Billy Cannon and his famous punt return catapulted the Tigers to victory over the Rebels in one of the most storied LSU games of all time. Fast forward to Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi a half century later, and Tiger fans will likely remember this one as the night their SEC and BCS National Title aspirations died an agonizing death in front of a jubilant, albeit shell-shocked Grove faithful.
LSU came out with a lack of urgency, and credit Hugh Freeze and the injury-riddled Rebels for making them pay. The high-flying Tigers offense was the talk of the country just two weeks ago with Cam Cameron’s wizard-like play calling, the emergence of the much-maligned Zach Mettenberer as one of the top NFL quarterback prospects in the country and two likely first-round NFL receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
The Tigers were lighting up the scoreboard and even though the depleted defense was struggling, it was thought by many that the Tigers could simply outscore teams until the defense could catch up. It works for Oregon, Baylor and the rest of the high-octane teams, right?
Forgive Ole Miss if they didn’t get the memo. Three Mettenberger picks in the first half allowed the Rebels to build an improbable 10-0 lead at the half. That lead extended to 17-0 before the no. 6 Tigers finally sprung to life. Riding the arm of a suddenly awakened Mettenberger and a furious ground game, LSU came storming back to tie the game at 24 with just over three minutes left. Mettenberger and Beckham Jr. brilliantly converted a fourth-and-10 with the season literally on the line. Mettenberger then found Landry in the end zone, and the improbable comeback for the Tigers seemed complete.
The John Chavis-led defense, which has been the cornerstone of LSU’s success for most of the last decade, was called on to stop the Rebels one time. Similar to Georgia, the Tigers’ defense took the field needing one stop to keep the BCS and SEC dreams alive. They were simply no match for a Rebels offense that marched systematically down the field and kicked the game-winning LSU soul-crushing field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock in front of a jubilant Rebels fan base in the Grove.
Watching a replay of the game, it was evident that Ole Miss simply dominated an LSU team that was not ready to play for most of the night. The Tigers had a improbable rally late to potentially steal the game away from the Rebels, but fate and a Jekyll and Hyde defense came together to put an end to their SEC aspirations under that full moon in North Mississippi.
The wounded and M.A.S.H.-like Rebels have to be congratulated as they deserved to win the contest and played like they were the no. 6 team in the country with everything on the line most of the night. Both teams will continue on and represent the SEC in a Bowl game and both will likely win. The Freeze-led Rebels will be looking forward to continuing the resurgence of football in the Grove, and LSU is left pondering what could have been, and what many argue what should have been on that cool crisp night in Northern Mississippi.