BOWLS ‘85-86 : Liberty : Baylor Turns the Defensive Tables on LSU in 21-7 Win
Louisiana State University came into Friday night’s Liberty Bowl hoping to stop Baylor with the nation’s No. 3-rated defense. Instead, the 12th-ranked Tigers’ found themselves 21-7 victims of a band of stingy Bears.
Baylor amassed 489 yards on offense and got a pair of touchdown passes from junior quarterback Cody Carlson, but it was a defense that surrendered only nine first downs and 192 total yards that was the key to the victory.
“I think tonight was our best overall defensive effort of the year,” Baylor linebacker Alan Jamison said. “From end to end, we played as a team and really controlled things.”
Baylor Coach Grant Teaff said it was obvious that his Bears’ defense was the key, but he also pointed to an offense that controlled the ball for 37 minutes 14 seconds.
“Our offensive output was very good, but we stopped ourselves several times,” Teaff said. “The most significant thing was that we had no turnovers. We could have lost all our momentum easily if we had turned the ball over.”
LSU Coach Bill Arnsparger shouldered the responsibility for his Tigers’ loss.
“It is my responsibility to have us prepared to play,” said Arnsparger, whose Tigers gave up an average of only 8.4 points a game during the regular season. “We were disorganized in every phase of the game. I did a very poor job.
“We failed to take advantage of the opportunities we had, and we were beaten by well-thrown balls and well-run (pass) routes.”
Picked in the preseason to finish as low as seventh in the nine-team Southwest Conference, Baylor capped a 9-3 season by rolling up a 26-9 advantage in first downs over LSU.
The loss was only the second for LSU, a member of the Southeastern Conference, which completed the season with a 9-2-1 record. The Tigers’ only score came on a Liberty Bowl-record 79-yard punt return by Norman Jefferson to open the scoring.
Baylor overcame the 7-0 deficit to lead, 10-7, at the half and then throttled the Tiger offense for most of the second half as they put the contest away.
Clinging to a 13-7 edge, Carlson, who alternated with Tom Muecke at quarterback for Baylor, capped a 62-yard fourth-quarter march with a 15-yard touchdown pass to split end John Simpson. Carlson then found Matt Clark alone in the end zone with a two-point conversion pass as the Bears took command, 21-7, with 10:42 remaining
Carlson finished with 9 completions in 12 attempts for 161 yards and the 2 touchdowns. Muecke completed 9 of 18 passes for 113 yards.
Jefferson, on his scoring return, took the Baylor punt at his 21-yard line and found an alley down the left sideline. The Tiger junior shook off a pair of potential tacklers at the Baylor 30 to give LSU a 7-0 lead with 5:17 remaining in the opening quarter. Jefferson’s run broke the previous Liberty Bowl punt-return record of 63 yards set in 1963 by Maryland’s Bob Smith against Tennessee.
But after that, the Tigers were unable to penetrate further than the Baylor 30-yard line.
Baylor charged back quickly behind Carlson, who led the Bears 80 yards to tie the game on their next possession. The quarterback connected with Simpson for a 59-yard gain to the LSU nine, then later hit a diving Clark in the end zone for the touchdown.
Simpson finished the game with three receptions for 117 yards.
Carlson took the Bears to the Tiger three-yard line minutes later, but the LSU defense stiffened, pushing Baylor back to the 20 before Terry Syler was short and low on a 37-yard field-goal attempt early in the second quarter.
Muecke soon had the Bears back at the LSU goal line, however, moving Baylor from its 14 to a first down at the LSU eight. Once again, the Baylor offense was stymied, with the Bears settling for a 23-yard field goal by Syler that pushed their lead to 10-7.
The Baylor field-goal drive was set up when cornerback Ron Francis, who recovered a Tiger fumble in the first quarter, intercepted a pass by LSU’s Alan Wickersham at the Bears’ 14.
The Bears raised their lead to 13-7 in the third quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Syler, but missed a chance to increase the lead to nine points later in the period when Syler was wide right on a 37-yard attempt.
The game drew 40,186 fans, the lowest attendance for a Liberty Bowl since 1967.
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