Three Weeks in October

Three blissful October weeks in 1998.

How long ago was that?

Put it this way, I was still at Jesuit. Rather, I just got to Jesuit. As a 100lb freshman.

But we have to make those many yearbook flips because these are historic times.

LSU and Tulane are both in the top-25.

The year 1998, of course, became more memorable for the Green Wave—the storybook season that only needed this new-fangled twelve-team playoff to make it movie-worthy. The forever undefeated Green Wave finished seventh in the final polls.

LSU finished a bit lower—as in, not in it at all. Those three October weeks in 1998 served a different narrative device for the Tigers: less a movie, more a harbinger of things to come. Beware, Gerry! Saban is coming!!

Both LSU and Tulane cruised through successful Septembers, the preseason #7 Tigers sandwiching a road win at Auburn between Daughters of Charity exhibitions against Arkansas State and Idaho, and the Green Wave dispatching Cincy, SMU, and Navy with a 41.5 point/game average. Defeating the Midshipmen in front of an undoubtedly deafening 19,371 Superdome crowd, the Green Wave made it into the polls. Noisier by the week, Shaun King already was leading the nation in passing efficiency, capping his September with a virtuoso performance: 17 of 22 for 235 yards and four touchdowns.

Tulane would string together nine more victories, getting to 12-0, getting King a 2nd round draft slot, and getting Coach Tommy Bowden that Clemson job (but, ahem, not getting Rich Rodriguez that Tulane gig).

LSU, of course, would have a more subdued fall. After two promising seasons (1997 included nine wins and the Florida upset), Gerry DiNardo’s Tigers stumbled after their 3-0 start, losing seven of their next eight. They weren’t far off—their 1-7 point differential was only twenty-three points—but scorecards (and boosters) don’t lie. DiNardo wouldn’t survive the next season.

Before all that, though, those three weeks in October were all kumbaya. Tulane coming, LSU going, Ditka imploding.

That’s right… there was one other football team in the region. And believe it or not, the 1998 Saints also started 3-0. Wake me up in October 1998!

Ditka, however, was more DiNardo than Bowden, guiding the team to another three wins in its remaining thirteen games. In fairness, like DiNardo, Ditka didn’t have a Shaun King. Imagine this as your quarterback rotation: seven games of Kerry Collins, four games of Danny Wuerffel, and five games of the Billy Joes (Tolliver with four, Hobert with one). On second thought, I’ll stick here with Andy and Jameis.

Like DiNardo, Ditka’s 1999 would be his last. Unlike DiNardo, Ditka used the 1998 offseason to empty out cupboard and reverse mortgage the house: months after the season Da’ Coach donned his dreadlocks and walked Ricky Williams down the aisle, trading two Saints drafts in the process.

At least Gerry left his successor (a fella by the name of Nick) freshmen Domanick Davis and Bradie James.

Still, both LSU and the Saints were doing better than our last big-time sports team.

The Hornets wouldn’t make their move down from Charlotte for another four years, but nothing from their 1998 October makes for good chronicling. On October 13, 1998—one day after the last poll to record LSU and Tulane together in the top-25—the NBA cancelled its first set of games. The league would be locked out until January.

So, brush away all that negativity. It could always be worse. Just ask Kenny Anderson, the Celtics point guard who infamously reflected that the 1998 lockout might force him to sell one of his eight vehicles in order to get by. He hypothetically chose the Mercedes.

Life was simpler in these NBA-free parts. Tulane, LSU, the Saints—all undefeated to start October 1998.

Just ignore that faint smell of gasoline and burning rubber coming down the road.

Or maybe just stick with Tulane.

Like 1998, these are historic times.



Want more from the hagiography files of St. Nick? Yeah, you do! Nick Saban claims to have discovered “the process” during one 1998 game in East Lansing. The virgin birth likely didn’t have so many sunbeams shining down.

Shift to something more positive: 1998 Saints-Falcons. The good guys couldn’t possibly lose to Steve DeBerg, “the oldest player to play an NFL game since George Blanda,”right?!? Things can always get worse, young Who Dats.

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