Noon kickoff might help Vols

Marvin Westwestwords

Saturday’s football game at LSU looms large. Tentacles could reach all the way to bowl bonuses.

Godfathers of television may have helped Tennessee’s chances. None of the decision-makers wanted the kickoff for prime time. They relegated it to 11 a.m. on Baton Rouge clocks.

As you know, Tigers hunt at night. Those who are even awake at mid-morning may still be drowsy. We can hope.

Tennessee is favored by 4.5 points. LSU has a 4-1record with SEC victories over Mississippi State and Auburn. The loss was to Florida State. The Seminoles won, 24-23. They gave up a 99-yard touchdown drive and blocked the tying extra point.

Auburn blunders helped LSU win Saturday night – at Auburn.

“Not a miracle. Not lucky. Mentally and physically better.”

So said Brian Kelly, Tigers’ $95-million football coach.

***

This will be Tennessee’s first visit to LSU since 2010, year of the infamous game where the Vols appeared to have pulled off a large upset.

The ending defied description. The Tigers looked like sure winners and then sure losers when T-Bob Hebert launched a shotgun snap past Jordan Jefferson from the Tennessee 1. The ball rolled away as time expired. Vols celebrated a 14-10 “victory.”

Officials interrupted the happiness. They and those who could count agreed that Derek Dooley’s team had 13 players on the field for that final play.

LSU was awarded a do-over. LSU scored the official winning touchdown. Some think that will keep Dooley out of the hall of fame.

***

There are many intriguing memories from not all that many matchups of these famous schools. I try not miss an opportunity to tell or remind readers about Nov. 7, 1959.

LSU won the national championship the year before and was still No.1 when it came to Knoxville – all but assured of continued success. Three Volunteers and running back Billy Cannon of Heisman Trophy fame combined for a historic treasure, The Stop.

By the grace of God, a Jim Cartwright interception return, an LSU fumble and a Neyle Sollee run, Tennessee had a 14-7 lead in the third quarter. The wild animals scored again. Coach Paul Dietzel, too proud to kick for a tie, went for two.

Pitch to Cannon off tackle was the favorite play. It had been discussed and diagramed in the Knoxville Journal mid-week. Down on Shields-Watkins Field, Coach Bowden Wyatt jumped up and down and yelled “Watch out for Cannon.”

Nobody heard or noticed. The big homecoming crowd of 45,682 was loud. It was screaming “Defense, defense.”

The Vols had been well-coached. Everybody was certain Cannon was coming. He came. Wayne Grubb, Charlie Severance and Bill Majors stopped him, at least three-fourths of an inch short of the goal.

***

The 1964 game was also unforgettable. Tennessee was learning to play Doug Dickey’s T formation. Art Galiffa was quarterback. LSU was tough. Early on, Art accepted a snap from center and was promptly mugged. He arose looking out the earhole of his helmet.

Dickey called a pass play, an out route in the general direction of Mike the Tiger, LSU mascot. Paul Naumoff, then a split end, took over the huddle. He said he didn’t like Mike and was as close, right then, as he ever intended to be to that damned tiger.

“Call another play,” said Naumoff.

The tiger was climbing the sidewall of his steel cage. Art understood. He checked off. Dickey was livid.

True survival emerged a little later. Galiffa credited center Reggie Jellicorse with saving both their lives.

“Reggie was in the process of being beaten to death by the man across from him, Remi Prudhomme, all-American defensive tackle. Reggie was coughing and spitting blood and holding with both hands to keep that Tiger off of me.”

Jellicorse remembered.

“I was overmatched.”

Reggie stumbled again to the line of scrimmage and expelled a mouthful of blood and mucus. The whole wad landed on Prudhomme’s arm and ran down toward his very big hand.

He countered with a stream of Cajun profanity and lunged at Jellicorse, elbow flying. An official got him. Jellicorse helped the ref step off the 15 yards. That was more than Prudhomme could take.

“That SOB spit on me!”

The official processed “SOB” as aimed at him and ejected the Tiger great.

The Vols somehow produced a 3-3 tie.

***

In 2001, before the SEC championship game, in anticipation of a Vol victory over LSU, gateway to the Rose Bowl and the national championship, several somebodies from Tennessee were handing out orange roses.

Will Overstreet and Jason Witten, very serious Vols, thought counting chickens before they hatched was a bad idea.

Down in Baton Rouge, coaches put in a new offensive package, a tidy, little series of quarterback draws from an empty backfield. Reserve QB Matt Mauck said he got three reps during the week.

“It was something they kind of threw in on a whim.”

After starter Rohan Davey went to the hospital with rib injuries, the draw series became the crucial piece of the Tigers’ triumph.

Tennessee had been ahead, 17-7, at halftime. The unheralded Mauck changed the game. He completed just five passes, but led five scoring drives. He ran for two touchdowns. He became MVP.

Vols contributed two fumbles. Big orange fans who had purchased flights and prepaid for lodging in Los Angeles were devastated. Orange roses wilted.

***

LSU assigns No. 18 to its best player; its leader. That man this year is defensive end B.J. Ojulari.

Saturday’s Tennessee-LSU meeting may not have championship aura. The Tiger quarterback, Jayden Daniels, is not as good as Hendon Hooker and the Tiger offense is not as explosive as the Volunteers. The LSU defense and Jamiu Bolaji Ojulari are better.

Tennessee ranks No. 1 in the country in total offense and No. 96 in total defense. It has generated far more optimism than LSU but is an unlikely champion. Alabama is just another week away and Georgia is on tap for November.

OK, I’ll cut you some slack, you never know, strange things happen.

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is [email protected]

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