LSU book excerpt: John Sage was big key to a championship defense for the Tigers in 1970 | LSU

Editor’s note: The Advocate is counting down the days until LSU’s Sept. 4 season opener against Florida State with excerpts from the book “LSU By the Numbers.” Thursday marks 73 days until kick-off, so we take a look back at the Tigers’ greatest No.73 John Sage:

73 John Wise

DT, 1968-70

All-SEC 1970

This league season. LSU was denied a shot at one in 1969 by a single narrow loss to Ole Miss and Notre Dame’s decision to end its self-imposed bowl ban. But the Tigers were champions in 1970, thanks in large part to a fine defense of which John Sage was one of the stars.

The Tigers entered the 1970 season highly motivated by a snub from the previous year. LSU went 9-1, just three points off a perfect season thanks to a 26-23 win fueled by Archie Manning for the Rebels. Then they were denied a shot at No. 1-ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl because Notre Dame decided to play in a bowl for the first time since 1925.

Instead of a championship or bowl ring, coach Charles McClendon made sure the Tigers, their coaches and staff each had a big industrial screw mounted on a plate. It made a big chip on the Tigers shoulder pads back to wear in 1970.

Maybe too big, at least to start with. In Game 1, Texas A&M hit a 79-yard Hail Mary with 13 seconds left for a 20-18 win. But LSU went 5-0 in conference play thanks to a 17-9 midseason win at Auburn thanks to late goal-line position.

“The Auburn game felt like the game that took us to another level,” Sage said.

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LSU would lose a 3-0 defensive struggle at No. 2 Notre Dame, but wrapped up the SEC title with a resounding 61-17 win over Ole Miss. It was the Tigers’ first conference championship since 1961; they would not win another until 1986.

As was often the case under McClendon, the Tigers were superb on defense, giving up 8.7 points per game and were shocked by some standout players. Cornerback Tommy Casanova and linebacker Mike Anderson were All-Americans, while Sage, an LSU ROTC colonel, defensive tackle Ronnie Estay and safety Craig Burns earned All-SEC honors.

Sage was drafted in the 17th round in 1971 by the Philadelphia Eagles but did not play in the NFL.

OTHER GREAT

Will Arnold, G, 2004-07

Played just three games as a senior due to injuries, but was an All-SEC selection as a sophomore and junior.

Craig Duhe, T, 1975-77

Earned All-SEC honors in 1977 as a starter on LSU’s prolific offense that scored 375 points (34.1 per game), the most for a Tigers since 1908.

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