Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
BATON ROUGE, LA - LSU headed into the 1986 season with high expectations, coming off of back to back winning seasons in Bill Arnsparger's third year as LSU's head coach.
The LSU offense was a big question mark in the preseason as they had loss starting quarterback Jeff Wickersham and star running backs Dalton Hilliard and Gary James to graduation.
"We have kids that can play." said Arnsparger when asked about offensive concerns the week of the season opener against a veteran Texas A&M team ranked #7 in the country.
Defensively LSU fielded one of the top units in the nation, led by All-American linebacker Michael Brooks. This LSU defense was loaded with speedy physical talent and had depth at every position. A Bill Arnsparger specialty.
The game was nationally televised on ESPN in Death Valley in front of 79,713 rabid Tiger fans, which at the time was the second largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history.
The Aggies received the opening kickoff and marched 74 yards on ten plays to take a 7-0 lead on a four yard touchdown pass from Kevin Murray to Shea Walker with 10:50 left in the first quarter.
The LSU offense sputtered early in the game as redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Hodson needed a couple of possessions to settle down, finally coming to life after a Ron Sancho interception that set up the Tigers 1st and ten at the Texas A&M 48 yard line.
It only took LSU five plays and 58 seconds to go 48 yards for their first score of the 1986 season. Tommy Hodson hit Sammy Martin out of the backfield for a four yard touchdown to even the game up at 7-7 late in the first quarter.
It was the first of many touchdown passes that Hodson would pass for in his four year LSU career.
The Aggies would regain the lead early in the second quarter with the longest scoring drive of the contest, going 78 yards in 14 plays while burning 6:11 of the clock. Kevin Murray would hit Rod Bernstine in the back of the north end zone from 13 yards out for the score, giving the Aggies a 14-7 lead with 14:55 left in the first half.
With right at seven minutes left in the first half LSU began a drive, 1st and ten from their own 20 yard line. Arnsparger decided to give backup quarterback Mickey Guidry his first half series on this possession.
On first down Guidry completed a 10 yard pass to Wendell Davis followed by a four yard gain by Sammy Martin to set up a 2nd and six. As the Tigers came to the line, Guidry read blitz and changed the play at the line of scrimmage moving Sammy Martin from the backfield, setting him up in the slot. Guidry took the snap and hit Martin on a quick four yard pass in the center of the field that Sammy turned into a 66 yard touchdown as he found an extra gear, splitting and pulling away from from the Aggies' secondary for the score. The electrifying play evened the game up at 14-14 with 6:37 left in the second quarter.
Neither team could manage a score over the final six minutes of the quarter as the first half ended in a 14-14 tie.
The Tigers received the second half kickoff, but a Harvey Williams' fumble gave the Aggies the ball in LSU territory.
The Aggies drove into the LSU red zone before the Tigers would stop the drive at the six yard line forcing A&M to kick a 23 yard field goal. The three points would put Texas A&M up 17-14 early in the third quarter.
LSU would answer on their next possession, driving 69 yards in ten plays as Tommy Hodson had the hot hand on the drive, completing three big passing plays. (Two to Wendell Davis, One to Harvey Williams). The score would come on Harvey Williams' first touchdown of his career as he leaped into the end zone from one yard out for the score with 5:58 left in the third quarter as the Tigers took their first lead of the contest, 21-17.
In front of an energized Tiger Stadium crowd, the Tiger defense began to dominate the ball game, shutting down the Aggies offensive attack for the remainder of the contest.
“In the first series, I think we were in awe of Texas A&M. Not in the sense that we were afraid of them, but we had a question about our team,” linebacker Ron Sancho said after the game.
With Murray and the A&M offense trying to answer the Tigers' last score, they slowly drove into LSU territory. Facing a 2nd and ten at the LSU 38 yard line, Murray was intercepted at the Tigers' 28 yard line by Kevin Guidry who raced up the side for 42 yards to the A&M 30 yard line. It was the third time the LSU defense intercepted Murray on the night.
Hodson and the LSU offense wasted little time. On 1st down Sammy Martin picked up ten yards and a 1st down at the Aggies 20, but a holding call negated the play and moved LSU back to the A&M 40 yard line.
On the next play Hodson dropped back to throw and completed a 35 yard bomb to Wendell Davis, who made a circus catch on the play, setting up a 1st and ten at the Texas A&M five yard line.
Two plays later on the final play of the third quarter, Hodson found his tight end Brian Kinchen in the back of the end zone for a five yard touchdown. LSU now led 28-17 as the game headed into the 4th quarter.
Neither team could move the ball until LSU mounted a drive late in the quarter, moving the ball deep into A&M territory before the drive stalled. LSU kicker Ronnie Lewis missed a 34 yard field goal attempt wide right.
The Aggies would take over at their own 20 with 1:06 left in the game. Jackie Sherrill decided to replace Kevin Murray with backup quarterback Craig Stump.
On Stump's second passing attempt, Michael Brooks intercepted the ball after it bounced off of the attended receiver's hands and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown with only 35 seconds remaining on the clock. The interception would be LSU's 5th of the game off of A&M quarterbacks.
The 35-17 victory was an impressive and exciting start to the 1986 season, however many LSU fans remember the huge shocking let down the following week as LSU suffered a shocking 21-12 defeat to Miami of Ohio.
The contest was also the beginning of the Tommy Hodson era.
“I’m still nervous. I guess that’s normal when you go in front of 80,000 people,” Hodson said after going 15-22 for 193 yards and two touchdown passes in the 35-17 victory.
“Tommy worked hard, but he kept the game in perspective,” LSU Coach Bill Arnsparger said. “He said good or bad, he would still be here on Sunday.”
Hodson would become LSU's starting quarterback from 1986 to 1989 and holds several school passing records. He would be named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 1986 along with being named First Team SEC from 1986-1989. Hodson passed for 9,115 yards and 69 touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in SEC history to surpass 8,000 career passing yards, and the first quarterback in SEC history to surpass 60 career passing touchdowns. Hodson passed for over 2,000 yards during each of his four seasons at LSU, becoming the third player in NCAA history to achieve that feat.
No doubt, it was another incredible night in Baton Rouge as the Death Valley crowd was deafening throughout the game. A game that can truly be called one of the best ever in LSU football history.
Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
It happened on a muggy Saturday afternoon on September 20, 2003. Year three of the Nick Saban era in Baton Rouge.
92,251 fans packed Tiger Stadium (back then became the largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history), to witness an epic SEC battle between two undefeated foes.
Most, including myself, feel like this is one of the greatest games in LSU football history. It was a memorable day for me as
it was my eight year old son's first ever LSU football game. He also remembers the deafening roar of the Tiger Stadium crowd and the heart stopping finish. We both agree it was one of our favorite father/son moments.
I can't remember a more hyped and electric LSU game day home crowd. I was so impressed at how loud Tiger Stadium stayed throughout the game as the record crowd of 92,000 plus raised the atmosphere to a relentless level. Death Valley was truly alive on that Saturday afternoon. Any LSU fan in attendance that day can confirm that.
“That Georgia game put LSU on the map,” said Matt Mauck, the Tigers’ starting quarterback in 2003 during an interview with SI. “It was our coming-out party.”
Georgia came into Death Valley ranked #7 in the country with a 3-0 overall (1-0 in the SEC) record to face #11 LSU, 3-0 overall (0-0 in SEC play) in a 2:30pm, nationally televised game on CBS.
It was an intense defensive battle for a majority of the contest as both teams struggled to score.
The Bulldogs would get on the board first, taking a 3-0 lead on a 33 yard field goal by Billy Bennett with 6:24 left in the first quarter. Bennett ended up missing three field goals in the game. It was the first time in the senior's career that he missed three field goal attempts in a game. He came into the contest as Georgia's most accurate kicker in school history at 78.75% (63-for-80).
LSU finally put together a scoring drive late in the first half. The Tigers would go 85 yards on six plays, taking 1:58 off of the clock as Shyrone Carey busting an electrifying 21 yard touchdown run right up the middle of the Georgia defense with 3:20 left in the first half. Tiger Stadium erupted as Carey dove into the end zone from three yards out for the score. Ryan Gaudet added the point after to give LSU a 7-3 lead which they took into the halftime break.
The defensive battle continued into the second half until LSU was able to mount another scoring drive, going 51 yards in ten plays before the drive would stall at the Bulldogs' 30 yard line. Gaudet entered the game and drilled a 47 yard field goal to extend LSU's lead to 10-3 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
The LSU defense played 'bend but don't break' ball all day, except for one play late in game.
With 4:53 left on the clock, Georgia was starting a possession 1st and ten at their own seven yard line. Mark Richt called the right play at the right time. David Greene dropped back to throw into the end zone and found running back Tyson Browning out of the backfield on a screen play with blockers in front. The Bulldogs blocked and executed the play to perfection as Browning raced up the sidelines for a 93 yard touchdown to tie the game at 10-10.
Devery Henderson fielded Billy Bennett's kickoff at the one yard line and made an outstanding return for 48 yards setting up the Tigers with a 1st and ten at their own 49 yard line with 4:16 left in the contest.
On 3rd and four from the Georgia 34 yard line, Matt Mauck rolled out to his left, squared up, set his feet and while under pressure released a perfectly thrown deep pass that a wide open Skyler Green would catch in stride, five yards deep in the north end zone with only 1:22 left on the clock giving the Tigers a 17-10 lead.
The Bulldogs quickly moved down the field and into LSU territory setting up a 1st and ten at the Tigers' 43. David Greene would then fire a pass down the sideline that Corey Webster tipped to himself for an interception at the LSU 22 yard line with 32 seconds left to seal the 17-10 win.
After the celebration in the stands died down, I sat with my son in our seats, exhausted as Tiger Stadium began to empty. My cell phone rang as one of my best friends, Roy buzzed in. It was no surprise as Roy would call me right after every LSU football game. I answered and he said. "Terrill, I believe that was the greatest LSU football game I've ever seen." I answered with my hoarse voice, "I agree."
LSU HEAD COACH NICK SABAN POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES:
“Well you can’t really say about enough about both football teams the way they competed out there. A heavy weight fight. A real street fight. Both teams competed their heart out. It was about a physical a football game as I’ve seen in a long time and I’m proud of the way our players competed in the game. I don’t know if we were a little bit anxious in the beginning of the game. We were a little out of sorts at the start then in the second quarter we started to come around. To compete in the game, to overcome the adversity we had in the first half, to have then have an 85 or 87 yard screen pass when we were playing zone for one of the first times of the day. Then to come right back with the kickoff return and to make the plays to get right back ahead in the game. We told the players that regardless of what happened in the game, the leadership of this team would show what its roots really were. There would be good thing to happen and we would have to stay focused and there would be bad things to happen and we would have to support each other and stay together and go play the next play and I’m proud of the way they competed and did that.
“That was a tough game. Georgia’s a good team. My hat is off to them. But I can’t tell you how proud of all the people who are responsible for allowing us to get the football players that we have here, the way they competed today. I’m just proud that we can just give a great win for our players and all those who support the program. I know how happy it makes them when we have success and it makes me happy that it makes them happy.
“It wasn’t a pretty game for us all the time, but you can’t fault the effort, you can’t fault the competitive spirit, you can’t fault the three or four stops in the red area by our team and you can’t fault the way the offense came back when it had to. There’s obviously some things we can improve on from this game and we’ve got to build on it. We want our players to focus on what we have to do week in and week out. We have no expectations about what we are going to try to accomplish long term, we are worried about the next game that we play. We enjoy this victory for 24 hours and then we need to focus on the next game. Anything else they thing or do is going to be poisonous to how we compete with consistency and we don’t want to do that. So don’t ask me about those kinds of things.”
LSU would go on to play the Bulldogs again in 2003, this time in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta where the Tigers dismantled Georgia, 34-13 before heading to the Sugar Bowl to defeat Oklahoma, 21-14, winning the program's second national championship.
All Photos Below By: The Advocate
Da Boot Sports
Article courtesy of Crescent City Sports
By: Brent St. Germain for the LSWA
Longtime coach Laury Dupont has seen many outstanding high school football players during his tenure on the sidelines.But there is one player that stands above the rest – Eric Andolsek.
Dupont coached Andolsek during the 1982 and 1983 seasons during his stint at Thibodaux High School. It didn’t take Dupont long to realize that Andolsek was a special football player.
“You can tell that Eric’s talent was above everyone else on the team,” Dupont said. “We predicted that Eric would be a Division I football player and could make it to the pros ever since he came to Thibodaux High. He was bigger and stronger than anyone else around. He was such an unbelievable player at such a young age.”
Dupont’s analysis proved to be correct as Andolsek would parlay his success at Thibodaux High to become a standout offensive guard at LSU and eventually in the NFL as an anchor along the Detroit Lions’ offensive line and blocking for future Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.
However, Andolsek’s life was tragically cut short.
On June 23, 1992, Andolsek was killed when a flatbed truck veered off La. 1 and struck him while he was cutting the grass at his home in Thibodaux. He was 25.
Andolsek may be gone but is not forgotten, as his football legacy will live in the state he called home. Thirty years
later, Andolsek will take his place among the state’s greatest athletes as a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s 2022 class.
Andolsek is among a 12-member group being enshrined in Natchitoches June 23-25. For participation opportunities
and information, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
It’s an honor that holds a special place for Andy Andolsek, Eric’s brother.
“I felt that Eric was certainly a qualified candidate based on the accolades that he compiled while prepping at Thibodaux High, playing at LSU along with a blossoming career in the NFL,” Andy Andolsek said. “I am fulfilled and grateful for Eric being chosen as a member of the (Louisiana Sports) Hall of Fame and to be part of that organization with others of similar stature.”
Renee Jennings said she is overwhelmed with excitement and pride knowing that her brother’s hard work and dedication to the game of football is being recognized with a spot in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
“His passion, work ethic and dedication to his sport was infectious to anyone who knew him,” she said. “He played such a prominent role in LSU’s history of strength training and leadership that many still recognize today. Even after 30 years since his death, we feel that this is just another testimony of our beloved Eric’s true legacy.”
Former LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson understands the joy the Andolsek family is feeling, as he was inducted into
the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
Hodson said it’s a well-deserved honor for Andolsek, who helped protect the legendary LSU quarterback during the 1986 and 1987 seasons.
“I am so happy for Eric’s family and everyone in Lafourche Parish because so many people loved him,” Hodson said. “It’s great to see that he will be getting his just due by going into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. It gives everyone a chance to tell their kids how good of a person, player and teammate Eric Andolsek was.”
Andolsek’s football journey started at Thibodaux High where he earned all-state recognition and was named an Adidas Prep All-American after excelling along the offensive and defensive lines.
But it was at LSU where football fans across the country would discover something that people in Louisiana knew. Andolsek was a special football player.
After starting three games and playing both sides of the ball in the 1985 Sugar Bowl as a freshman, Andolsek started to assert himself as one of LSU’s top offensive linemen as a sophomore. The 6-foot-2, 286-pound guard would eventually become a three-year starter for the Tigers and was a team captain, two-time All-SEC selection in 1986 and 1987 and was ranked by Sporting News as the fourth best offensive guard in the nation his senior season.
Former LSU offensive tackle John Hazard said Andolsek’s intensity on the field helped make him one of the top guards in college football.
“Eric was by far the scariest offensive lineman that we had,” said Hazard, who played next to Andolsek along LSU’s offensive line for two seasons. “He was intense on how he approached the game because his plan was to maul the guy across from him. He had great technique, always made good calls and would beat up people.”
Andolsek’s intensity on the field paid dividends for LSU, as the Tigers had a successful four-year stretch during his tenure. LSU posted a 36-9-3 overall record and a 19-4-2 mark in SEC play, including two conference championships, in Andolsek’s four-year stay in Baton Rouge.
Hazard said LSU’s overall success could be attributed to Andolsek’s overall play on the field. Many of Andolsek’s LSU teammates fed off his energy and became better players because of it.
“Eric was always so locked in and intense on the field,” Hazard said. “He was the type of player that made everyone around him a much better player. He was such a fierce competitor that even the coaches didn’t want to upset him.”
While Andolsek was ferocious on the field, that all changed as soon as the pads were off.
“Eric was fierce and competitive, but you wouldn’t know from his exterior that he was really a teddy bear,” Hodson said. “He was a good guy and good pal to be around, and that’s the kind of guy that he was. I would say that he was my best teammate, but I know everyone would say the same thing about him.”
Andolsek’s dream of playing in the NFL became a reality when the Detroit Lions selected him in the fifth round (111th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft.
Before he could settle in with the Lions, Andolsek had to make amends with a former rival – Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman.
Prior to the 1987 LSU vs. Ohio State game in Baton Rouge, the foes didn’t exactly hit it off right away. They were involved in an on-the-field skirmish during the coin flip.
But things changed after the Lions drafted them both in 1988.
After staring down one another on the team bus for mini-camp, they got to know one another and quickly became good friends.
“I went down to Thibodaux several times and got involved with the culture in south Louisiana with crawfish boils and all that good stuff,” Spielman said. “It was to be around him. He opened my eyes to a lot of things.”
Andolsek’s intensity and overall play along the offensive line would once again pay dividends, as the Lions would go from a struggling NFL franchise to a team that was one win away from Super Bowl XXVII.
During Andolsek’s final season in 1991, the Lions won the NFC Central division title and advanced to the NFC Championship game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins.
Four years into his career, Andolsek was considered an up-and-coming NFL guard, a future All-Pro.
Jennings said the sky was the limit for her brother.
“I know he would have been a perennial Pro Bowler at his position and a team captain because of the leadership qualities he possessed,” she said.
While Andolsek enjoyed playing in Detroit, Louisiana was always his home, as he lived in Thibodaux during the offseason. Andolsek typically spent the offseason enjoying two of his other passions – hunting and fishing.
Andy Andolsek said his brother enjoyed playing for the Lions, but he knew Eric’s love of Louisiana would have eventually led
him to the Saints.
“Eric did build a bond and friendships with his Lions teammates and did enjoy playing with them, which was evident since he was planning on re-signing with the team in 1992,” Andy Andolsek said. “However, he often spoke of returning home to play in New Orleans, which would have put him close to the family, friends and lifestyle that he very much treasured.”
While he made a name for himself at LSU and with the Lions, Dupont said Andolsek left a lasting legacy at Thibodaux High and throughout Lafourche Parish.
“Everybody loved him,” Dupont said. “No one was better than Eric on and off the field. Everybody still thinks about him because you don’t forget a legend like Eric Andolsek. Nobody was better than him.”