jan. 9, 2012 Alabama 21, LSU 0
Cotton Jan. 7, 2011 LSU 41, Texas A&M 24
Capital One# Jan. 1, 2010 Penn State 19, LSU 17
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31, 2008 LSU 38, Georgia Tech 3
BCS Championship Jan. 7, 2008 LSU 38, Ohio State 24
Sugar Jan. 3, 2007 LSU 41, Notre Dame 14
Peach Dec. 30, 2005 LSU 40, Miami 3
Capital One# Jan. 1, 2005 Iowa 30, LSU 25
Sugar (BCS Ch.) Jan., 4, 2004 LSU 21, Oklahoma 14
Cotton Jan. 1, 2003 Texas 35, LSU 20
Sugar Jan. 1, 2002 LSU 47, Illinois 34
Peach Dec. 29, 2000 LSU 28, Georgia Tech 14
Independence Dec. 28, 1997 LSU 27, Notre Dame 9
Peach Dec. 28, 1996 LSU 10, Clemson 7
Independence Dec. 29, 1995 LSU 45, Michigan State 26
Hall of Fame* Jan. 2, 1989 Syracuse 23, LSU 20
Gator Dec. 31, 1987 LSU 30, South Carolina 13
Sugar Jan. 1, 1987 Nebraska 30, LSU 15
Liberty Dec. 27, 1985 Baylor 21, LSU 7
Sugar Jan. 1, 1985 Nebraska 28, LSU 10
Orange Jan. 1, 1983 Nebraska 21, LSU 20
Tangerine# Dec. 22, 1979 LSU 34, Wake Forest 10
Liberty Dec. 23, 1978 Missouri 20, LSU 15
Sun Dec. 31, 1977 Stanford 24, LSU 14
Orange Jan. 1, 1974 Penn State 16, LSU 9
Astro-Bluebonnet@ Dec. 30, 1972 Tennessee 24, LSU 17
Sun Dec. 18, 1971 LSU 33, Iowa State 15
Orange Jan. 1, 1971 Nebraska 17, LSU 12
Peach Dec. 30, 1968 LSU 31, Florida State 27
Sugar Jan. 1, 1968 LSU 20, Wyoming 13
Cotton Jan. 1, 1966 LSU 14, Arkansas 7
Sugar Jan. 1, 1965 LSU 13, Syracuse 10
Bluebonnet@ Dec. 21, 1963 Baylor 14, LSU 7
Cotton Jan. 1, 1963 LSU 13, Texas 0
Orange Jan. 1, 1962 LSU 25, Colorado 7
Sugar Jan. 1, 1960 Ole Miss 21, LSU 0
Sugar Jan. 1, 1959 LSU 7, Clemson 0
Sugar Jan. 2, 1950 Oklahoma 35, LSU 0
Cotton Jan. 1, 1947 LSU 0, Arkansas 0
Orange Jan. 1, 1944 LSU 19, Texas A&M 14
Sugar Jan. 1, 1938 Santa Clara 6, LSU 0
Sugar Jan. 1, 1937 Santa Clara 21, LSU 14
Sugar Jan. 1, 1936 TCU 3, LSU 2
#-Now Citrus Bowl
*-Now Outback Bowl