Notre Dame 24, LSU 6
November 15, 1997 – Tiger Stadium

by Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

BATON ROUGE, La. – Programs are built on a victory such as this.

Notre Dame came as close to perfection as the football gods will allow during a stunning upset of 11th-ranked LSU, 24-6, on the frost-bitten turf of “Death Valley.”

“We walked off that field at Stanford, we lost four straight games,” Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. “That was about as bad as it could get. We hung together. We made improvement as a team. We talked about it before the game that we were probably the only ones who knew we made improvement.”

Now, the whole world knows. No penalties. No turnovers. The longest play yielded on defense a 28-yard pass play. The longest run of the day against the Irish defense was 14 yards by All-American Kevin Faulk.

“Our focus was on team defense,” Davie said about protecting the perimteter and keeping Faulk from a big play. “We didn’t want to give up the home run. We felt that LSU beat people when Faulk broke a big play. We didn’t want that to happen.”

It didn’t.

“I felt we got outplayed in every aspect of the game,” LSU coach Gerry DiNardo said. “We kind of got our butts kicked. That was what I watched.”

What DiNardo watched was a dominating effort by his alma mater that improved Notre Dame’s record to 5-5 and put the Irish in position for some type of bowl invitation by winning their final two games of the season against West Virginia and Hawaii.

LSU, 7-3 and certain to fall hard in the polls, bowed to Notre Dame’s power approach to offense. Irish tailbacks Clement Stokes and Autry Denson each rushed for 92 yards as the team gained 260 on the ground. Stokes had a pair of TD runs and Denson had one.

“Everybody was against us,” Stokes said. “Nobody really gave us a chance. In that situation, when you’re counted out, you pull out a performance like this from somewhere.”

It came from total concentration, a flawless effort and a week off to get healthy and prepare.

“We came out and executed better than LSU did,” Denson said. “We knew, the way LSU pursued, that the cut-back would be there. It’s not something I consciously do, but it just happened.”

It happened on his nine-yard TD run and it happened on a 34-yard burst in the third quarter that set up Stokes’ second scoring run, improved the score to 24-0 and iced the outcome on a frigid night.

Even though Faulk was able to roll up 105 rushing yards while scoring the only LSU touchdown, those were relatively harmless yards that were earned on 26 carries.

“Our whole concentration was on stopping the run,” Notre Dame defensive end Melvin Dansby said. “This was the first 60-minute game we’ve played all season and we saw what happened. The week off was tremendous. I felt like a little kid running around out there.”

That little kid was responsible for five tackles. Inside linebacker Bobbie Howard led the Irish defense with 10 stops, two for lost yardage, and a quarterback sack.

Notre Dame’s early lead forced the Tigers to abandon their focus on the run. They threw an unusually high 30 times and completed 17 for 167 yards. Notre Dame, comfortable with its lead and the ground game, threw just 15 times, completing seven for 79 yards.

From a 43-yard kickoff return by Allen Rossum to start the game, everything Notre Dame did in the first half seemed to be right.

Besides getting the Irish in great field position near midfield and setting the tone for a very productive first quarter, Rossum’s return was the great neutralizer for a boisterous crowd.

The Irish refused to flinch on their first possession. The drive went to the LSU 26 when on fourth-and-one, Ron Powlus hit freshman tight end Jabari Holloway on a play that went down to the 9. Autry Denson carried it in on the next play for a 7-0 lead.

The advantage went to 10-0 when the Irish defense stopped LSU’s first offensive try and got the ball on their own 29. Powlus calmly executed a fake and hit Bobby Brown on a 31-yard heave to the Tiger 29. Three plays later, Scott Cengia hit a field goal from 29 yards.

Safety A’Jani Sanders made the big play to get the lead to 17-0. On a passing down at the LSU 22, while throwing the ball, Herb Tyler’s arm was hit by Lamont Bryant and the ball fell into Sanders’ hands. Notre Dame got the ball on the Tiger 15. Three plays later, Clement Stokes ran in from the 6.

The Irish missed several opportunities to turn the game into a rout before intermission. A dropped pass by Denson on fourth down killed one drive on the LSU 32 and a drop by Malcolm Johnson stopped another push at the LSU 20. Scott Cengia was wide left on a 37-yard field goal.

The Irish had a pair of interceptions – one by Sanders and one by Benny Guilbeaux, a native of Louisiana.

Scoring Summary

Notre Dame 17 0 7 0 – 24LSU 0 0 0 6 – 6

First Quarter
ND: Autry DENSON 9 run (Scott CENGIA PAT), 12:30 left. Drive: 57 yards, 6 plays, 2:30 elapsed after LSU kickoff. Key play: Ron Powlus to Jabari Holloway for 17 on 4th and 1 from the LSU 26. Score: Notre Dame 7, LSU 0.

ND: CENGIA 29 FG, 4:14 left. Drive: 59 yards, 10 plays, 5:00 elapsed after LSU punt. Key play: Powlus to Holloway for 5 on 3rd and 4 from the ND 35. Score: Notre Dame 10, LSU 0.

ND: Clement STOKES 6 run (CENGIA PAT), 1:37 left. Drive: 15 yards, 3 plays, 1:33 elapsed after Notre Dame interception. Key play: A’Jani Sanders 26 return of interception to LSU 15. Score: Notre Dame 17, LSU 0.

Third Quarter
ND: STOKES 1 run (CENGIA PAT), 5:58 left. Drive: 79 yards, 9 play, 3:24 elapsed after LSU missed field goal. Key play: Denson 34 run on 1st and 10 from the LSU 37. Score: Notre Dame 24, LSU 0.

Fourth Quarter
LSU: Kevin FAULK 2 run (Herb TYLER pass failed), 6:35 left. Drive: 52 yards, 8 plays, 3:13 elapsed after Notre Dame failed to convert on fourth down. Key play: Tyler to Abram Booty for 26 on 2nd and 11 from the ND 39. Score: Notre Dame 24, LSU 6.

Attendance – 80,566 (sellout)


ND LSUFirst Downs 20 19Rushing 13 10Passing 5 9Penalty 2 0Rushing Attempts 48 38Yards Rushing 279 153Yards Lost Rushing 19 32Net Yards Rushing 260 121Net Yards Passing 79 167Passes Attempted 15 30Passes Completed 7 17Had Intercepted 0 3Total Offensive Plays 63 68Total Net Yards 339 288Average Gain Per Play 5.4 4.2Fumbles: Number-Lost 1-0 1-0Penalties: Number-Yards 0-0 4-30Number of Punts-Yards 1-17 2-89Average Per Punt 17.0 44.5Punt Returns: Number-Yards 0-0 0-0Kickoff Returns: Number-Yards 2-48 5-103Interceptions: Number-Yards 3-70 0-0Possession Time 30:34 29:26Third Down Conversions 6-13 4-13Fourth Down Conversions 1-4 1-4Sacks By: Number-Yards 3-25 1-11

Notre Dame

RUSHING ATT GAIN LOST NET TD LGClement Stokes 15 92 0 92 2 20Autry Denson 17 97 5 92 1 34Tony Driver 5 28 0 28 0 11Ken Barry 3 21 0 21 0 12Jamie Spencer 3 20 0 20 0 17Jarious Jackson 2 16 0 16 0 14Ron Powlus 3 5 14 -9 0 5

PASSING ATT COMP INT YDS TD LGRon Powlus 10 6 0 74 0 31Jarious Jackson 4 1 0 5 0 5Hunter Smith 1 0 0 0 0 0

RECEIVING RECPT YDS TD LGJabari Holloway 2 22 0 17Jamie Spencer 2 5 0 5Bobby Brown 1 31 0 31Dan O’Leary 1 13 0 13Malcolm Johnson 1 8 0 8

PUNTING NUM YARDS AVG LGHunter Smith 1 17 17.0 17

RETURNS PR KO INTSBobby Brown – 1-5 -A’Jani Sanders – – 2-26Benny Guilbeaux – – 1-44Allen Rossum – 1-43 –

Notre Dame

RUSHING ATT GAIN LOST NET TD LGKevin Faulk 26 109 4 105 1 14Larry Foster 1 11 0 11 0 11Herb Tyler 11 33 28 5 0 11

PASSING ATT COMP INT YDS TD LGHerb Tyler 30 17 3 167 0 26

RECEIVING RECPT YARDS TD LGAbram Booty 4 68 0 26Larry Foster 4 45 0 20Kevin Faulk 4 8 0 4Kendall Cleveland 2 13 0 8Joe Domingeaux 1 11 0 11Tommy Banks 1 11 0 11Anthony Skinner 1 11 0 11

PUNTING NUM YARDS AVG LGChad Kessler 2 89 44.5 57

RETURNS PR KO INTSKevin Faulk – 1-33 -Casey Taber – 1-13 -Rondell Mealey – 3-57 –