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The 40 best games in LSU football history: Part 1

It’s time to look at the greatest games in LSU history.

LSU football has been around a long time, and in that span, the Tigers have been a part of some great games. This list is part one in a collection of some of the best.

Before we get started, a couple of notes.

  • This list is not in order. It’s just a grouping of the best games. It’s too difficult and, in my opinion, pointless to find a distinction between the 17th and 18th best games.

  • As always, records of modern games are much easier to find than older ones. So, this list will have a bit of recency bias to it, but I’ve tried to avoid it.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right in.

1997 vs. Florida

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Network

We’ll begin with a boom. When LSU beat Florida in 1997, it was the first time the Tigers had ever taken down a No. 1-ranked team.

LSU struck first, but the Gators hung around. Playing in front of a rowdy Tiger Stadium crowd, the defense made some big plays in the final quarter to hold on.

LSU was led by its QB/RB combo of Herb Tyler and Kevin Faulk. The two combined for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Through the air, LSU receiver Abram Booty surpassed the 100-yard mark.

LSU’s defense intercepted Florida’s Doug Johnson four times. Raion Hill had the final interception that sealed the victory for LSU.

1966 Cotton Bowl

Let’s take it back to New Year’s Day 1966. LSU was facing No. 2 Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. LSU hadn’t beaten a ranked team all year, and the odds favored the Razorbacks.

Arkansas, riding a 22-game win streak, jumped out to a 7-0 lead. But that was the only score for the Razorbacks that day. LSU responded and won 14-7, cementing its place in the top 10 of the AP’s final ranking.

The game MVPs were Joe Labruzzo and David McCormick.

2018 vs. Georgia

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

LSU was coming off a loss to Florida and set to host the No. 2 Bulldogs. The Tigers were double-digit underdogs.

But LSU showed up across the board that day. Joe Burrow protected the football, the offensive line cleared holes for the running backs, and the defense made play after play.

LSU stole momentum after stopping a UGA fake early in the game. From that moment on, this was LSU’s day.

The margin of victory was 20 points and followed by a field rush. It was a sign that Ed Orgeron and Burrow had something serious cooking in Baton Rouge.

2002 vs. Kentucky

The Bluegrass Miracle.

This is one of, if not the best, endings in LSU history. Down three with seconds to go, Marcus Randall found Devery Henderson to give LSU the win on the last play of the game.

Henderson had 298 all-purpose yards on the day and contributed receiving, rushing, and on special teams.

LSU was coming off a big loss to Auburn the week prior, but this put Nick Saban’s LSU back in the win column and helped the Tigers reach the Cotton Bowl down the road.

2007 vs. Auburn

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s stick with the theme of final second wins. After trading scores in the first quarter, Auburn jumped out ahead in the second and took a 10-point lead into halftime.

LSU responded with three unanswered scores in the second half but Auburn took back the lead with 3:21 to go. With time winding down, instead of opting for a field goal, LSU took a shot at the end zone.

QB Matt Flynn found WR Demetrius Byrd, and LSU won a top-20 showdown in Death Valley.

2003 vs. Georgia

“He’s got Skyler Green. Touchdown LSU.”

Those words rang out from Verne Lundquist in the CBS booth as LSU QB Matt Mauck found WR Skyler Green to give LSU the lead with under two mins left.

It was September, but this was a game with obvious SEC implications. It pitted the No. 7 Bulldogs against the No. 11 Tigers. Green’s touchdown broke a 10-10 tie and moved LSU to 4-0 on the year. Nick Saban would go on to lead LSU to a national title.

Green’s 78 yards led LSU in receiving that day while Shyrone Casey and Joseph Addai headlined the Tigers’ ground attack.

1961 vs. Ole Miss

This was Paul Dietzel’s final year leading LSU. On Nov. 4, 1961, a No. 2-ranked Ole Miss team came to Death Valley.

LSU already had a win over third-ranked Georgia Tech, and the Tigers sat sixth in the polls.

It was a low-scoring affair as many LSU vs Ole Miss games were in this era. LSU took the lead late thanks to a Jerry Stovall touchdown. It’s a win that ended up propelling LSU to the Orange Bowl, where it beat Colorado.

2004 vs. Oregon State

LSU opened up its 2004 national title defense with Oregon State at home. The Beavers gave Saban’s squad a run for their money.

Oregon State jumped out to a 9-0 lead. The Tigers kept pushing all game, but remained a little bit behind until the fourth quarter, where they tied it at 15 and forced overtime.

LSU struck first in overtime. Oregon State responded and matched LSU’s score, but the Beavers could not convert the extra point. Oregon State missed three extra points on the night, costing them a program defining upset.

This game might be an outlier on this list in the sense that it wasn’t two heavyweights playing their best ball, but given the theatrics and the fact it was LSU’s first game after the national title, it gets a spot.

1982 vs. Alabama

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first of a few LSU-Alabama games making the cut. LSU had lost 11 in a row against the Tide and was led by Tiger legend Stovall.

LSU was led by an elite defense with some of the best defenders in LSU history. The Tigers hadn’t lost yet, entering the contest with a 7-0-1 record. LSU remained unbeaten and won 20-10.

After the game, Stovall said, “You don’t understand how it feels to get hit in the mouth for 11 years. This is going to feel pretty good when it soaks in.”

2008 vs. Troy

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Troy has given LSU some trouble this century. There was the massive upset in 2017, but there was almost one in 2008.

No. 20 LSU was down 28 in the third quarter to an unranked Troy team. The Tigers roared back, scoring 37 unanswered points in the last 20 or so minutes of gameplay.

This is one of, if not the biggest, second-half comeback in LSU history. That makes it an easy choice for this list.

On offense, LSU was led by Brandon LaFell, who caught 12 passes for 126 yards. Charles Scott scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Tigers.

1977 vs Ole Miss

Prior to the Troy game, this was the most impressive second-half comeback in LSU history.

1977 was a bit of a down year for LSU. The highest the Tigers reached in the AP Poll was 16th. This was an era where Charlie McClendon often had LSU top 10.

Ole Miss jumped out to a 21-0 lead, but a Tiger offense led by QB Steve Ensminger and RB Charles Alexander would not go quietly.

LSU stormed back and in the final minutes, Ensminer scampered into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown on the day.

LSU would get blown out by Alabama the next week and the season ended with a Sun Bowl loss.

1979 vs. Ole Miss

Two years later, Steve Ensminger and LSU found themselves in another thriller with Ole Miss.

And once again, LSU needed some late-game heroics. A big punt return from Tracy Porter put LSU in a position to take the lead. Near the goal line, Porter took a pitch and found the end zone, finishing the drive and putting LSU in front.

Ole Miss mounted a drive in the final minutes, but LSU DB Willie Teal intercepted a pass and sealed the victory for LSU.

Again, LSU didn’t reach the heights it hoped for and finished 7-5.

2018 vs. Texas A&M

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This is one of just a few losses on this list, but given the sheer magnitude of its place in recent LSU history, it had to be here.

LSU was looking to cap off a 2018 regular season with another win over an SEC rival. It looked to be headed that way until A&M forced overtime late in the game.

What ensued was an epic back-and-forth that lasted seven overtimes. LSU came up short and fell to 9-3, but LSU wouldn’t lose again until 2020.

What’s most memorable is Burrow’s effort. He threw for 270 yards, ran for 100 more, and totaled six touchdowns. The final score was a whopping 74-72.

2020 vs. Florida

Syndication: Gainesville Sun

In the grand scheme of things, this game meant very little. Despite LSU’s win, it didn’t turn things around for Orgeron, and many of the players that emerged this night didn’t exactly pan out.

But it was the lone bright spot in a season that had very few. LSU had everything going against it but pulled out a tough win on the road.

It was headlined by Florida DB Marco Wilson throwing a shoe and keeping a pivotal drive alive for LSU. Kicker Cade York nailed a field goal late to give LSU the lead.

True freshman QB Max Johnson, if only for a moment, looked to be the future of LSU.

2019 vs. Texas

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll conclude part one with an early 2019 thriller.

College GameDay was on the scene for LSU vs. Texas. The sport was coming around to the idea that Joe Burrow’s LSU might be a legit contender, but on this night, the Tigers cemented themselves as national title threats.

Burrow was flawless. He completed 79.5% of his passes for 471 yards and four touchdowns.

Late in the game, LSU needed a critical conversion on 3rd and 17. Burrow stepped up in the pocket to find WR Justin Jefferson for a touchdown. That play, as much as any, was Burrow’s Heisman moment.

Texas turned out to not be as good as everyone thought, but LSU took center stage in college football that night and didn’t let up the rest of the way.

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Story originally appeared on LSU Tigers Wire