Louisiana State University

1947 -1955  Tigers
(Authentic Reproduction)



In an era where politics provided major national news in the State of Louisiana on an almost daily basis, one could look to Senator Huey Long as the source. The flamboyant and dictatorial Long was also an ardent LSU fan, frequently choosing to lead the University band in its public appearances, and at times, choosing to take over the coaching reins of the football team in a less than subtle manner. Long hand-picked Lawrence “Biff” Jones, previously successful at West Point, to lead the Tiger squad in 1932 and vowed to continue his appearances with the band but avoid open conflict with the head football coach. Jones was very effective, posting three winning seasons, one at 7-0-3, and an aggregate mark of 20-5-6. In a confrontation with Long on the sidelines and in the locker room during the Tigers’ final game of 1934 against Oregon, Jones resigned. In truth, it was a public firing by the Senator. Jones went on to a successful career at Oklahoma and Nebraska, one that earned him membership into the College Football Hall Of Fame. LSU’s track and field coach Bernie Moore was then chosen by Long to lead the program. Moore had served as a terrific scout for the football staff and had won the National Track And Field Championship in 1933 and with his twelve SEC T&F titles eventually earned the honor of having the track facility at LSU named for him. From 1935 through the 1947 season, Moore brought LSU to two SEC football championships, five bowl games when there were few to choose from, and developed many excellent players. Ken Cavanaugh, Gaynell Tinsley, and Steve Van Buren were among his best. One who might have been his best ever was Alvin Dark, a sophomore running back in 1942 who entered the Marines and then pursued Major League Baseball where he starred as a player and manager for many years. Moore’s 1946 squad was considered one of his strongest, going 9-1-1 and playing Arkansas to a 0-0 standoff in a snow-covered Cotton Bowl. Entering 1947, there was optimism with many players returning from the ’46 roster, the return of WW II veterans, and the introduction of a new Riddell plastic RT helmet. The new headgear featured a purple one-inch center stripe on an old gold shell that was the envy of many other teams.  Even with quarterback Y.A. Tittle completing his great collegiate career and teaming with backfield mates Zoli “Tugboat” Toth and Ray Coates who had a brief stint with the Giants, the Tigers were stymied by Georgia, Ole Miss, and Alabama. Against Ole Miss, Tittle intercepted a pass by Rebel QB Charley Conerly at the LSU fifteen yard line and the receiver turned to tackle Y.A., grabbed him by the belt, and snapped it. Never a speed demon, Tittle ran toward the Ole Miss goal while tugging at his pants so that they wouldn’t fall to his knees and he was tackled at the Tiger thirty-eight. The myth has grown that Tittle dashed down the sideline semi-naked, pants at his knees, but the truth was not that dramatic. The final 5-3-1 tally was disappointing for everyone, but Moore was prepared to bring his team back strongly in 1948 until offered the position as Commissioner Of The SEC on February 21, 1948. He accepted despite taking a cut in pay and the hunt was on for a new coach, something rather unexpected as Moore’s thirteen years as head man was the longest in LSU’s history up to that point.




The name alone made him noticeable and Yelberton Abraham Tittle from Marshall, TX was a premiere player. Completing fifteen of seventeen pass attempts against Tulane in his 1944 freshman season at LSU, Tittle began to earn the reputation as a QB with a great arm. He led the squad to a 7-2 record in 1945 and a number eight national ranking in ’46 with a nine-win season. Though his statistics were modest by today’s standards, Tittle was known for his gifted passing ability and set numerous school records. In his career, he completed 166 passes for 2517 yards and twenty-one touchdowns. As the number-one draft choice of the 1948 AAFC Baltimore Colts who joined the NFL in 1950, Tittle’s arm again gained immediate notice and when the Colts franchise closed down, Y.A. joined the San Francisco Forty Niners. He was as a young QB, at first forced to share playing time with established great Frankie Albert and later as an aging gunslinger, forced to do the same with young and emerging John Brodie, even when he was named the NFL MVP for 1957. Seemingly at the end of the line and traded to the Giants for the 1961 season, few would have predicted his record breaking performances and two more NFL MVP Awards for 1962 and ’63. He threw seven TD passes against the Redskins in 1962 and set a then-NFL record of thirty-six TD passes during the 1963 season when he led the Giants to the championship game for the third consecutive time. Tittle completed his Pro Football Hall Of Fame career with 33070 passing yards and 242 touchdowns! Six Pro Bowls and three MVP awards established him as a great and he remains thusly honored at LSU and within the NFL.


With Bernie Moore preparing to leave for the administrative offices of the Southeastern Conference, speculation ran rampant regarding the next LSU head coach with the names of some of the nation’s top men tossed about as if the contracts were already signed. A front-runner was Bob Woodruff of Baylor and he became the favorite choice but Baylor would not allow him to get out of his contract. There was pressure from some quarters to hire an alumnus of LSU which turned the search towards names that were not as highly respected. The choice made on March 10, 1948 was Gaynell “Gus” Tinsley, a former Tiger All American end who had then enjoyed three pro seasons with the Chicago Cardinals, two of them All Pro years which earned him a spot on the NFL’s 1930’s Team Of The Decade. With a penchant for turning short passes into long gains, he caught a pass for a ninety-seven yard advance in 1937 and took another for ninety-eight in ’38. He coached at the high school level and was an assistant at LSU under Bernie Moore before entering the U.S. Navy. He returned to high school coaching, a second tour as an LSU assistant, tutoring the ends while Y.A. Tittle was the Tiger QB, and was as surprised as most fans when he was appointed the new Tigers mentor. He planned to continue using Moore’s T-Formation in 1948 but faced a rebuilding job as LSU approached its toughest schedule in years. Doing little to change Moore’s established offensive attack, QB Charley Pevey was placed under center and proved to be dependable but the offense could score but ninety-nine points while yielding a record 271, a record that unfortunately stood for some time thus explaining the tumble to 3-7.  With a staff shake-up, ’49 became a miracle turnaround although the 19-0 loss to Bear Bryant’s Kentucky squad in the opener would not have predicted that. The 8-2 record was sparked by DT Ray Collins who played with San Francisco, the N.Y. Giants, and then in the inaugural two seasons of the AFL with the Dallas Texans. Other standouts included QB Pevey who later became an LSU assistant coach, and backs Ken Konz, Billy Baggett, and Zollie Toth who played for the N.Y. football Yankees, Dallas, and Baltimore. One of the highlights was a home win over North Carolina, winner of twenty straight games, controversial because the Tarheels claimed that LSU had soaked the field to slow down their great back Charlie Justice. LSU’s reward for their fine season was the national notation as “The First Unofficial Dixie Champion” having defeated the winners of the three major southern and southwestern conferences and a Sugar Bowl berth against Bud Wilkinson’s great number two ranked Oklahoma team. Even with the 35-0 whipping by OU, the Tigers’ season was an unexpected success.



If interested in this signed Y.A. Title helmet please click here


1950 showed the inconsistency that marked the Tinsley years as the Tigers dropped to 4-5-2 despite a good defense that got a boost from BC transfer George “The Terrible” Tarasovic of Connecticut. With Tarasovic at DE the Tigers could hold opponents reasonably well but remained unsettled at QB all season. Konz and Baggett provided the backfield play with Konz especially good on defense. After two years in the Air Force, he played with the Browns as a three-time Pro Bowl performer until 1959 while Baggett was the Rams round one pick and then went to Dallas. Continuing Tinsley’s roller-coaster ride of inconsistency, the Tigers surprised everyone in 1951 by improving to 7-3-1 with freshman DT Sid Fournet and Tarasovic, an All American, the big stoppers. Tarasovic had a lengthy pro career as a DE and LB as part of the rugged Steelers from ’52 through the half-way point of the 1963 season and then went to the Eagles where he finished that year, and played another two. He played in 1966 with the Broncos before calling it quits. When fans saw the Tigers take the field in 1952, many did double-takes upon viewing the new uniforms. A letter-number system was used, with ends wearing E, tackles T, and guards G. The letter designations were followed by a numeral from one to nine with the right side of the line wearing even numbers and the left odd. Centers, which often included linebackers, wore C, quarterbacks Q, left and right halfbacks L and R respectively, and fullbacks with the expected F and these letters were also followed by the numerals one through nine. Seeing right halfback Al Doggett streaking into the open wearing number R3 was unusual and confusing. After the noted improvement between the 1950 and ’51 records, dismay followed in 1952 with what had become Tinsley’s usual inconsistent results and the team fell to 3-7. Left HB Jerry Marchand transferred in from Notre Dame and joined FB Leroy Labat and Doggett in the backfield and they helped to provide the few bright spots for the season with consecutive wins against Rice and Kentucky, thus saving the season from utter disaster.


Soph end Joe Tuminello and big Sid Fournet who was a second team All American and All SEC choice at tackle received help from freshman FB and kicker Tommy Davis that helped the team win games they were predicted to lose but they also lost when expected to win. The resultant 5-3-3 slate for 1953 was another disappointment though tough Marchand earned respect by playing the entire Georgia game with a fractured jaw and broken teeth and RB Charles Oakley performed well enough to land on the Bears roster for ‘54. Attendance at Baton Rouge took a beating in 1954 as the Tigers floated through a 5-6 season though Fournet made All American and then played for the Rams and Steelers in the NFL, then Dallas and the New York Titans and Jets, in the AFL. LSU supporters had decided change was necessary and in conjunction with changes in the State Legislature, both AD Red Heard and Tinsley were gone as of February 5, 1955.



The screening committee began with a list of head coaching candidates that included Navy assistant Ben Martin who would later become the head coach at the Air Force Academy, and Perry Moss, the well-traveled coach who had been an LSU assistant and was currently serving at Miami. Highly recommended was former Little All American center at Miami in Ohio, Paul Dietzel. He had played on an undefeated Mansfield (OH) H.S. squad and then started his college career at Duke but departed the Durham campus to become a B-29 pilot during the War. Upon his return he enrolled at Miami and starred for their head coach Sid Gillman. When Gillman became an assistant at Army under legendary Red Blaik, he convinced Dietzel who had plans to attend Columbia Medical College in New York, to join him at West Point as the Plebe coach. From there Dietzel again followed Gillman when he took the head coaching position at Cincinnati. He enhanced his resume by joining the Kentucky staff of Bear Bryant for two years, and then returned to West Point under Blaik to be line coach. On February 15, 1955, he became LSU’s head coach at the age of twenty-nine. He retained all but one of Tinsley’s staff and replaced him with a significant hire, bringing Ohio high school coach Bill Peterson on board. Peterson would later be successful as the pass-happy innovative head coach at Florida State, Rice, and the Houston Oilers. Another less hyped event was the hiring of new Athletic Director Jim Corbett, a man who would later be recognized as putting Tiger football into the national consciousness with his dedication, zeal, and ability to raise the money necessary to continually renovate the LSU facilities that in 1955 were among the worst in the country. Utilizing the Army-T System Dietzel ran his squad of seventy-four spring ball candidates down to forty-three by the opening game of the 1955 season against Kentucky. In a major upset, Kentucky was defeated 19-7 but the bubble burst the next week against Bear Bryant’s resurgent Texas A&M squad and the season was an up and down ride to 3-5-2. The most significant factor in judging the success of the Dietzel-Corbett inaugural season was a huge increase in home attendance and this garnered a contract extension for Dietzel. Again, Tuminello starred as an All SEC choice as did tackle Earl Leggett.

If interested in any of these LSU helmets please click on the photos below.