31st Annual Sugar Bowl Classic ~ January 1, 1965
#7 LSU 13 (Final: 8-2-1)
Syracuse 10 (Final: 7-4-0)
How LSU and Syracuse Met in the 1965 Sugar Bowl
Odd how things come around. Doug Moreau vividly remembers as a sports-minded kid in Baton Rouge hearing on the radio about the segregated seating issue before the 1955 Sugar Bowl, and about the flap over Bobby Grier, the first African-American to play in the Sugar Bowl a year later.
The thought that raced through Moreau’s 10-year-old mind was: “That sounds silly.”
To add to the circumstance a decade later, the only football Moreau ever kicked before he entered LSU was over a telephone line hanging across his backyard. When an assistant coach asked member of the Tiger freshman team who wanted to kick, though, Moreau raised his hand.
“There just wasn’t any high priority on kickers (then),” Moreau said of the offensive weapon that was little more than an afterthought in those days.
It was LSU’s good fortune that Moreau wanted to kick. He kicked a then-NCAA record 13 field goals in 1964, and combined with his pass-receiving duties, scored 73 of the Bengals’ 115 total in the regular season, fully 63 percent of the LSU total.
Clearly, at crunch time, LSU looked to the junior Moreau – bringing him to this point, in a socially-significant Sugar Bowl: lining up a 28-yard attempt against Syracuse with 3:48 to play, with victory, defeat, or most likely a frustrating tie, depending on his left-footed kicking accuracy.
Orangemen running backs Floyd Little and Jim Nance were the first African-Americans to appear on Sugar Bowl rosters since Grier of Pittsburgh in 1956, and were by far the most nationally known figures in the game, having scored 25 touchdowns between them, 14 more than LSU scored as a team in that era when defenses dominated the sport.
But Moreau turned out to be the central figure of the game – just as he was for LSU’s season as a whole.
Not many would actually see it. If East versus SEC was the perfect vehicle for ending the segregation era, it was not a good way to fill the stadium. A crowd of 60,000, the smallest for a Sugar Bowl since 1939, sat in the stands. The teams’ records and the smallest ticket sale (1,300 by Syracuse), more than any political consideration, kept the crowd down.
But what a game those that came witnessed! It went back-and-forth, and the only kind of scoring it lacked was forfeiture.
There were field goals, a safety, touchdowns coming on a blocked punt and a long pass, and a two-point conversion. The Tigers, 5 ½ point favorites, down 10-2 in this topsy-turvy game at intermission, knew they were in for battle to the wire.
On the first possession of the second half, at the Tiger 43, substitute LSU quarterback Billy Ezell stepped into the huddle and called “I-26-wide-and-go.” The play would send Moreau out as a lone receiver. He would run downfield, fake a cut to the sideline and then head for the end zone. In the first quarter Moreau had cleanly beaten defensive back Will Hunter by 15 yards on the same play, but Ezell overthrew him. This time Ezell pumped once and lofted the ball to Moreau at the 25. Moreau said of the second-and-16 play, “When I broke straight, there was the ball.” The touchdown covered 57 yards.
A two-point conversion pulled LSU even at 10.
That’s where things stood until the game moved into the latter stages of the fourth quarter when starting quarterback Pat Screen eased the Tigers to the 8. Coach Charlie McClendon called on Moreau to try to nail his 14th field goal of the season.
“The kick felt good when it left my shoe,” Moreau said of the field goal, “then, before I looked up, Billy (Ezell, the holder) screamed, ‘ It’s good!'”
In a game eerily similar to LSU’s season as an entity, Moreau not only was responsible for the winning play, but scored nine of the Tigers’ 13 points.
Jim Nance gained 70 yards and Little gained 48 in something of a collapse of the Syracuse offense. Charlie McClendon became the first former Sugar Bowl player to come back and coach a team to a Sugar Bowl victory.
It was the city of New Orleans that was the big winner, though. Syracuse was happy with its treatment. Nance exuded without solicitation, “I’m going to tell everyone about the splendid treatment we received down there.”
The game marked the end of an era in football, too. The following year Charlie Gogolak of Princeton broke Moreau’s record with 16 field goals, and from then on the field goal became an indispensable part of virtually every offense.
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