In the history of the rivalry, highly-ranked LSU teams have had a way of ruining Ole Miss’ night.
Perhaps the most memorable case came in 1959 when eventual Heisman Trophy winner Bill Cannon returned a late punt for a touchdown in a top-3 matchup to beat the Rebels, 7-3. In 2003, a missed field goal was the difference as the eventual national champion Tigers handed Ole Miss its lone SEC loss.
Arguably the most controversial case, however, came on this day 50 years ago. On a play that many — particularly those from Oxford — don’t believe should have happened, Bert Jones found Brad Davis on the game’s final play as the undefeated Tigers topped Ole Miss, 17-16.
Setting the Stage
LSU was a perfect 6-0, ranked No. 6 and coming off a bye week as it arrived at Tiger Stadium on Nov. 4, 1972. Ole Miss had gotten the better of LSU in recent years. The Rebels pulled out a 24-22 win the year before and were 5-1-1 in the previous seven meetings.
At 4-3, the Rebels had just ended a 3-game losing streak with a drubbing of Vanderbilt. Under second-year head coach Billy Kinard, Ole Miss was a play away from getting its first win of the season over a ranked team.
LSU Scores a Controversial Win
Jones, the LSU quarterback, scored early for the Tigers, but LSU had done little else throughout the night. Norris Weese’s touchdown run gave Ole Miss a 13-10 lead in the third quarter before Steve Lavinghouze’s third field goal of the night pushed the advantage to six in the fourth.
With 3:02 remaining and LSU at its own 20-yard-line, Jones went to work. During a methodical march, the Tigers used 13 plays and converted two fourth downs.
With four seconds left and the Tigers on the Ole Miss 10-yard-line, there was time for one last play — or so it seemed. On what many thought would be the final snap, Jones faked a handoff and hesitated before firing one that was ultimately knocked away by Ole Miss’ Mickey Fratesi.
There was only one problem.
Somehow, one second remained.
With the help of a hometown scoreboard operator, the Tigers still had life. They took advantage.
On the game’s final play, Jones fired for the pylon. Davis reached up. Although he didn’t catch it cleanly, he did catch it.
With no time left, the grab was ruled a touchdown. On the game’s last snap, Rusty Jackson made the extra point to keep the Tigers unblemished.
In 1972, undefeated @LSUFootball was down 16-10 against Ole Miss with :01 left on the clock.
One second was all Bert Jones needed.
📺: Saturdays in the South Part 4 pic.twitter.com/tmRbsdBsFg
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 25, 2019
The loss would cost Ole Miss a winning season. The Rebels were shut out by Tennessee the following week, but routed Mississippi State to close the year at 5-5.
As for LSU, its reign as an unbeaten would last just one more week. Following the 7-0 start, the Tigers finished 2-2-1 over their final five games. With a 9-2-1 final record and loss to Tennessee in the Bluebonnet Bowl, the Tigers finished No. 11 in the final AP Poll.
The controversial victory would turn the tide in the rivalry. LSU would win three straight and go 9-1-1 in its next 11 contests against the Rebels. That stretch began with a controversial win that came on this day a half-century ago.
Featured image courtesy of LSU athletics
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.