BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - LSU is having a historic season and it will come to a close when the No. 1 Tigers take on the No. 3 Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship in New Orleans on Monday, Jan. 13.
While this is the first national title appearance for LSU since the 2011 season, the Tigers have gone above .500 since 2000.
LSU’s last losing season was in 1999 when the Tigers went 3-8 overall (1-7 SEC) in the program’s final year under head coach Gerry DiNardo.
While the atmosphere at Tiger Stadium has been raucous for nearly the last 20 years, things weren’t always good in Death Valley.
The late 1980s looked promising, as the first two years of head coach Mike Archer’s tenure were winning seasons: 1987 (10-1-1) and 1988 (8-4). But the last two seasons’ of Archer’s tenure were losing seasons: 1989 (4-7), and 1990 (5-6).
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Curley Hallman hoped to bring back hope to the program when he was hired in 1991. However, the Tigers would not enjoy a winning season or a bowl appearance between 1990 and 1994.
In 1993, the 100th year of LSU football, the Tigers would suffer their worst loss in school history under Hallman, a 58-3 defeat by the hands of No. 5 Florida in Tiger Stadium on Oct. 9, 1993. Yet, the Tigers would upset No. 5 Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium just four weeks later.
WAFB 9sports anchor Jacques Doucet sat down with four former LSU players who played during the program’s lackluster years of the early 1990s.
“We were one of the few classes to actually never go to a bowl game. If you think about it now, that sounds wild now with LSU’s success, but it was a great experience," said, Chad Loup, a Baton Rouge native, who played quarterback for LSU from 1990 to 1993.
“But I think all of us think about it, we were wishing to come to LSU, and compete for SEC and national championships, obviously our time was different, but it was an amazing experience. (I) met a lot of great people. Played with a lot of great players, great guys, friends for life. Now if you go in the bookstore, and you look for books about the history of LSU football from 90 to 95, there was nothing. The truth hurts, I guess,” Loup explained.
“You didn’t wear as much of your LSU gear, around campus you know when you lose to team you should have won, you’re not sporting your purple and gold every day like they do now,” said Todd Kinchen, also from Baton Rouge, who played wide receiver for LSU from 1988 to 1991.
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“Did y’all have as much fun as I did. I still think about it. Despite all the losing, I had fun," Kinchen’s fellow wide receiver, Wesley Jacob, asks the group.
Jacob, a Crowley native, played at LSU from 1989 to 1992.
"They’re such good guys, around you know, Wesley was always keeping us straight, and having his fun and keeping it light,” Kinchen explained.
“Good teammates, I come from a small town, and LSU was just bigger than my imagination. I never thought I could achieve something like that," Jacob said.
“I came here in ’91, spent my first summer here, one thing I can remember is 4:30 morning sprints, sweating like it was noon. And I’m from Indianapolis, and 4:30 in the morning does not feel like that in Tiger Stadium,” explained Bryan Madden, an offensive tackle from Indianapolis who played for LSU from 1991 to 1992.
Jaques Doucet to the group: “I remember going to some games where it was rocking, and I remember going to somewhere during your time and some, where you looked around and it was not the way you wanted it to be.”
“We wish it could have been full, sometimes it would start full and kind of emptied out,” Loup said.
Jaques Doucet to the group “This is a loaded topic...umm...Curley Hallman..."
“I’m leaving! I’m done with this interview,” Kinchen said jokingly.
“I thought we talked about the questions, didn’t I say be very very careful,” Jacob said to Jacob.
Hallman: Our coaches went continue to evaluate the high school ball games and watch the seven players.
“It’s easy to dance to the music that sounds good, but can you dance to the music that doesn’t sound good to the ear,” Hallman said in a press conference in the early 1990s.
“I was on a knee, just kind of watching in disbelief,” Loup said of the 58-3 loss to Florida in Tiger Stadium on Oct. 9, 1993. “And they just took it to us in every way, in the fourth quarter just looked up it was forty-something to three, and said ‘wow (I) thought this would be close to being over, (but) we have another quarter.' I think all of us can say it was a dysfunctional situation, but you know you work through it the best you can do," Loup said.
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“Now look some good came from it,” Jacob explained. “Curley said ‘if you always you what you always did then you’ll always get what you always got’ and that’s Curley Hallman,” Jacob said.
“(He was) motivational (and) had a way of getting you pumped up, a great storyteller. I haven’t got a bad word to say about him,” Madden said.
Jacques to the Group: “There were some exciting games and moments for you.”
“That was the best feeling hearing how quiet Bryant Denny was when we beat them,” Loup said of LSU’s road upset of No. 5 Alabama on Nov. 6, ,1993.
“Before that game, Kevin had all the seniors up and said I have a weird feeling about this game. I think we’re going to win. It was a great day for LSU that was huge. I mean you saw what happened this year, LSU goes to Alabama beats them, and you saw how gratifying it was for the university for Coach O and the team. It’s always been like Alabama set the benchmark of college football, and when you go in there and knock them off it’s a great feeling,” Loup explained.
Todd Kinchen had a memorable touchdown pass in LSU’s 17-8 victory over Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium on Sept. 29, 1990.
“Of course, Todd (in) typical fashion gets this down the sideline. He’s not going out, you follow him ok this may be big. Next thing you know, he’s coming all the way across the field then he goes back, and back again and you’re like ‘oh my gosh,’” Loup said.
Another memorable game, was when No. 1 Florida State under coach Bobby Bowden came to Tiger Stadium on Oct. 26, 1991. LSU led in the fourth quarter the game, but Florida State was able to pull out the win late in the game.
“That’s the one we threw the hitch and go on Terrell Muckley because we knew he was going to bite," Loup says to Kinchen.
“Think we were up into the fourth quarter weren’t we? (I) Really thought we had a chance to beat them Unfortunately it started raining and amp lee kinda kicked it in that last quarter and they won. You look at those years we were 5-6 you look at some of those plays go another day we could’ve had 7 or 8 wins," Loup explained.
Jacques Doucet to Bryan Madden: "LSU has obviously been a special place for you. You’ve been very connected.
“Yep. I’m security for Coach O. These days you gotta watch players, they’re almost as famous as Coach O, (like) Odell Beckham Junior, Leonard Fournette, Tyrann Mathieu. You travel with those guys it was big,” Madden explained.
“But you put a Heisman Trophy winner in the mix, and he can’t find time to get away, you have to put a barrier around them,” Madden said.
Jacques Doucet to Bryan Madden: “(Your) mindset going into a gameday is it almost the same as it was when you were playing?”
“I literally have to calm myself down because Coach O is a physical guy. If you let him know you’re excited he’ll hit you in that chest. The hardest part of my job is maintaining professionalism and not getting excited. Twelve years (on the job) I think I’ve been caught twice being a fan,” Madden said.
“It was the Georgia game and it’s hard to say it, that and the (Texas) A&M game, even though we got em this year Coach O was upset, they’re just children they’re excited. He (Coach O) was upset, I said 'coach if we can just get you in this locker room before I get my hands on somebody’s child that could be awesome,” Madden said.
Jaques Doucet to the group: “Doing this job this year how gratifying is it to see this dream season?”
“These guys will tell you, we were coached up we were setting the foundation for something amazing. (I) didn’t know it was going to take this long but it’s nice to see. And we’re all part of it it’s gratifying. Go back as far as you want to, SEC Championship, we’re walking in the tunnel after the game is over, and I put my hand on Coach OP and said ‘way to go champ’ and he turns to me and says ‘that’s for everybody whoever wore that purple and gold.’ And I had to fight back because nobody wants a crybaby bodyguard. That choked me up pretty good," Madden said.
Jaques Doucet to the group: “Once a Tiger always a Tiger you guys are part of that fraternity no matter what your record was.”
“You think about where you came from, then you think about today and you have to humble yourself. It’s like let them be great and I’ll just sit back and be proud of what we built and started to set years ago,” Jacob said.
“And knowing we’re part of that is pretty neat,” Loup said.
“I’m proud of LSU in the way that they’re constantly striving for excellence, and now we’re here with a Heisman Trophy, and a National Championship game (appearance) again,” Kinchen said.