2011: Louisiana State vs Oregon
2011: No. 4 LSU Tigers 40, No. 3 Oregon Ducks 27
The third game of the Cowboys Classic was a rare matchup of Top 5 teams, with the fourth-ranked LSU Tigers flexing their muscles against the No. 3 Oregon Ducks, earning an impressive 40-27 victory that launched the Heisman Trophy campaign candidacy of the ‘Honey Badger’ Tyrann Mathieu.
The game also set the tone for the Tigers’ undefeated regular season and SEC championship run, a run that ended in the national championship game in New Orleans.
LSU turned the offense over to backup quarterback Jarret Lee, and he received a substantial boost from the Tigers’ defense and special teams, led by Mathieu. The Tigers forced four turnovers in the game, three of which led to 20 LSU points. Seven of those points came just before halftime when Mathieu stripped the ball from punt returner Kenjon Barner at the five yard line. Mathieu then scooped the ball at the three and waltzed into the endzone for a touchdown, igniting the raucous pro LSU crowd of 87,711 inside Cowboys Stadium.
LSU extended a 16-13 halftime advantage to 33-13 when Drew Alleman connected on a 32-yard field goal less than a minute into the fourth quarter. By then, the party had started for the Tigers, who just a season ago had turned in a similar 41-24 drubbing of Texas A&M in the same stadium in the Cotton Bowl.
The game marked the first season-opening contest of top-five teams on a neutral field since 1984, when Jimmy Johnson won his debut as coach of Miami against an Auburn squad featuring Bo Jackson a year before he won the Heisman Trophy. The win gave LSU 34 consecutive nonconference victories, the longest such streak in the nation, including all 23 in the regular season under seventh-year coach Les Miles.
The Ducks were coming off of a national championship game loss against another SEC foe, the Auburn Tigers. Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James had one of his worst games at Oregon, finishing with just 54 yards, only five more than he had against Auburn in the national title game.