BATON ROUGE, La. — Ed Orgeron still hasn’t quite gotten over it.
Never mind that the Tigers are 11-0, No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings and have bigger fish to fry. Moments after the Tigers wrapped up their blowout win over Arkansas on Saturday night, he looked and sounded ready to avenge 74-72.
“I’ll never forget that game last year,” Orgeron said. “We’re gonna be ready.”
The game was a historic one for A&M, marking its first victory over LSU since joining the SEC and serving as the signature win of Jimbo Fisher’s debut season there. He’s aware of how hell-bent LSU is for revenge.
“We have to prepare and do what we do,” Fisher said. “They’re going to be emotional and have high energy; we have to have high energy. … At the end of the day, it’s still a football game.”
Before the teams meet on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), let’s take a look back at the twists and turns of last year’s memorable marathon:
Biggest game-changing moment: The Grant Delpit interception that wasn’t
Trailing 31-24, the Aggies had 89 seconds and no timeouts. On second-and-10, quarterback Kellen Mond dropped the shotgun snap, picked it up and heaved it toward Kendrick Rogers. Mond was leveled by LSU linebacker Devin White as he threw it. The ball floated and LSU safety Grant Delpit easily intercepted it and returned it to midfield.
“I thought the game was over,” Texas A&M receiver Jhamon Ausbon said. “I came back on the sideline and I was mad. I threw my helmet. I was crying and stuff.”
Senior fullback Cullen Gillaspia stood blankly, looking at the east stands, where the letters “HOME OF THE 12TH MAN” hang below the third deck.
“I just remember thinking, ‘This is it. This is my last time on this field and it was another loss to LSU,'” said Gillaspia, now with the Houston Texans.
“It was sickening,” former A&M tight end and current Green Bay Packer Jace Sternberger said.
The LSU defensive coaches who were in the press box headed down to the field. Texas A&M radio network sideline reporter Will Johnson removed his headset and powered down his equipment so he could prepare for postgame interviews.
But it wasn’t over.
“The previous play is under review,” bellowed referee Matt Austin.
Turned out that when Mond dropped the snap and bent down to grab the ball, his knee touched the turf. The Aggies had new life.
“I saw it [live], I saw Kellen’s knee go down,” Fisher said. “For some reason, I looked back, I thought they were gonna blitz and was seeing if they did and I saw the bad snap. And I was the one saying, ‘His knee was down.’ When he picked it up and threw it and they didn’t call it, I told ’em, ‘Please review it, because he’s down.'”
Once Mond saw the replay and realized the call would likely get overturned, he went to the emotional Ausbon.
“Kellen came and hit me in my arm and said, ‘Get up. What are you doing?'” Ausbon said. “He got on my ass. ‘We’re gonna go win this s—. My knee was down.'”
LSU, naturally, was surprised.
“It kinda hits you in the face,” LSU safety JaCoby Stevens said.
“I thought the game was over,” Delpit said. “I was kinda mad when they called it back, but I had to go out on the field and make another play.”
Their second chance gave the Aggies new confidence.
“We never thought we were going to lose the game once our coach said that we’re getting the ball back,” said former A&M left guard Keaton Sutherland.
Closest call: Mond spiking the football with one second left
As the Aggies tried to get in position for the game-tying touchdown, the seconds were precious.
Mond found Rogers on the right sideline for a 22-yard gain on their penultimate regulation play, but Rogers was unable to get out of bounds. The clock wound down to three seconds before stopping for the chains to move.
As Mond lined up under center, took the snap and spiked the ball, the clock expired. LSU thought it may have just sealed the win once again. But Austin announced they would review.
“When I looked up at the clock [before the snap], it said 3, so I know it didn’t take me [more than] two seconds to get it on the ground,” Mond said.
The Tigers disagreed.
“There was no time left, from our viewpoint,” former LSU safety John Battle said. “We thought we won it again; guys were celebrating.”
After the game that night, Orgeron said multiple times that he believed the officials erred.
“That’s one second in my opinion that should have never been put back on the clock,” Orgeron said that night. “And that was very unfair that that happened to our football team tonight.”
Though it was close, Austin confirmed, “After review, when the quarterback spiked the ball, there was one second left on the clock.”
Fisher, obviously, concurred.
“When [Rogers] got tackled and went down, there should have been five seconds on the clock,” Fisher said this week. “I thought the clock was wrong before they ever had to snap it. … There were two seconds that ticked off after he hit the ground. I knew it was going to be tight but I thought we had gotten it done.”
On the following play, Mond hit Quartney Davis for a 19-yard score, sending the game to overtime.
That call, among others, bothered Orgeron, even months after the game. When he visited Houston in June to speak to LSU alumni, he joked, “At the A&M game, I saw the referee walking out with the game ball.”
Texas A&M ties the game at 72-72 with a Quartney Davis 17-yard touchdown. After a penalty on each team, the Aggies get the conversion to win.
Most-talked-about moment: The postgame fight
While the game was historic in many ways, what dominated the conversation in the immediate aftermath were postgame fisticuffs between the teams.
The first evidence of the altercation emerged when Baton Rouge Advocate photographer Hilary Scheinuk tweeted a photo of LSU director of player development Kevin Faulk and Texas A&M student manager Cole Fisher, Jimbo’s nephew, grabbing each other.
In the days and weeks to follow, videos obtained by Sports Illustrated and the Houston Chronicle would show that:
Texas A&M receivers coach Dameyune Craig — a former LSU assistant — ran across the field pumping his fists near LSU players and coaches, with Cole Fisher trailing behind him apparently trying to stop him.
Cole Fisher extended an arm to apparently shove LSU analyst Steve Kragthorpe.
Faulk and Cole Fisher traded punches and LSU’s Battle hit Fisher after he struck Faulk.
“It was a mess,” Orgeron said this week. “That’s all I want to say about it. Obviously I wasn’t part of it. I went to shake hands with Jimbo and left. I heard about it, all the stuff, but everybody knows what happened. It’s a mess, it shouldn’t have happened. And I’m sorry that it did happen.”
Said Jimbo Fisher: “Well, it’s just a shame, because you hate for anything to happen after you had a great moment.”
Craig, who was fired by Orgeron after the 2016 season, could be seen on video wildly fist-pumping in front of LSU QB Joe Burrow, who appeared to watch motionless. Asked this week about that scene, Burrow said, “I just thought it was a little interesting. I was too tired to do anything, so I just kinda stood there. Hopefully it’ll be a little different this year.”
Fisher said he’s “sure it was” an emotional game for Craig, “but at the same time you’ve got to control your emotions. … You can’t let those things happen, and [you need to] keep those things inside.”
Said Battle: “It was a lot of chaos going on. … I was just trying to find my teammates and coaches and just get everybody back in the locker room safely.”
Most highlight-worthy play: Kendrick Rogers’ 25-yard touchdown catch in the third overtime
In the third overtime, with the Aggies trailing 49-41, Mond drifted back to the 39-yard line to escape pressure and threw off one foot to Rogers, who was being hugged in the end zone by cornerback Terrence Alexander. A flag was thrown for pass interference, but no matter — Rogers stretched out his left hand, tipped the ball to himself and slapped two hands on it as he fell to the turf.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Mond said.
“He’s got some of the best hands I’ve ever seen on a human being,” Gillaspia said.
“It’s still the best catch I’ve ever seen,” said Johnson, who was a few feet away from the play.
It was one of five critical catches — two for touchdowns, three for two-point conversions — Rogers made in the overtimes. In regulation, Rogers had only one catch.
By the numbers
197: Combined offensive plays for LSU (90) and Texas A&M (107).
146: Combined points between the teams, the most in an FBS game in NCAA history.
10: Times Orgeron said “Texas A&M” or referenced last year’s game in LSU’s postgame news conference on Saturday (four references were prompted by reporters’ questions).
4: Times Orgeron said “On to Texas A&M” in the news conference.
Did you know?
Both teams ran out of two-point conversion plays
Every team has plays specifically for two-point conversions built into their game plan. But after seven overtimes — and rules dictate teams must go for two starting in the third overtime — both coaching staffs exhausted their allotment in their respective playbooks.
Orgeron remembers offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger audibly searching for one during the marathon.
“Ensminger was on the headset, ‘Anybody got a two-point play?'” Orgeron said. “In fact, because of that game, I put a period in on every Thursday [practice for] two-point plays and trick plays.”
Orgeron said his offensive staff has studied plays from the NFL and even the now-defunct Alliance of American Football for two-point plays and trick plays. “So we have a repertoire that we have. If we get in a battle, we’re gonna be ready.”
Fisher said the Aggies carry three two-point conversion plays into every game, but once they exhausted those, they had to look elsewhere.
“We had a lot of under-5-yard plays that we always carry that we had to use,” Fisher said. “We had to pull our other plays from our plus-5 passing plays or plus-7 passing game. We pulled one or two of those over.”
The game-tying play in regulation was one the Aggies couldn’t get right in practice
Mond’s 19-yard touchdown to Davis as regulation expired kept the Aggies alive. But that week in practice, the Aggies struggled to execute it.
“Quartney and Kellen just could not get in sync,” Sternberger said. “One day Kellen is throwing it too far in front or the scout team is in the way or [Quartney] is not running hard, it just never added up.”
But when Fisher was mulling his options, 19 yards from the end zone, he asked his quarterback what he wanted to run, and Mond told him that play.
“There was absolutely not one guy in that huddle that didn’t believe we were going to execute on a play that we called,” former running back and current Cincinnati Bengal Trayveon Williams said.
As Mond awaited the shotgun snap, Rogers — one of three receivers to the left side — motioned toward the ball until he was flanked by Davis and Sternberger. Rogers ran over the middle, Sternberger ran a wheel toward the boundary and Davis burst straight upfield, briefly veered to the left, then turned back toward the hash mark.
“I saw the safety slightly move with Kendrick on the over route and then I knew if I just got enough height on it, Quartney could make a play on it,” Mond said.
Davis did, meeting the ball at its apex and falling to the turf with it. When he got up, he raised both arms to the sky and Rogers hugged him.
“Unbelievable catch,” said Sutherland, now with the Miami Dolphins. “And then the place just exploded.”
“It was like a bomb went off,” Johnson said.
Kyle Field was deafening.
“I couldn’t even hear myself be happy,” Sutherland said.
On the final play of the game, the Aggies were initially planning to run the ball
Kendrick Rogers will forever live in Aggies lore for making highlight-reel catches in overtime and catching the game-winning two-point conversion in the seventh overtime. But that play was made possible when Sutherland committed a false start.
After LSU’s Greedy Williams was called for pass interference and unsportsmanlike conduct (the latter was the result of Williams arguing the interference call with field judge Blake Parks), Texas A&M had the ball inside the LSU 1.
The Aggies took all but one receiver out, brought in the fullback, Gillaspia, an extra lineman and an extra tight end. They would put the game in the hands of the SEC’s leading rusher, Trayveon Williams, who won an overtime game for them against Kentucky earlier that season.
“We were running the football,” Fisher said.
“We were about to lead it straight up the middle,” Gillaspia said.
“I was anticipating jumping over the pile,” Williams said.
One problem: Sutherland jumped early and was flagged for a false start.
“My initial thought was, ‘Don’t look over to the sideline,'” Sutherland said. “I knew both coach Jimbo Fisher and [offensive line] coach [Jim] Turner were going to be cursing me a storm.”
Joked Fisher: “He was probably right.”
“In that moment I was pretty pissed,” Williams said. “I said a few cuss words.”
Time to celebrate
In the A&M locker room, a couple dozen players broke out cigars.
“It was kind of a spur of the moment thing that we in years past for some other big games had something like that planned but, you know, never really pulled through,” Gillaspia said. “And so last game we kinda remembered, ‘Let’s pack ’em just in case.'”
Sutherland said it’s a moment he’ll remember forever and “I’m sure the equipment guys will too, because they couldn’t get the smell out for a week and a half.”
Orgeron’s multiple made-for-TV moments
Orgeron sprinted 25 yards down the sideline, twice, to call timeout before critical plays in the fifth and seventh overtimes.
Did anybody time his splits?
“No, but on the second one, I almost pulled a hamstring,” Orgeron said, “and that would have not looked good on TV.”
After the premature Powerade bath that Orgeron took in regulation, he said he was unsure of how long it took for his shirt to dry, but he chuckled when asked about it on Monday.
“I don’t know,” he said. “There were so many things happening right there. Like in the game, you gotta shake it off. But I stunk pretty well after the game.”