A Perfect Season that Became the Greatest Season


 

 

Oct. 5, 2012

RUSTON - In 1972, the Louisiana Tech football team pulled off the perfect season going 12-0, something that had not been done in 40 years. Now 40 years later, Louisiana Tech University will honor that co-national championship team this Saturday at halftime in Joe Aillet Stadium where the widely considered "Greatest Season" in Bulldog history took place.

Coming off an impressive 9-2 season in 1971 that included a share of the league championship in their first year in the Southland Conference, a 14-3 victory over Eastern Michigan in the Pioneer Bowl and a top 10 ranking, many did not know what the encore would be.

The Bulldogs would nearly stumble right out of the blocks versus Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, La. A late fourth down conversion would set up the lone touchdown of the game and a 7-0 win.

Then Tech had to face arch nemesis Southern Mississippi who at the time owned a 22-8 edge in the all-time series. They went into Hattiesburg, Miss. and came away with a lopsided win 33-14 after opening up the game 33-0.

As if the schedule wasn't difficult enough, Tech would welcome to Joe Aillet Stadium No. 2 ranked McNeese State. The largest crowd ever of 19,200 watched as the offense put on a show and won 34-17.

Tech cruised through the next three games that were all in conference, winning by at least 20 points in all three. With the SLC schedule complete only six games in, the Bulldogs were conference champions, but there was still plenty of football and history to be made, including a bout with arch rival Northwestern State in Shreveport at State Fair Stadium.

The Bulldogs fell behind 13-0, but clawed back to win 20-16 and move to 7-0. They followed that with a shutout victory over Southeastern Louisiana 21-0.

A 41-21 win over Northern Arizona would setup a rematch of last year's Pioneer Bowl versus Eastern Michigan in Tech's homecoming game. The Bulldogs held on for a 24-17 victory.


 

 

Now at 10-0, the Bulldogs had one final test on the regular season slate and that was Northeast Louisiana. Playing in rainy, muddy conditions the Bulldogs had to come up with a late quarter touchdown drive to seal the win.

Tech was invited to play Tennessee Tech in the Grantland Rice Bowl in Baton Rouge, and the game wasn't even close. They called off the `Dogs like they had often done this year, and won 35-0 to complete the 12-0 perfect season and were named Co-Champions of college division football along with Delaware University by the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.

During halftime of the currently unbeaten Bulldogs and UNLV, about 25 players from "The Greatest Season" will come together for a reunion full of special bonds and memories.

Offensive lineman Roy Waters 1971-74

On the first game of the season:

"Our last drive we scored to win it. I remember Eric Johnson, that guy wasn't but about 5-foot-7, that guy was just incredible. I remember in the huddle on that last drive he and Glen Berteau were very loosy goosy, like they knew we were going to win. We go for fourth down, and Eric goes up and makes a first down and that set the stage for an undefeated season."

On the new starting quarterback Denny Duron:

Mickey Slaughter made a quarterback out of him. You just did your job and he'll take care of his. Denny had an arm, just incredible arm strength. Denny grew up real fast.

On coach Lambright:

Coach Lambright's strong point was he treated every game the same. He didn't build us up for a game. When you lost a game he didn't make a big deal out of it. I noticed his consistency."

On his teammates:

"It was a special set of guys because when they crossed the chalk it was serious business. We were friends when we left the practice field. It was a special camaraderie. You just went out there and went after it. We had a lot of fun. The more we win the more fun it got.

On the bowl game:

"There was a linebacker they were touting as an all-American, and I just remember for that game coach Slaughter said we were going to send a message. We ran a wedge play right at him on the first play. Then we ran it at him again two more times.

Defensive Lineman Fred Dean 1971-74

On thinking it could be a special season:

"I don't think we had that feeling, but I knew we had some great players. The great coaches and the great players we had. All of the chemistry seemed to be just right when you talk about the Lambright's, Slaughter's, and Pat Collin's. They all made a difference in how we went about playing the game."

On his personal accomplishments:

"My thing is that I felt my teammates always made me much better because of things in practice when we had to simulate the games."

On pulling off the perfect season: "When we went out on the field we went out there with an intention to come back victorious. It was a win-win attitude. That attitude that we had, when you talk to any undefeated team, everyone says everyone had fun out there."

Safety John Causey 1971-73

On the perfect season:

"The first thing was to get through two-a-days, make that mile run when we first showed up and just take the games one at a time, and before you know it we had won every one of them. It was just a special feeling. I was just fortunate to win, and we expected to win.

On his performance:

"I led the nation in interceptions that year with 10, but that game where I had four was UT-Arlington over in Ranger Stadium, and ironically the thing that I remember about it the most is I dropped one. I could've had five because I know not too many people had four."

On his teammates:

I was one of many off of that team that walked on without a scholarship, paid our way through the first year and just worked our way into it. I look back on that team, and not only did everybody pull their weight and do their job, you just look at that team and you look at the NFL history on it. That's the dichotomy that we had that gelled together."

On his coach and father-in-law Maxie Lambright:

"Coach Lambright brought in some great talent. He always said it's not the X's and the O's but the Jimmy's and the Joe's. He could take a preacher like [Denny] Duron and a bar fighter like [Joe] McNeely and mesh them in. He just had a knack of working through that and believing in both of them. He was pretty tough on them, but at the same time he expected them to do the job, and they did it and that was kind of amazing."

On getting back together for the reunion:

"It'll be really special. I think about the ones that can't make it or that have passed on. I wish it was 100%."

Offensive lineman/Punter Mike Swinney 1971-73

On the perfect season:

"It was special. You had Pat Collins on the defensive side who was a fireball. You had Mickey Slaughter on the offensive side, who in my opinion was way ahead of the game. We also had a quarterback by the name of Denny Duron who was a believer.

On Duron replacing Lantrip at quarterback:

"It was a big unknown. Denny is from Shreveport and so was I so I knew what Denny was capable of. After Ken left the unknown was there but it didn't take long to know that Denny had it all under control."

On it being 40 years since the perfect season:

"It's unbelievable that the 40 years has gone by the way it has. You look back and you think, number one where has the time gone, number two what a great tie it was and number three I wouldn't want to do two-a-days ever again."

On head coach Maxie Lambright:

"Coach Lambright was great coach. He was a tough coach, would do anything in the world for you and would do his best. If you needed something he was there for you all the time."