ENGSTER: The best LSU teams in Tiger Rag history

By JIM ENGSTER | President, Tiger Rag Magazine

As LSU preps for the start of the 40th football season covered by Tiger Rag, it is appropriate to note that 11 head coaches have directed the Tigers during the publishing era of the Bible of LSU Sports. The names of McClendon, Rein, Stovall, Arnsparger, Archer, Hallman, DiNardo, Hunter, Saban, Miles and Orgeron have all garnered headlines through the years. The program survives and thrives no matter the leader.

The LSU football record during the Tiger Rag years is 317-160-7 (66.5 percent) with six SEC titles and two national championships.

Many times the best teams fall short of national honors while others rise above their limitations and capture NCAA championships.

One measure of success is a team’s closeness to perfection. The 2011 team was 22 points from a perfect season because it had one defeat of 21-0 to Alabama. It was the only blemish in 14 outings for the Tigers.

Jerry Stovall’s squad of 1982, which went 8-3-1, was just 11 points from perfection because its losses were by one point to Nebraska (21-20), by three points to Mississippi State (27-24) and to Tulane (31-28) and a 24-24 tie to Tennessee. It remains the lone LSU team to defeat Alabama, Florida and Florida State in the same season, and all were dominating victories against outstanding teams.

Since the debut of Tiger Rag on Sept. 1, 1978, these are the teams closest to perfection at LSU.

[table]

Year,Margin,Record,Coach

2007,10 points, 12-2 National Champions, Miles

1982, 11 points, 8-3-1, Stovall

2003, 13 points, 13-1 National Champions, Saban

1987, 14 points, 10-1-1, Archer

2012, 16 points, 10-3, Miles

2010,17 points,11-2,Miles

2006, 19 points, 11-2, Miles

2011, 22 points, 13-1 SEC Champions, Miles

2005, 25 points, 11-2, Miles

2009,27 points, 11-2, Miles

2016,27 points, 8-4, Miles/Orgeron

1986,29 points, 9-3 SEC Champions, Arnsparger

2013,30 points, 10-3, Miles

1979,36 points, 7-5, McClendon

1985,36 points, 9-2-1, Arnsparger

2004,38 points, 9-3, Saban

1978,39 points, 8-4, McClendon

2001,51 points, 10-3 SEC Champions, Saban

1984,52 points, 8-3-1, Arnsparger

2015,55 points, 9-3, Miles [/table]

Bud Johnson’s book about the 11-0 unit of 1958 is “The Perfect Season.” It is the singular perfect team in the modern era of LSU football, and the closest LSU has come to reaching perfection since then is the 1969 team which had one loss, a 26-23 setback to Ole Miss. That club was four points from perfection.

Ten of the Top 20 teams in the Tiger Rag period were coached by Les Miles. The Hat never had a bad team at LSU.  His worst season was 2008 when an 8-5 team was 74 points from perfection.

These are the five worst teams since the 1978 debut season of Tiger Rag based on closeness to perfection.

[table]

Year, Margin, Record, Coach

1993, 163 points, 5-6, Hallman

1981, 141 points, 3-7-1, Stovall

1999, 136 points, 3-8, DiNardo

1992, 125 points, 2-9, Hallman

1990, 116 points, 5-6, Archer [/table]

Each of these coaches was fired within five years by LSU. The collective records of Hallman, Stovall, DiNardo and Archer is 97-91-4 (51.6 percent) over 17 seasons. The record for the 22 other Tiger Rag seasons is 220-69-3 (76.1 percent).

Surface the negative

LSU is like other schools in its penchant for accenting positive news. On Sept. 24, LSU will observe the 40th anniversary of its 77-0 blow-out of Rice at Tiger Stadium, the most decisive victory in modern time for the Bengals.

At the same time, LSU is unlikely to acknowledge any anniversaries for the Oct. 9, 1993 catastrophe at Death Valley. Steve Spurrier’s Florida team pounded Curley Hallman’s LSU squad 58-3 on that night, LSU’s biggest butt whipping of recent vintage.

To fully appreciate positive records, it is necessary to also examine the negative ones. Hopefully, LSU and other schools will someday list records for most fumbles, most interceptions by a quarterback, lowest completion percentage, lowest field goal percentage and worst defeats.

Administrators at college and professional levels are guilty of ignoring failures. Future baseball Hall of Famer Albert Pujols recently established a MLB record for grounding into double plays. While media trumpet his impressive 610 home runs, we conveniently disregard the alarming 357 double plays the slow-footed Pujols has grounded into during his 17-year Big League career.

Peyton Manning is celebrated for holding the NFL records for most yards and touchdown passes. Rarely is it mentioned that his father, Archie, holds the record for lowest winning percentage by a league quarterback.

In the age of Trump, it is time to provide equal time to negative facts. If people are short, fat, liars or surrender to the enemy in a war, their challenges should be highlighted. This philosophy won the presidential election for the man from Gotham City, and the media should not succumb to fake news to cover up incompetence.

When Bill Arnsparger was hired as head coach in 1983, LSU Board member Charles Cusimano correctly pointed out the coach had posted the worst heading record ever the in NFL. The 7-28 mark by Arnsparger with the New York Giants from 1974 to 1976 established a record of futility of winning just 20 percent of his games. The standard still stands for ineptness for any NFL coach with 35 or more games experience.

“We’re firing a coach (Stovall) who has won 50 percent of his games and hiring a man (Arnsparger) who has won 20-percent of his games,” Cusimano said. “We’re getting lower and lower.”

To his credit, Arnsparger was 26-8-3 (76.5 percent) from 1984-86 at LSU. He improved considerably at TigerTown before defecting to Florida to become the Gators’ athletic director.

The biggest comebacks for LSU football teams are the 40-31 triumph over Troy in 2008 when LSU rallied from a 31-3 deficit at Tiger Stadium and a 28-21 win over Ole Miss in 1977 when the Tigers came back from a 21-0 deficit against the Rebels at Jackson. But there is no book detailing which LSU team holds the record for the biggest blown lead?

President Trump coined a number of pet names for his foes: Lying Ted, Corrupt Hillary, Fat Slob Rosie, Low Energy Jeb, Little Marco.

Here are some Trumpian monikers for LSU opponents. Midget Nick, Gutless Gus, Bret the Blimp, Cheating Chavis, Sullen Mullen.

LSU cheerleaders once exhorted fans to answer “Rice, Rice, Rice” to a question posed on megaphones about bowel movements.

The 45th president has made it fine to once again be politically incorrect in life and in football.

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