LSU and the unholy trinity of hurricanes
Saturday, September 24, 2005
By Peter Finney
His team has played only one game and already Les Miles owns a record that figures to stand the test of time.
In later years, the trivia question would go like this: What LSU coach had his home debut rescheduled three times?
Of course, you’d be giving it away if you mentioned the rescheduling was due to a couple of “female hurricanes.’’
So let’s don’t mention what we know.
That Katrina knocked a Sept. 3 Tiger Stadium date with North Texas into October.
That Katrina sent a Sept. 10 date with Arizona State from Baton Rouge to Tempe, Ariz.
That Rita bounced a Sept. 24 date with Tennessee from Saturday to Monday.
And that was only part of the Hurricane Rita story.
There were reports Tennessee was prepared to forfeit the game had LSU not agreed to a two-day delay.
There also were reports the SEC looked into the possibility of moving the game to the end of the season, a change tied into shifting the conference championship game from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10.
All of which recalls another “female’’ force of nature.
Remember Hurricane Hilda?
In LSU football, Hilda, Katrina and Rita are now part of an unholy trinity.
Hilda roared out of the Gulf in October of ’64. It not only roared. The eye came closer to Tiger Stadium than any hurricane in history.
With Charley McClendon’s Tigers preparing to take on Florida in a battle of two unbeaten ball clubs, Hilda’s approach forced an 11th-hour cancellation, moving the game from Oct. 3 to Dec. 5, two weeks after the Tigers’ traditional regular-season finale against Tulane.
By that time, the Tigers were 7-1-1, the lone loss a 17-9 defeat in Birmingham to an Alabama team that would win the national championship. By that time, the Tigers also had accepted an invitation to play Syracuse in the Sugar Bowl.
In ’64, LSU rode the place-kicking foot of Doug Moreau who doubled as a wide receiver. Three Moreau field goals defeated Texas A&M 9-6 in the opener. One decided a 3-0 victory over Rice. One tied Tennessee 3-3. In the loss to Alabama, Moreau was responsible for all of LSU’s points.
When Florida showed up in Tiger Stadium, it was the same story. Moreau kicked two field goals, but they were not near enough to tilt the scales in a 20-6 Gator victory featuring the passing of quarterback Steve Spurrier.
In the Sugar Bowl, the Tigers made amends with a 13-10 win over Syracuse. This time it was Moreau catching a 57-yard touchdown pass and later kicking his fourteenth field goal of the season to break a 10-10 tie.
That’s how Hurricane Hilda played into the season of ’64.
We’ll learn Monday about the effects of Rita and Katrina on a football game that seemed a lot more significant back in September than it does now.
This weekend you’d have Tiger fans talking about that 38-31 overtime victory over the Vols in 2000, the time Rohan Davey threw a touchdown pass to Robert Royal in OT to give the Tigers the lead and Damien James coming up with a fourth-down deflection to foil Tennessee’s bid to play on.
You’d have Tiger fans going back to the SEC championship game of 2001, the time second-ranked Tennessee was poised to play for the BCS championship. They’d be talking about LSU ending the dream with a 30-21 upset in Atlanta, when Matt Mauck made his first impression, coming off the bench to replace an injured Davey in the second half and stir things up.
On Monday, with a crowd of 90,000 expected in LSU’s football home, they’ll be talking of other topics, more about life-and-death topics than football.
About Katrina turning Tigertown into a city of 700,000.
About rooftop rescues.
About helicopters using Bernie Moore Track Stadium as a landing pad.
More about real-life heroism than touchdowns.
As for Les Miles, who has watched and waited, he’ll finally discover how it feels coaching the Tigers in Tiger Stadium.