Saturday, July 18, 2015

Arnsparger nostalgia

Sort of fitting that Bill Arnsparger's passing should come so soon after Ken Stabler's.  Each of them is more well known abroad for accomplishments outside of Louisiana. But each is also remembered locally for having enjoyed a brief last hurrah of sorts here.

Arnsparger's was slightly more glorious than Stabler's.

He arrived at LSU with a coaching mantra: “We’re shooting for the moon. If we miss, we’ll still be among the stars.”

It took just one season under Arnsparger for the Tigers to get there. They had been an up-and-down group under Stovall, who was National Coach of the Year in 1982 but slipped to 4-7 the following year.

The no-nonsense Arnsparger opened his LSU career with an impressive showing, a 21-21 tie against SEC favorite Florida. Had the 8-3-1 Tigers won that game, they would have switched places at season’s end with the champion Gators in the conference standings.

One of the reasons for the transformation was physical condition. Stovall’s last team was nicknamed the “Lunch Bunch” for its bulk.

“The first time we got together, I just thought many of (the players) looked too fat, and that was before the tests we did,” Arnsparger said.

So he set demanding body-fat ratios — 15 percent for lineman, 10 percent for backs and tight ends, 6 percent to 8 percent for skill positions — and almost every player met the requirements by the start of preseason camp.

“I cut out late-night snacks, rice and white bread,’’ said offensive tackle Lance Smith, who dropped 40 pounds to end up at 265.

A year later, the 1985 Tigers, who went 9-2-1, picked up the nickname “The Lean Machine.’’

LSU went 9-3 in 1986 and won the SEC for the first time since 1970.

Arnsparger’s record then was 26-8-3 — at the time the best of any third-year coach in Tigers history. He had coached the Tigers to victories over the best of the best in college football: Southern California, Alabama, Notre Dame and Florida.
You can relive some of those moments via YouTube.  Here's a link to the upset win over Alabama in 1986.  But if you don't feel like watching a whole game, try this reel of highlights from the Notre Dame game from that year, including a dramatic fourth quarter goal line stand. So many years later, I still think of this as THE goal line stand.


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