NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The first meeting included a shoving match during the coin flip and one coach refusing to take his team on the field.
The second featured a stunning ending to a surprising upset.
Welcome to LSU-Ohio State III.
Based on what has already taken place in the short but controversial history between the two schools, you can almost bet there would be fireworks when they squared off for the national championship Monday night at the Superdome.
‘‘I can remember my dad was at the (1987) game in Baton Rouge,’’ former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman said. ‘‘After the game, we both were kind of amazed how the two programs were almost mirror-images of each other. There was so much passion down there, from the players and the fans — it was just like the passion people have back at Ohio State. That’s what was so amazing.’’
Spielman was a central figure in one of the most memorable moments in the two showdowns between the teams. It unfolded in Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La., on a crisp autumn Saturday, Sept. 26, 1987.
As he walked to midfield for the opening coin toss, Spielman felt LSU captain Eric Andolsek was staring him down, trying to make him blink or avert his eyes, just like a heavyweight does to an opponent in the instant before the opening bell. To say the least, Spielman, as driven and fiery a player as ever put on a helmet, wasn’t going to take it.
‘‘It was two highly dynamic guys, real hard competitors, who were competing even before we started playing football,’’ Spielman said. ‘‘There’s two versions to what happened, but mine is that they were trying to intimidate us down there. The next thing you know, we were interlocked. It was just a little scuffle.’’
It was also just a sign of what was to come.
Just the day before the game, Ohio State coach Earle Bruce had been told that he would need to bring his team onto the field before LSU, then there would be some sort of a cheer by the Tigers faithful. Bruce balked. He suggested that LSU go out first, then do the cheer, then let him bring his team out. The deliberations stretched out.
On game day, TV people were demanding the Buckeyes, standing outside the visitors locker room door and being verbally assaulted and — according to Bruce — spit on by fans, refused to step onto the field until LSU was already there and the cheering had died.
The intensity grew as the seconds ticked away.
Verge Ausberry, an LSU linebacker and now a senior associate AD at the school, said the Tigers were fired up after Andolsek came back and told them what had happened at the coin toss.
‘‘We were very angry,’’ he said. ‘‘They disrespected you in your house. And Earle Bruce had all but challenged our team by not coming out.’’
It ended up being a 7-minute stalemate, with both head coaches holding their teams back while play-by-play man Brent Musberger tried to fill dead air up in the press box.
‘‘I said, ’We’re NOT going out!’’’ Bruce recalled. ‘‘Spielman kept saying let’s go, but I said, ’You stay right here. Don’t you move. We’re NOT going until I say we go!’’’
Bruce won that little skirmish, but not the game that was to follow. Ohio State, 2-0 and ranked No. 7, and LSU, 3-0 and No. 4, battled on even terms all day. Buckeyes cornerback Greg Rogan intercepted the Tigers’ Tommy Hodson twice in the final two minutes, the second with 27 seconds left. With the score tied 13-13, Matt Frantz tried a field goal as time expired, but LSU’s Karl Dunbar blocked it. Overtime was not used back then and the game ended in a tie.
‘‘That was the loudest game I’ve ever been to in Tiger Stadium, and I’ve been going for 30 years,’’ said Joe Albergamo, a center on that 10-1-1 team that would finish No. 5, and now an internist in Baton Rouge. ‘‘Some say it was the game against No. 1 Southern Cal in ’79. Not me. It was the Ohio State game. When you were on the sideline, you could scream to the person next to you and they wouldn’t hear you.’’
The teams met again a year later, only this time Ohio State had a different coach. Bruce, whose team completed a hard-luck 6-4-1 season in 1987, was fired five days before the annual season-ending showdown with rival Michigan. His players won the game for him, but couldn’t win him back his job.
Mike Archer was still the LSU coach on Sept. 24, 1988, when No. 9 LSU traveled to Ohio State, coached by Tennessee native named John Cooper. Things got off to a rocky start for Cooper when, after an opening victory over Syracuse, the Buckeyes had gone to Pittsburgh and been drilled 42-10.
During the postgame interviews within the bowels of Pitt Stadium, angry Ohio State fans swore at Cooper and screamed that he should quit and head back where he came from.
A week later LSU dominated play against the Buckeyes and was on top 33-20 with 4:29 left. After Ohio State scored, LSU ran the ball twice. On third down, Hodson threw an incompletion that stopped the clock and allowed the Buckeyes, out of timeouts, to get the ball back with 1:38 remaining.
‘‘We never really understood that pass,’’ Albergamo said.
Bobby Olive returned the punt 30 yards to the LSU 38. Greg Frey then tossed a 20-yard scoring pass to Olive for the win with 38 seconds left.
The fallout from both games reverberated for years.
LSU followed the heartbreaking loss at Ohio State with another defeat the next week at Florida, Later the Tigers were pounded by No. 3 Miami 44-3 and they dropped a 23-10 decision to Syracuse in the Hall of Fame Bowl. That 8-4 mark was Archer’s last winning record in Baton Rouge. After two losing seasons, he resigned with a 27-18-1 mark. He’s now the defensive coordinator at North Carolina State.
Despite the stirring win over LSU, Cooper was never accepted by Ohio State fans but still put in 13 seasons before he was fired and replaced by Jim Tressel, who led the Buckeyes into the third battle with LSU on Monday night.
Oh, and Spielman and Andolsek? Both were drafted the following spring by the Detroit Lions. Spielman remembers Andolsek plopping down beside him on a team bus, wearing a huge smile. They quickly became teammates, workout partners, best friends. All the old hatred was gone, all the old school loyalties put on the back burner.
‘‘We introduced Spielman to Mardi Gras,’’ laughed Albergamo, who met the linebacker through Andolsek.
On June 23, 1992, Andolsek was clearing some weeds in the front yard of his rural house back in his hometown of Thibodaux, La. A driver lost control of a flatbed truck, veered off the roadway and slammed into Andolsek, tossing him hundreds of feet into his sister’s yard. He was dead at the age of 25.
Spielman, now a TV and radio analyst after a successful NFL career, has only one football memento in his weight room at his home in Upper Arlington, Ohio: It’s a framed No. 65 jersey once worn by the guy he got into a shoving match with before that showdown in Baton Rouge.