Orange Watch: Historical tidbits from the Syracuse-LSU football series

Hall of Fame Bowl

Syracuse and LSU last met in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl at Tampa Stadium, a convincing 23-10 Orange victory to cap a 10-2 season

(Editor’s note: Beginning this month leading up to the 2015 football preview series in late August, Orange Watch will highlight various antidotes related to Syracuse athletics.)

One of the most highly anticipated non-conference games of the upcoming football season’s home schedule is the September 26 visit of Louisiana State to the Dome, a rare northeast trip for the SEC powerhouse, which last played a game in this part of the country against Boston College way back in 1947.

When the Tigers come north this fall, there will be plenty of purple and gold clad supporters on hand, with some 10,000 visiting team tickets expected to be purchased, along with the rental of a nearby university building for the large swath of LSU alumni and fans to conveniently enjoy pre-and-postgame libations.

Despite only two previous games in the all-time series, both bowl games, there were some unforgettable moments both on and off the field surrounding the meetings in the 1965 Sugar Bowl at New Orleans, and the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl (now Outback Bowl) at Tampa.

In the different era of the early 1960s when segregation was still rampant in many southern states, the Sugar Bowl organizing committee was liberated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s November 1964 ruling that the Louisiana statute requiring racial segregation at public entertainment and athletic events was unconstitutional, opening up bowl game invitations for teams nationwide no matter their racial makeup.

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Despite losing three games, including the season finale to West Virginia after receiving a Sugar Bowl invitation, the Orangemen were attractive as the top team in the East led by standout running backs Floyd Little and Jim Nance who had combined for nearly 1,800 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns, or 14 more TDs than LSU had scored as a team, while becoming the first African-American players to face the all-white LSU roster, and the first to appear in the Sugar Bowl game since 1956.

LSU had a name player of its own in wide receiver Doug Moreau, who was also a ground-breaking kicker coming off a 1964 season in which he booted a then-NCAA record 13 field goals, during a period when the kicking game (field goals) was still considered an afterthought. With Syracuse leading 10-2 at halftime in a game that had seen its share of unusual plays, Moreau scored on a 57 yard pass play to open the second half (a two point conversion tied the game 10-10), then drilled the winning 28 yard field goal late in fourth quarter for a 13-10 Tigers victory.

When the two programs met in the Hall of Fame game following the 1988 season, in which the ‘Cuse lost just twice following its magical 1987 undefeated campaign, the university community was still in mourning for the victims of Flight 103. Just 12 days before the game, a Pan American jet on route to New York, including 35 SU students returning home following the fall semester abroad, was destroyed by a terrorist bomb over Scotland killing all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground in the town of Lockerbie.

In tribute to the victims, the Syracuse players wore an oval-shaped black memorial patch on their blue game jerseys with a white-numbered “103,” and took it to the SEC co-champion (with Auburn) Tigers from an opening drive score to pulling away early in the fourth quarter of the 23-10 domination, the Orange’s first bowl win since 1979. The offense had 208 yards on the ground paced by MVP Robert Drummond’s 122 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while the defense had three interceptions.

Afterwards, and perhaps with some sour emotions still emanating from the Sugar Bowl tie against Auburn the year before, the Syracuse players talked about earning respect for Eastern football by the on-field performance against a team from the storied SEC, quashing the cockiness and disrespect of the LSU players with its on-field play.

This season in week four, a big question will be whether SU is 3-0 (Rhode Island, Wake Forest, Western Michigan) for the first time since 1991, before LSU becomes the first SEC Dome visitor since Auburn in 2001.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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