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Thriller on the Bayou: Reliving 1979 Clash Between LSU, USC

Nov 24, 1979; Los Angeles, CA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Southern California Trojans head coach John Robinson on the sidelines against the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
© Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 Vegas Kickoff Classic featuring the LSU Tigers and USC Trojans announced Tuesday the game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. EST on Sept. 1 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

The Tigers and Trojans have met twice in their history, with each winning one game each. LSU beat USC 23-3 in 1984, and the Trojans defeated the Tigers 17-12 in 1979 in a thriller on the Bayou.

You can read the story of that classic LSU vs. USC 1979 game below.

No. 1 USC vs. LSU, 1979

Sept. 29, 1979, Baton Rouge, Louisiana—It is a date that will live on in LSU football lore. The No. 1 college football team in the land, the USC Trojans, traveled to the bayou capital of Louisiana to take on a determined band of the state’s beloved sons, the LSU Tigers.

When USC arrived on campus the night before for a practice session, they were, for all intents and purposes, held hostage on their own team bus by a few thousand rabid LSU students. For several minutes, the USC coaches and players could not exit the bus. Eventually, they were allowed off the bus among the throngs of students shouting “Tiger Bait!" in the face of the enemy.

On game day, as the Trojans entered the south Louisiana version of the Colosseum to do battle, the invading "Men of Troy" were greeted by more than 78,000 purple and gold-clad Tiger faithful, cheering loud and proud for LSU.

Loud enough that it would affect the calling of signals from Trojan’s QB Paul McDonald all night long. LSU entered the game as an 11-point underdog, at home. As the game kicked off, the Tigers showed immediately that they were no underdogs and played like they were the No. 1 team.

For 45 grueling minutes, the Trojans suffered in the stifling heat and humidity that only the deep South can provide. And, it appeared that the Trojan’s Achilles heel was finding the end zone.

The Bayou Bengals held a 12-3 lead going into the fourth quarter. “Cholly Mac” and the Tigers had the Trojans on the ropes, ready for the knockout punch. But there was no rope-a-dope to come. No haymakers from way back. The Trojans came out of their corner for one more round.

USC scored two fourth quarter touchdowns, including what would be the game-winning TD pass from McDonald to WR Kevin Williams. Running back Charles White carried 31 times for 185 yards and would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that December.

Nov 24, 1979; Los Angeles, CA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Southern California wide reciver Kevin Williams (12) carries the ball against the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
© Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports

LSU mounted one final assault against the Trojans in the final seconds. From the USC 30-yard line, LSU QB Steve Ensminger fired a pass toward the end zone to Willie Turner, but he could not make the catch. Then, another pass to WR Carlos Carson in the end zone was broken up as time expired.

With a final score of 17-12, the Trojans snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and marched out of Death Valley the victors, but were bloodied and bewildered at the battle they just survived.

The close loss to the No. 1 team in the nation affected the psyche of the Tigers as they suffered, more close losses to Georgia (21-14), Florida State (24-19) and Tulane (24-13) later in the season.

The Trojans had a star-studded roster, full of future NFL first-round draft picks and future Hall of Famers. Led by a backfield consisting of White and Marcus Allen, running behind an offensive line I will call the “Great Wall of Troy” that featured Anthony Munoz, Don Mosebar, Keith Van Horne, Brad Budde, Roy Foster and Bruce Matthews.

Safety Ronnie Lott, safety Dennis Smith, LB Chip Banks and safety Joey Browner were the other talented players on this roster of NFL rookies. And of these talented players, Allen, Lott, Matthews and Munoz would go on to be enshrined in Canton. A total of 33 players from the 1979 Trojan roster were drafted by NFL teams over five seasons.

This game was one for the ages and is remembered and talked about often. Heading off the field in defeat, the Tigers of LSU received adulation and gratitude from a grateful fan base for a game well played. And, the Trojans of USC wandered out of the Valley of Death where, for three quarters of the game, they had feared evil. USC knew they had been in a fight and later spoke of that game and of LSU with great respect.




1 comentario

15 may

Great article!

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