26th Annual Sugar Bowl Classic ~ January 1, 1960
#2 Ole Miss 21 (Final: 10-1-0)
#3 LSU 0 (Final: 9-2-0)
After LSU shocked Ole Miss on Halloween Night behind star Billy Cannon’s fourth-quarter super-human 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, the Ole Miss faithful had an outstanding opportunity for revenge – the Rebels and the Tigers would rematch in the 1960 Sugar Bowl.
How They Got Here
The game, of course, would be televised, the first bowl to be telecast in color from coast-to-coast, but tickets were being swapped for used cars and refrigerator repairs. Four tickets went for a 14-foot fiberglass boat; 60 tickets went for a 1952 Cadillac and 4 new tires. The sizzle of the rematch had fans steaming. It was estimated the Sugar Bowl had over a quarter of a million requests for tickets.
Ole Miss had given up only 21 points the entire season, the lowest for a major college in 20 years – since the 1939 Tennessee Vols went undefeated, untied and unscored upon. LSU gave up only 29 points. The rivals were ranked one-two nationally on defense. LSU allowed an average of 2.5 yards per play to the opposition; Ole Miss gave up an average of 2.8 yards.
Before the rematch, an Ole Miss fan said unsmilingly to a newsman, “We’d rather beat LSU than be president.”
Coach Johnny Vaught gave his constituency a victory in a landslide. Vaught, criticized for his conservative approach in the 7-3 regular season Tiger win, gave the Rebels the green light to “go for broke.” He wasn’t going to hold anything back.
Warren Rabb, the LSU quarterback, was still hobbled from a knee strain from the Tennessee game more than a month before. Further complicating matters for LSU was halfback Johnny Robinson, who started with a protective covering over his fractured hand. He would not carry a single time in the Sugar Bowl, nor did another halfback, Wendell Harris, whose injuries kept him completely sidelined. It all meant the Ole Miss defense could zero in on LSU’s only threat, Billy Cannon.
“We did something I don’t think we had ever done before,” said Rebel safety Billy Brewer. “We went to a man defense in the secondary because we knew LSU wouldn’t be a passing threat. My assignment was to stay with Cannon, go everywhere he went.”
Murky, damp weather made the field muddy in spots, and a cold wind lowered the temperature to 49 degrees at kickoff, opening a half in which the seven-point favorite Rebels put constant pressure on the Tigers, who were saved by an interception at the LSU 5, a missed field goal from the 18, and at the 11 where the Tiger defense held.
Despite its problems, LSU kept the Rebels even on the scoreboard. Then, with 38 seconds left and Mississippi on its 42, the Tigers were assessed a 15-yard personal foul penalty. Ole Miss’ Jake Gibbs, who led the SEC in total offense, received instructions from the bench. He took the snap, started to roll out, and pulled up behind tackle. Delaying for an instant while Ole Miss’ other receivers flared to different areas, taking the deep defenders with them, James “Cowboy” Woodruff raced downfield behind end Larry Grantham and cut slightly to the center where Gibbs’ pass was arching down.
No Tiger was within 15 yards of the receiver.
“I don’t think there is any question that the touchdown pass just before the end of the half broke our backs,” Paul Dietzel said. “It might have been a different game if we had gone into halftime 0-0.”
Grantham caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Franklin in the third quarter, and then Franklin threw a nine-yard fourth-period TD pass to George Blair. Those touchdowns were a striking illustration of just how dominant Ole Miss was: The touchdown pass just before halftime was the first passing score against LSU in 14 games, and against the Rebels the Tigers yielded three in one afternoon.
Ole Miss held an awesome edge in statistics, 363 yards to 74, the lowest offensive total in Sugar Bowl annuals; the Tigers gained 49 yards rushing but lost 64 for a net gain of minus 15 yards. The longest Tiger gain of the day was eight yards by Darryl Jenkins of the Chinese Bandits – the defensive unit. It had taken LSU more than 25 minutes to get its initial first down – and that was the only one the Tigers were credited with in the first half. Cannon made eight yards in six carries.
Vaught was magnanimous in victory, pointing out the injuries that decimated the Tiger team that beat the Rebels in the regular season. “Don’t forget LSU lost three pretty good football players,” he said. “Rabb wasn’t at his best, Robinson was of little use offensively and Harris didn’t dress out. Those are three mighty fine football players.”
Most Ole Miss people didn’t want to hear anything that might take the edge off their win.
In the satisfied Rebel locker room, Woodruff sighed, “I always thought we had a better one (team), and I kind of feel we proved it today.”
Recap excerpted from the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History” by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.