Louisiana State University

1965 - 1971  Tigers  "Tommy Casanova"
(Authentic Reproduction)




A slight change in the helmet design greeted fans and players in 1965 as the three-inch black player numerals on each side of the Green Bay gold helmet with the identifiable white and purple  “LSU striping” was changed to a thick full block style of number. A quick start behind the running of sophs QB Nelson Stokely and HB Jim Dousay led to a 5-1 record that crashed against Ole Miss the same time Stokely’s knee did. Oft-injured senior Pat Screen came back but consecutive losses to Mississippi and Alabama had the Tigers at 5-3 despite the fine play of HB Labruzzo, the resurrected Danny LeBlanc, and FB Schwab who later became a successful high school coach and served as the offensive coordinator at Nichols State. The team bounced back to win out and AD Corbett talked the Tigers’ way into what appeared to be a lamb-led-to-the-slaughter Cotton Bowl date with 1964’s National Champion Arkansas, now second-ranked and the winner of twenty-two straight games. The change in substitution rules allowed for the development of more one-way players and All American DT George Rice who played well for the Oilers, DE John Garlington, and converted QB-to-DB Billy Ezell anchored a good defense. Billy Masters was moved to “strongback” in a Wing-T variation of the Bengals I-Formation and flanker Moreau, son of the LSU track coach, became an All American based on his receiving and clutch kicking. With the O-line stabilized by All Conference Dave McCormick, a future Forty Niner and Saint, what should have been the biggest mismatch of the season against Arkansas resulted in one of the decade’s greatest upsets as LSU prevailed 14-7, knocking the Razorbacks into the three-spot in the final polls, and finishing their own season at 8-3. QB Screen later was elected Mayor of Baton Rouge. The ‘66 season began with a win over former Tiger coach Paul Dietzel who had left Army for the South Carolina head football coach and AD job. However, close observers knew that there was a great deal of rebuilding to be done and when QB Stokely again went down with an injury, this time against Rice in the second game of the season, his separated shoulder sent the offense into a tailspin. With back-ups Freddie Haynes and Trey Prather, the only LSU player to die as a result of combat in Viet Nam at the controls, the Tigers had a three-game losing streak where they scored but seven total points. Flashy TB Jim Dousay led the rushers with 441 yards but Tommy “Trigger” Allen became a featured ball carrier. Sam Grezaffi’s returns and the reliable receiving of All SEC flanker Moreau and strongback Masters kept the Bengals in a few games. LB Tommy Fussell and DE John Garlington were outstanding as was tackle John Demarie. The 5-4-1 record was part of the rebuilding process but with Masters later playing TE for the Bills, Broncos, and Chiefs from 1967 through 1976, Moreau playing end and kicking for the Dolphins, Demarie becoming a mainstay on the Browns offensive line from ’67 to 1975 and completing his ten-year NFL career in Seattle, and DE Tommy Fussell with the Patriots, some felt that there was more talent than the record showed. Moreau remained in the public spotlight after becoming the District Attorney of East Baton Rouge Parish.      


As Coach McClendon switched to a Split-Back offense, little was expected for 1967 as QB Stokely, having overcome knee and shoulder injuries over his first two varsity seasons, went down with another knee injury during spring ball. When sterling LB George Bevan went out with a ruptured Achilles tendon in game one, it looked terrible for the Tigers but a total of six points kept them from an undefeated season as the offense averaged 360 yards and twenty-four points per game. Stokely, with Haynes in relief, held together for the 1967 season to finish with a school record 1238 yards in total offense and later was head coach at what has been renamed Louisiana Lafayette. His son Brandon starred with the Super Bowl Colts as a fine receiver. Soph FB Eddie Ray was a powerhouse and led the SEC in punting while a bevy of backs led by Trigger Allen, Glenn Smith, and Dousay were formidable. Dousay, one of the strongest Tiger backs of all time, made it to camp with the Oilers and later served in the administration of the State Of Louisiana government. Tommy Morel led the receivers with twenty-eight receptions and future college assistant Barry Wilson provided leadership in the line from his center position. The 630 yard, thirty-four first downs, 55-0 outburst against Mississippi State earned the Bengals the Sugar Bowl berth against the Jim Kiick-led, sixth ranked Wyoming, the only undefeated and untied team in the nation. While TB Smith was the Bowl MVP in a mud bath won by LSU 20-13, All American DE John Garlington who later starred for the Browns at LB from ’66 through 1977 was the defensive leader for the surprise team that finished ’67 at 7-3-1.  With 160 pound QB Fred Haynes splitting time with Mike Hillman, there was a bit more offense in 1968 than expected. A mid-season 27-24 loss to Ole Miss and Archie Manning’s heroics resulted in 458 total yards for the Rebels and a matching 454 for the Tigers. They followed with a 16-7 loss at Alabama but remained in bowl contention as receiver Tommy Morel set six LSU records, teamed with the running and catching of Maurice LeBlanc and inside power of FB Ray. Center Godfrey Zaunbrecher was the leader up front while the linebacking was sparked by the return of Bevan and emergence of soph Mike Anderson. Kicker Mark Lumpkin, a former High School All American QB and discus thrower kept the Bengals in a number of games and McClendon found himself facing off against Florida State and their head coach Bill Peterson in the inaugural Peach Bowl. The pressure was on as Peterson, who served as an assistant for Dietzel at the same time McClendon did, seemed to be mentioned as a possible replacement whenever LSU faltered in a big game and he had a nation-wide reputation as an offensive genius due to his passing game innovations. Making the match-up more intriguing was the departure of LSU secondary coach Bill Beall prior to the bowl game to become Baylor’s head man, leaving McClendon to announce that he would personally prepare the Tiger secondary for the heralded Seminole passing attack. Holding FSU star Ron Sellers in check for much of the game, LSU prevailed 30-27 to complete an 8-3 season and Coach Mac proved how good he truly was.


In an interesting twist of a phrase, the pre-season experts said that “LSU isn’t going anywhere in 1969” and in the very end, they were correct. The season was a wonderful surprise that left Coach McClendon as the only former Bear Bryant player to defeat the master in a regular season game and only a 26-23 loss to Archie Manning and Ole Miss ruined what would have been an otherwise perfect season. The 9-1 squad was inspired by George Bevan who exceeded his sophomore performance in 1966. Although he played in ‘68 after Achilles tendon surgery repaired the damage suffered in the ’67 opener, it was his return to full power in 1969, teamed with fellow LB Mike Anderson, that kept the defense and entire team humming all season, as evidenced by the Bengals number one ranking against the rush. They gave up only thirty-eight yards on the ground each game! A deserving All American, the effects of Bevan’s injury prevented a pro career but he was the heart of this great defense. FB Ray was All Conference and went on to a solid pro career as a TE and FB, one of the first so-called “H-Backs”. Kicker Lumpkin was the All Conference choice at his specialty and sophs WR Andy Hamilton and DB Tommy Casanova who earned All American mention played very tough. Planning on facing the winner of “The Game Of The Century” between Texas and Arkansas, perhaps for the national title in the Cotton Bowl, the Tigers were squeezed out by the political maneuvering that lifted the self-imposed bowl ban by Notre Dame who, though ranked lower, were chosen instead to play Texas. Thus, the Tigers’ top ten squad remained home for the holidays with one of the best teams they had ever assembled.


The death of soph QB Herman “Butch” Duhe because of a brain hemorrhage during September practice cast a pall over the entire 1970 season. With the only loss coming to Texas A&M in the opening game, the Tigers headed into the season’s ninth game against Notre Dame with a hatred that was in part due to the Irish decision to take the Cotton Bowl bid the season before, one that the Tigers saw as rightfully theirs. Success was built upon defense, a unit ranked number one against the rush, third against scoring and ninth overall by the end of the year. LB Anderson stood out as an All American and his game-saving tackle against Auburn ranks as one of the best in LSU history. Like Bevan the year before, his multiple injuries prevented a pro career but he opened what has become one of the most popular seafood restaurants in Louisiana. All SEC DT’s John Sage and Ronnie Estay and a great secondary led by All American Casanova and Craig Burns who set an LSU interception record before playing Major League Baseball with the Cardinals, were the underpinnings of this fine squad. The offense was powerful behind center Zaunbrecher who was a Viking for three seasons, with senior QB Buddy Lee giving way to soph Bert Jones who gleefully played catch with his cousin, WR Hamilton. TB Art Cantrelle, another All Conference choice, and Chris Dantin supplied the ground power, with Casanova lending spot duty carrying the football. With kicker Lumpkin always dangerous, the heavily favored Notre Dame squad found itself in a battle it almost didn’t survive, squeaking out a 3-0 victory on a disputed pass interference call. As one Chicago sportswriter noted, “If Notre Dame is Number One, LSU is Number One-A!”  Facing third-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, upsets made this game the national title match-up for the Cornhuskers who leaped into the National Champion’s throne after the 17-12 conquest of the Tigers. The number seven LSU team won the SEC title and Coach Mac was the Coach Of The Year.


In 1971 another terrific 9-3 season noted losses to eventual number three ranked Colorado and close misses against SEC rivals Ole Miss and Alabama. However, with the help of LB Warren Capone’s two interceptions and another from Casanova who played at an All American level all season despite missing some time with a severe hamstring injury, they exacted revenge against Notre Dame 28-8 in a classic played in Baton Rouge. DT Tyler Lafauci assured his place in Tiger lore with his fourth down goal line stop of Irish FB Andy Huff, one of four successful fourth-down stands by LSU. The defense was excellent all season with DT Estay an All American and he later earned his way into the CFL Hall Of Fame after leading Edmonton to five Grey Cups. After spending 1983 with the USFL Federals, Estay became a long-time coach north of the border. Jones continued to display skill at QB, hooking up with All SEC choice Hamilton who played with the Chiefs and Saints. TB Cantrelle completed a fine career, spent a year in the CFL and then starred for Birmingham in the WFL. DB Casanova remained the star of the team, winning All American honors for the third season and eventual entry to The College Football Hall Of Fame. To top off a fine season, LSU gave Coach McClendon a generous contract extension in order to head off the possibility of his move to Texas A&M. The season ended on a high note as the Tigers defeated Iowa State 33-15 in the Sun Bowl.  





Talented enough to play almost any position on the field, Tommy Casanova combined intelligence, sprinter’s speed, and football toughness into an unbeatable package and he was proclaimed by Sports Illustrated as the “Best Player In The Nation” on the cover of its 1971 College Football special edition. There were few arguments as Casanova proved to be so good that his coaches had him playing offense and defense long after the age of specialization had started, and he proved to be among the best return men in the game. Pursued by but three colleges upon finishing his career at Notre Dame H.S. in Crowley, LA, he was a blanketing defender who turned a number of games around and was LSU’s only three-time All American, overcoming a severe hamstring injury to retain that honor during one of his outstanding seasons. The first-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals, his professional career lasted from 1972 through 1977 and included four Pro Bowls. He made the choice to pursue arduous medical school studies at the University Of Cincinnati Medical College while playing pro football and though he could have continued to play at the highest level with the Bengals, instead retired while still at the peak of his abilities in order to become an ophthalmologist. Later elected as a State Senator from Louisiana, Casanova was also elected to the College Football Hall Of Fame and the Walter Camp All Century Team

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