Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sweeter than any Halloween candy

I’ve seen the grainy video on television too many times.

None were by choice, but that’s not a complaint.

When you grow up in the heart of Louisiana, you’re exposed early to Billy Cannon’s mystical punt return on Halloween against Ole Miss in 1959.

During the week leading to Halloween, they’d play it a ton of times on TV, and this was way before the round-the-clock sports highlights flooding us these days.

The background:

LSU was national champion in 1958. The next season, the Tigers (No. 1 nationally) were hosting No. 3 Ole Miss (hated rival).
Rainy Halloween night.
Ole Miss led 3-0.
Cannon, LSU’s best player, returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown; LSU won 7-3.
Later that year, he won the Heisman Trophy.
No LSU player – before or after – ever has.

I was too young to remember the live event, but the replay and legend-talk was always around Tiger faithful. The date became scorched into my young brain, like all the other biggies:
* Louisiana Purchase (that Thomas Jefferson snagged a bargain)
* Mardi Gras (changes every year)
* Opening of shrimp season
* Jazz & Heritage Festival

It’s still a big deal.

Last Tuesday, Cannon, teammates and some Ole Miss opponents gathered in Jackson, Miss. to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

There aren’t many plays, on any level, that reverberate half a century.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

And click here for a longer version of this video, which both sets up the game and includes LSU's goal-line stand at the end.


RTR said...

A couple of notes:
* If you see the full video, you'll hear that Cannon was in on the game-saving tackle at the LSU 1 in the last moments.
* A week later, LSU stumbled, losing 14-13 to a middling Tennessee team.
* LSU and Ole Miss played a rematch in that year's Sugar Bowl, Ole Miss winning 21-0. The final poll of the year (taken before the bowl games) had Syracuse 1, Ole Miss 2, LSU 3.

Michael said...

It's odd, Cliff, somebody must have doctored the clip. I swear Cannon took off his helmet in the end zone.