This was one of those Games of My Life – an unexpected performance by an unexpected player at an unexpected time, and one never equaled again.
Nobody knew much about third-string sophomore tailback Glenn Smith, except high school aficionados in New Orleans who remembered him from prep powerhouse Holy Cross.
Wyoming coach Lloyd Eaton was much more concerned about the cold, damp and soggy Sugar Bowl turf under drizzly skies. Eaton said on New Year’s Eve, “I believe the weather could be an important factor. The team with the best runners and pass receivers, and the heaviest linemen, would have the advantage on a wet field.”
Everyone agreed that on all accounts those conditions favored LSU. “We were limited in that we had a sparse club,” said Eaton, whose 47-man club was a six-point underdog. “Charlie McClendon would use 55-60 players routinely. We just didn’t have that kind of depth, and I knew by the fourth quarter our boys would be leg weary.”
Obviously, the best thing Eaton could hope for was to be far enough ahead after three quarters to withstand a fourth-quarter assault.
It very nearly worked out that way. LSU, which hadn’t played particularly well in any of its previous seven Sugar Bowl appearances, showed signs of that malaise again. Dominating the first half, the seemingly much more animated Cowboys finally got points when Jim Kiick went over on the first play of the second quarter. Jerry DePoyster added to the lead with a 24-yard field goal with 2:58 remaining in the half, then got another one – a Sugar Bowl record 49-yarder – with one second to go.
Eaton’s troops not only had a 13-0 lead, but had 11 first downs to LSU’s 1. The Cowboys had outrushed the Tigers 130-33, and outgained LSU in passing yardage 85-5.
“We were very worried by the half,” said Tiger center Barry Wilson, who had been a high school teammate of Smith. “The field turned up a little sloppy, and it upset our plans to block Wyoming low. Because we weren’t able to get solid footing, they merely pushed us off and got to the ball-carrier. They were also able to put a lot of pressure on (quarterback) Nelson (Stokley). At halftime we decided to take advantage of their pursuit by starting to the outside and then running back against the grain.”
Also, after DePoyster barely missed a 46-yard field goal, Smith was inserted into the lineup.
Flying out of the backfield, Smith took a pass over his shoulder and sloshed his way down the middle to the 26 for a 39-yard gain – LSU’s first real sign of life in the game. Smith went in from the 1, and Roy Hurd’s PAT cut the margin to 13-7.
With Stokley throwing medium passes and running the option, and Smith constantly picking his holes and cutting back, the Tigers threatened again. “Glenn was great at (running to daylight),” Wilson said. Tommy Morel out-jumped two defenders for an eight-yard touchdown, but Hurd missed the PAT, leaving the score tied with 11:39 to play. Following an interception, Stockley rolled out from the Cowboy 14, spotted a wide-open Morel at the 1 and threw for LSU’s go-ahead points.
With 1:37 left, Wyoming made for a wild finish. From his 18, Paul Toscano dropped and threw to a more than adequately covered George Anderson. One of three Tigers converging on the ball reached up and tipped it – right into the tight end’s hands. Anderson was suddenly racing, alone, for points. “When I saw Anderson take off with the football,” said cornerback Barton Frye, “I started running for my life. I don’t know if I can run that fast again.” He caught and brought down Anderson 54 yards downfield, at the LSU 18.
It happened again. With one second left, Gene Huey cut across the secondary from left to right and Toscano went to him at the 5. He was immediately nailed by defensive back Gerry Kent.
“I would have given half a year’s salary for 10 more seconds,” moaned Eaton. “Just 10 more seconds.”
Depth, the very factor Eaton most feared, was the difference. Smith, with little more than a quarter’s playing time, finished with 74 yards rushing and caught one pass for 39 yards to be names the game’s MVP.
Smith had a different perspective on the biggest Sugar Bowl comeback since Tulane fell behind Temple 14-0 in 1935. “If Wyoming had beaten us,” Smith who never did start a game at LSU, said, “I wouldn’t have been able to go home.”
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.
Tulane Stadium Att: 72,858
LSU 0 0 7 13 – 20
Wyoming 0 13 0 0 – 13
Wyo: Jim Kiick 1-yard run (Jerry DePoyster kick), 14:56 (2nd)
Wyo: DePoyster 24-yard field goal, 2:58 (2nd)
Wyo: DePoyster 49-yard field goal, 0:01 (2nd)
LSU: Glenn Smith 1-yard run (Roy Hurd kick), 2:10 (3rd)
LSU: Tommy Morel 8-yard pass from Nelson Stokley (Kick failed), 11:39 (4th)
LSU: Morel 14-yard pass from Stokley (Hurd kick), 4:22 (4th)
LSU: Glenn Smith 16-74 TD; Tommy Allen 16-41; Nelson Stokley 11-32; Kenny Newfield 3-3; Harold Stephens 1-1; Jim Dousay 1-0 Wyo.: Jim Kiick 19-75 TD; Tom Williams 16-64; Paul Toscano 9-17; Dave Hampton 3-9; Joe WIlliams 1-2.
Passing LSU: Nelson Stokley 6-20-0, 91 yards, 2 TDs Wyo.: Paul Toscano 14-23-3, 239 yards; Jim Kiick 0-1-1, 0 yards
Receiving LSU: Tommy Morel 4-38 2 TD; Glenn Smith 1-39; Jim West 1-14 Wyo.: George Anderson 3-100; Gene Huey 4-70; Jim Kiick 5-48; Hub Lindsey 1-15; Tom Williams 1-6
Defensive Leaders LSU: Jerry Kober 15 tkl; Benny Griffin 15 tkl; Donnie Bozeman 12 tkl; John Barlington 9 tkl, FR; Gerry Kent 3 tkl, 4 PBU, INT Wyo.: Jim House 11 tkl; Dennis Devlin 10 tkl; Jim Stankus 9 tkl, PBU; Vic Washington 7 tkl, 4 PBU; Dick Speights 4 tkl, 6 PBU
Miller-Digby Award recipient: Glenn Smith, LSU halfback