By GLENN GUILBEAU | Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
BATON ROUGE – I remember when I was a kid, my dad and I used to hate Paul “Bear” Bryant.
My first ever college football game in person was on Nov. 8, 1969, in Tiger Stadium. I was 8. Dad was 51. We sat on the East side and I remember seeing the Houndstooth hat. Bear was 56. LSU led 20-9 in the fourth quarter and held on for a 20-15 win. LSU coach Charles McClendon, 46, had lost his first five to Bear, but he became the first Bryant pupil to beat him in a regular season game on this night. Then he beat him again the next year, 14-9, in Birmingham, Alabama, with dad and I listening in Metairie to WWL Radio in New Orleans.
Nothing to it.
Then dad and I proceeded to pay for those victories for seemingly the rest of time. Alabama went on to post an unbelievable 14-0-1 mark against LSU in Tiger Stadium from 1971 through 1998 behind Bear, Ray Perkins, Bill Curry, Gene Stallings and even Mike DuBose.
And from 1971 through 1981, Bear beat LSU every time – home and away – 11 straight times, from the time I was 10 until I was 20.
After that many losses along with some maturity, the hate of Bear begrudgingly became a respect of him and a realization that he must be pretty good because he’s beating everyone else, too, as he won national championships on the field in 1978 and 1979. (He was given a national championship in 1973 despite a 24-23 loss to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl that featured myself and my dad – a Notre Dame hater – pulling for Notre Dame.) By ’78 and ’79, my dad and I didn’t mind seeing Alabama win the title because at least they were victories for the Southeastern Conference over Penn State and Arkansas, respectively.
Such is starting to be the case with present Alabama coach Nick Saban, who is basically Bear II without the hat, the Chesterfields and the Old Forester bourbon … and with more national championships in a shorter span.
And former LSU coach Les Miles was, in many ways, was Charles McClendon – very good for a good while, but – like other successful SEC coaches – not quite as good as the Alabama coach, though Miles did win a national title and would have had two if he didn’t have to meet Nick the Nemesis again.
After 11 straight losses, the hate of Bear diminished somewhat. And that’s what six straight losses to Alabama is doing to LSU people now. It’s exhausting to hate that long. As the losses have mounted, the love for Les and hate of Nick has gradually dissipated. At some point, you realize the inevitable. With the 10-0 loss to Alabama Saturday despite LSU’s “new” offense, the Tigers are now more than halfway to that 0-for-11 of the 1970s and ‘80s. If you’re keeping score, the loss on Saturday was 1976, which would mean the next win will not be until 2022 in Baton Rouge. Get your tickets now.
McClendon lost seven straight to Bryant before being fired for basically not being able to beat the Bear, though he was given one lame duck season in 1979, and lost for an eighth straight time at home – 3-0. Finally, third-year coach Jerry Stovall ended the hex with a 20-10 win in Birmingham, Alabama, on Nov. 6, 1982. Then the uncanny 0-14-1 drought in Tiger Stadium, which kept growing despite five wins at Alabama, finally ceased on Nov. 4, 2000.
LSU proceeded to dominate Alabama in this century with nine wins in 12 games through the 9-6 overtime win on Nov. 5, 2011.
Now it’s the 1970s all over again, as LSU may have another lame duck head coach at the moment.
GUILBEAU POLL: 1. Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC). 2. Auburn (7-2, 5-1). 3. LSU (5-3, 3-2). 4. Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2). 5. Arkansas (6-3, 2-3). 6. Florida (6-2, 4-2). 7. Mississippi State (4-5, 2-3). 8. Ole Miss (4-5, 1-4). 9. Georgia (5-4, 3-4). 10. Kentucky (5-4, 4-3). 11. South Carolina (5-4, 3-4). 12. Tennessee (6-3, 2-3). 13. Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-4). 14. Missouri (2-7, 0-5).
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
[su_quote]“Our guys did it last year, and we played a lot of the same stuff we played a year ago.”[/su_quote]
—Alabama coach Nick Saban on stopping LSU tailback Leonard Fournette, who had 35 yards on 17 carries in LSU’s “new” offense this year after gaining 31 on 19 carries last year.