This Saturday’s Magnolia Bowl will be the 105th game played between the Rebels and Louisiana State University. The rivalry began with a 26-6 win for Ole Miss on Dec. 3, 1894, in Baton Rouge, only one year after the Rebels’ football team was formed.
The first Magnolia Bowl, with that title, was played on Nov. 22, 2008, in the Tiger Stadium and ended with an Ole Miss win 31-13. It took compromise between the rivals to determine the name that would highlight the historic rivalry. The reason “Magnolia Bowl” won was because the Magnolia is both Mississippi and Louisiana’s state flower.
In order to design the first trophy and logo, the schools also compromised. The logo was designed by a former Ole Miss student from Cultigraphic, and the trophy was designed by former LSU senior Evan Trapp.
Since then, in 2014, the Magnolia Bowl trophy has been redesigned. This was decided by the Ole Miss Associated Student Body and the LSU Student Government, and the trophy was designed by Will Hopkins, owner of The Green Door furniture store in Oxford.
Langston Rogers, special assistant to athletics director for history, said it is an intense rivalry that has been good for college football.
“When Coach John Vaught was leading the Rebels, there was a period in the 1950s and 1960s that both teams would be ranked anywhere from first to sixth nationally when they met,” Rogers said. “A chance to win the SEC title and/or the National Championship was often in reach when Ole Miss and LSU squared off.”
Rogers said many do not know the rivalry was played at Tiger Stadium more than 15 times, from 1936 to 1951 and from 1953 to 1956. It was due to the larger capacity of LSU’s stadium.
“Ole Miss simply made more money by playing in Baton Rouge, and Coach Vaught once told me he didn’t mind playing our home games there because he felt we still had a good chance to win,” Rogers said.
The meat of the rivalry was from 1958 until 1963, when five games were played with both teams ranked in the top six in sports polls, according to ESPN writer Edward Aschoff.
Harry Harrison, who played from 1971 until 1973, played in the game known as “The Night the Clock Stopped” to many fans.
The Tigers played poorly, and the Rebels had a 16-10 lead in the fourth quarter. A punt by Ole Miss landed the ball in LSU’s hands at their own 20-yard line. Then the Tigers drove it down the field near the 10-yard line. The clock was stopped at four seconds.
After an incomplete pass, Harrison said the Rebels believed they had beat LSU. The players were excited and happy, but after everyone thought Ole Miss won, they realized there was one second left on the clock.
The Tigers had one more chance. LSU’s Brad Davis drove the ball down the field and was tackled into a touchdown. This caused the Rebels to lose 16-17.
“It was a heartbreaking moment and loss,” Harrison said. “They were so kind to us and created a sign when going into Louisiana that read ‘Welcome to Louisiana. Turn your clock back four seconds.’”
There have been many games that were close. The Ole Miss wins were 13-12 in 1941, 20-18 in 1947, 14-12 in 1957 and 24-22 in 1971. The Rebels’ losses were 10-11 in 1964, 16-17 in 1972, 17-19 in 1993 and 13-14 in 2002.
The rivals have had four games ending in ties: 6-6 in 1951 and 1960, 13-13 in 1967 and 27-27 in 1981.
After seeing 33 Ole Miss-LSU games, Rogers said his most memorable game was on Nov. 22, 2003. This marked the last home game for 21 Ole Miss seniors, including Eli Manning, and the first game since 1970 when both teams were nationally ranked.
“The SEC Western Division title and a trip to Atlanta were on the line,” Rogers said. “There was tremendous national interest in the game, and we distributed 714 credentials including team requests, media, bowl reps and pro scouts.”
With four minutes and 15 seconds left in the game, the Rebels’ Jonathan Nichols missed the 46-yard field goal attempt, which would have tied the game. This miss caused Ole Miss to lose 14-17.
The next week, the Rebels went on to beat Mississippi State University and earned a share of the Western Division crown with LSU. Ole Miss went on to beat Oklahoma State University in the 2004 Cotton Bowl.
“It was our first New Year’s bowl victory since Archie (Manning) led us to a win over Arkansas in the 1970 Sugar Bowl,” Rogers said. “We ended the season at 10-3, and LSU finished 13-1, winning the BCS National Championship.”
Although LSU and Ole Miss have lost their share of games, the fans have never lost their passion for rivalry.
“It’s a heated rivalry, but it’s all in good spirit,” Harrison said.