30 Years of LSU Bowl Games: Today… 1999-2008
Toasting the Tigers in the postseason - Reliving the Golden Era of LSU Football: 1999-2008
by Matt Deville
Tiger Rag Senior Editor
(At left) Offensive MVP Matt Flynn and defensive MVP Ricky Jean-Francois celebrate LSU’s 38-24 win over Ohio State in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans.
It seems almost silly to refer to the year 1999 as part of the Golden Era of LSU Athletics.
That year, LSU slumped to a 3-8 record, fired coach Gerry DiNardo and was far from being one of the nation’s elite programs. That is until Nov. 30, 1999.
On that day, LSU hired Nick Saban from Michigan State to become the Tigers 31st football coach. It marked the beginning of the most successful era in LSU Football history.
Over the next nine seasons, the Tigers rose to national prominence as LSU clearly began one of the nation’s most elite programs.
Saban led the Tigers to a 48-16 overall record, won two SEC titles (2001, ‘03) and the 2003 BCS National Championship. In five seasons, Saban compiled a 3-2 record in postseason bowl games winning two BCS bowl games (both Sugar). However, having already announced his plans to leave LSU for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, Saban’s sendoff was spoiled when Iowa stunned the TIgers 30-25 on a last-second Hail Mary in the 2005 CapitalOne Bowl.
In the wake of Saban’s flight from the Capital City, there were concerns about could LSU find a coach to maintain the level of success in Baton Rouge.
Enter Les Miles.
In year one, Miles and his Tigers endured the worst natural disaster in U.S. history when Hurricane Katrina ravaged south Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. But Miles weathered the storm, won the SEC Western Division and finished the season with an 11-2 record following a 40-3 thumping of Miami in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Miles has had his crticis during his four-year tenure at LSU. But his on the field record has spoken for itself, especially in the postseason. After a disappointing trip to Atlanta in 2005, Miles followed it up with back-to-back BCS bowls in 2006 and 2007. Miles has gone 3-0 in postseason bowl games beating national powers Miami, Notre Dame (41-14 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl) and Ohio State (38-24 in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game).
In his first three seasons, Miles went 34-6, won an SEC and BCS championship. The Tigers became the first school to ever win two BCS titles.
Over the past nine seasons, LSU has reached the postseason a record nine straight times (including this year’s berth in the Chick-fil-A Bowl). The Tigers have produced a sparkling 6-2 record in postseason bowl games since 2000 and are a perfect 4-0 in BCS bowl games winning the Sugar Bowl three times and the BCS Championship Game once.
Here is a rundown of the greatest era of LSU football in the postseason:
2000 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
LSU 28, Georgia Tech 14
Dec. 29, 2000
After a two-year hiatus from postseason play as well as a coaching change, the Tigers were headed into a new era of LSU Football. With first-year coach Nick Saban in control, the Tigers snapped a streak of two-straight losing seasons with a 7-4 campaign and locked up the program’s first bowl berth since 1997. No. 15 Georgia Tech was a heavily-favored playing in its hometown, but LSU had different plans. After a miserable first half, Rohan Davey came off the bench to lead the Tigers to a win – and give LSU fans a glimpse of things to come. Trailing 14-3 at halftime, Davey led the Tigers a touchdown on the initial drive of the third quarter. By game’s end, Davey had thrown three second half TD passes, tying an LSU bowl record, and finished with 17 completions in 25 attempts for 174 yards. Davey hit wideout Josh Reed on a nine-yard scoring pass early in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers the lead for good at 17-14. Reed finished the game with nine receptions for 96 yards, while fullback Tommy Banks capped his senior season with two TD receptions and a career-best seven catches for 71 yards. Georgia Tech entered the contest with only 12 turnovers all season, however the Tiger defense forced the Yellow Jackets into six turnovers, including four fumbles.
2002 Nokia Sugar Bowl
LSU 47, Illinois 34
Jan. 1, 2002
New Orleans, La.
LSU won its first conference title in 15 years after shocking Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game 31-20. The win over the Vols landed the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl, LSU’s first appearance since 1987, against Big Ten champion Illinois. As snow left the Crescent City blanketed in white powder outside, the Tigers scorched the turf indoors running past the Fighting Illini 47-34. LSU scored 34 first half points as the Tigers led from start to finish. For the game, Rohan Davey passed for a Sugar Bowl record 444 yards by connecting of 31 of 53 attempts, including three touchdown passes. Domanick Davis rushed for 122 yards and four touchdowns, while Josh Reed caught 14 passes for 239 yards, both Sugar Bowl records, and a pair of touchdowns in what proved to be his final game in an LSU uniform. As a unit, LSU racked up a Sugar Bowl record 595 yards of total offense and the Tigers’ 34 first half points were the most-ever points in a half a Sugar Bowl contest. In all, LSU set eight Sugar Bowl marks in the victory. It was a sign of things to come the game marked the first of four BCS bowl games to be played in New Orleans in a seven year period.
2003 SBC Cotton Bowl
Texas 35, LSU 20
Jan. 1, 2003
Cotton Bowl Stadium
LSU and Texas met for the first time in 40 years, ironically in the same venue. In 1963, the Tigers beat the previously unbeaten Longhorns 13-0. That wasn’t the case this time around. LSU limped into the Cotton Bowl after a frustrating 2002 season, marred by injuries and crippling losses. Despite an early 17-7 lead, the Tigers couldn’t hold on as the Chris Simms-led Longhorns raced away with the 15-point victory. In the first quarter, LSU ran 30 plays for 187 yards, compared to only three plays for zero net yards for the Longhorns. After a dominating first quarter, the Tigers stretched their lead to 17-7 early in the second quarter on a 10-yard run by Domanick Davis. But Texas responded with a pair of touchdowns to take a 21-17 lead at halftime. LSU managed just three points the rest of the way in falling to the Longhorns, 35-20. LSU finished with 441 yards of offense, with 310 coming in the first half.
2004 Nokia Sugar Bowl
(National Championship Game)
LSU 21, Oklahoma 14
Jan. 4, 2004
New Orleans, La.
It had been 45 years since LSU sat atop the college football world. On Jan. 1, 1959, the Tigers beat Clemson 7-0 in the Sugar Bowl to cap off an 11-0 season and LSU’s first-ever national championship. The Tigers picked up its second national title, this time defeating No. 1 Oklahoma 21-14. The Tigers used a suffocating defensive effort limiting the nation’s top scoring offense to only 154 yards. Running back Justin Vincent earned MVP honors for the game, rushing for 117 yards and one touchdown in leading the Tigers to the victory. Skyler Green gave the Tigers a 7-0, first quarter advantage by scampering 24-yards on an end-around. The Sooners tied the game at 7-7 midway through the second quarter on a 1-yard plunge by Kejuan Jones. The Tigers led 14-7 at halftime following an 18-yard run by Vincent. LSU’s defense got in on the scoring when Marcus Spears returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown just 47 seconds into the third quarter. Spears’ pick-six gave the Tigers a 21-7 lead, which would be enough to secure victory. A defensive struggle continued for most of the second half before the Sooners pulled to within 21-14 on another 1-yard run by Jones with just over 11 minutes left in the contest. The teams traded possessions for the next five minutes before the Sooners mounted a drive deep inside LSU territory. OU had first-and-10 at the LSU 12-yard line before the Tigers turned the Sooners away on four straight plays, including a fourth-and-10 situation with 2:52 to play. The Tigers’ defense stood the rest of the way in sealing the win.
2005 CapitalOne Bowl
Iowa 30, LSU 25
Jan. 1, 2005
Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium
Nick Saban had already been name the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins, but was granted the opportunity to serve in lame-duck capacity as the Tigers’ coach in the CapitalOne Bowl versus Iowa. It looked as if Saban would go out a winner in his LSU finals, but Drew Tate’s last-second Hail Mary to Warren Holloway spoiled Saban’s swansong as the Hawkeyes stunned the Tigers 30-25. LSU had taken a 25-24 lead with less than a minute left in the game when JaMarcus Russell hit Skyler Green for the go-ahead touchdown. That LSU touchdown capped a 12-point comeback in the fourth quarter. The Tigers trailed 24-12 with 12:48 to play before Russell connected with Green for the first of two scores with 8:21 to play. Prior to the late offensive rally, LSU has seen PK Chris Jackson kick a 29-yard and a 47-yard field goal and RB Alley Broussard score on a 74-yard run in the second quarter. Iowa led 14-12 at halftime.
2005 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
LSU 40, Miami 3
Dec. 30, 2005
After a 10-1 record in Les Miles’, Katrina-affected first season, things looked glum when the Tigers were routed by Georgia 34-14 in the SEC Championship Game. When the SEC West champions were passed over by all the January bowl games, spirits sagged when LSU fell all the way to the Peach Bowl. But in the wake of the Tigers’ 40-3 rout of No. 9 Miami, all was well in the world when LSU finished No. 5 in the final poll. Joseph Addai rushed for 130 yards and a score and Matt Flynn took home MVP honors throwing two touchdowns in his first career start. With the scored tied at 3-3 at the end of the first quarter, the Tiger defense took over as LSU limited the Hurricanes to just two first downs and only 38 yards of offense over the final three quarters of the game. In all, Miami managed only six first downs and 153 yards of offense in the contest as LSU put together its most complete game of the season. With the Tiger defense holding the Hurricane offense at bay, the LSU offense came alive in the second quarter, first with a 51-yard TD pass from Flynn to Craig Davis. After a 47-yard field goal by Chris Jackson that put LSU up 13-3, the Tigers went on a 9-play drive just before the break, capped with a 4-yard pass from Flynn to Addai to stretch the lead to 20-3 at halftime. The game was never in question after that as the Tigers added a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter followed by a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter.
2007 AllState Sugar Bowl
LSU 41, Notre Dame 14
Jan. 4, 2007
New Orleans, La.
Two early losses had taken a very talented LSU team out the national championship race. However, a 10-2 record, including a 2-2 mark against top 10 teams, landed the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl for the third time in six seasons. Notre Dame had put up an impressive record in 2006, but future NFL first overall pick JaMarcus Russell ripped the Irish defense for 332 yards fueling a 41-14 rout of the Gold Domers from South Bend. Russell accounted for nearly 350 yards of offense and three LSU scores, including two in the first half as the Tigers led 21-14 at halftime. An 80-yard, eight play drive was capped with a Russell-to-Dwayne Bowe 11-yard touchdown pass for a 14-0 advantage. The Irish scored on its next possession to cut the margin to 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, then knotted up the contest at 14-14 late in the second quarter on a Brady Quinn touchdown pass. The Tigers came right back, though, taking a 21-14 advantage just before halftime on a five-yard run by Russell. LSU built on that momentum in the second half as the Tigers rattled off 13 straight points to open the third quarter to extend the lead to 34-14.
2008 AllState BCS National Championship Game
LSU 38, Ohio State 24
Jan. 7, 2008
New Orleans, La.
With some 11th hour help from Pitt and Oklahoma, the LSU Tigers found themselves in the BCS National Title Game for the second time in five years. Despite having two losses, the 11-2 Tigers traveled to New Orleans for the fourth time in seven seasons to face Ohio State for the national championship. Matt Flynn tied a school-record with four TD passes as LSU overcame an early 10-0 deficit to post a 38-24 win over top-ranked Ohio State. After spotting the Buckeyes a 10-0 first quarter advantage, the Tigers outscored Ohio State 31-0 from late in the first quarter to midway through the third. The Tigers dominated the second quarter, scoring on three straight possessions taking a 24-10 lead. LSU tied the score on a 10-yard pass from Flynn to Richard Dickson and Ricky Jean-Francois blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Buckeyes shifting the momentum back in the Tigers’ favor. LSU scored 10 plays later when Flynn connected with Brandon LaFell from10 yards out giving the Tigers the lead for good at 17-10. LSU led 24-10 at halftime when Jacob Hester scored on a one-yard plunge and LSU’s extended it to 31-10 on a four-yard TD reception by Early Doucet. Ohio State pulled to within 31-17 late in the third quarter before the Tigers put the game away with a five-yard touchdown pass from Flynn to Dickson with 1:50 left in the game.