Thursday, September 18, 2014

WILEY HILBURN, Jr. writes about the State Fair Game: 1968 in review (Box Score included)

(Thanks to Patrick Walsh, Associate Director for Media Relations at Louisiana Tech, for making this column and art of Terry Bradshaw available.)

An Historic Rivalry Revisted - The Fair: A Game, A Turning-Point

By: Wiley W. Hilburn, Jr.
Reprinted from The Shreveport Times (publication date unknown)

This article is reprinted from The Shreveport Times from an unknown date in 1982 recalling one of the more dramatic games in the historic State Fair rivalry game between Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State. This game recalls Louisiana Tech’s 42-39 over the Demons in 1968 as Terry Bradshaw connected with Ken Liberto for an 82-yard touchdown pass with under 20 seconds left in the game.

Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State meet for the first time since 1994 this Saturday at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston.

SHREVEPORT, La. – People were already calling it the most exciting game in State Fair history, but with only 18 seconds left to play the issue seemed finally decided, the sentence pronounced, and all appeals exhausted.

Louisiana Tech was confined to its own 18-yard-line, behind which the red-and-blue goalposts loomed, a gallows. Northwestern State had the game won, 39-35. Indeed, a lot of Bulldog fans had deserted, preferring not to witness the final execution scene. NSU supporters, meanwhile, were on their feet, anticipating the hanging.

That was, of course, the State Fair game of 1968 and with the renewal of the Bulldog-Demon series coming up next Saturday, Tech’s dramatic reprieve 14 autumns ago will be remembered once again. It will be remembered not only because of what happened during those final 18 seconds, but also because the outcome marked that rare phenomenon in par, politics and athletics: a true turning point.

But let’s go back beyond the last 18 seconds of the ’68 fair game, seconds that just everybody who was there recalls with varying degrees of accuracy. Until then, in case anybody has forgotten, it was pretty much NSU’s game. Don Guidry, Northwestern’s courageous senior quarterback, had thrown two touchdown passes in the first half. NSU, intense and determined, led rather comfortably, 19-7.

Tech junior quarterback Terry Bradshaw, earning the sportswriter adjective “brilliant” for the first time the week before but in a losing cause, was only two for 12 passing at the half. And NSU’s fierce John Boogaerts, a Fair Park alumnus, had smeared Woodlawn’s Terry for a safety. It was a humiliating thing, and people began wondering again if Bradshaw would ever live up to his potential.

Of course, Northwestern’s halftime advantage was no big surprise. The Demons, under Glenn Gossett, came into the Fair game at 4-1 and the only loss was a one-pointer to Abilene Christian. Tech stood an ordinary 2-2, but opening wins over Mississippi State and East Carolina before consecutive losses had alerted some fans to the Bulldogs’ possibilities.

Both Gossett and Tech’s Maxie Lambright were second-year coaches. Their pre-game observations deliberately revealed nothing but caution. Times writer Bill McIntyre made NSU a one-point favorite, but some observers thought Tech – emerging with the Bradshaw-to-Tommy Spinks axis – ought to be favored by a touchdown.

Northwestern, however, had own the last two State Fair games and early in the second half it appeared that Guidry, who would run for 86 yards when he wasn’t passing, had the Demons in line with destiny. NSU had never swept three straight from Tech, but the purple and white were up, 26-15, at one time in the third quarter.

However, Bradshaw came back hot for the second half. He would fire six passes straight to Spinks that night. The game turned close and exciting; the cheers swept back and forth across the field, depending on who was moving towards the goal.

Still, when that same Boogaerts intercepted a Bradshaw pass with less than three minutes to play the case seemed close. Guidry’s 25-yard touchdown pass to his favorite receiver of the night, Al Phillips, had given NSU a four-point lead.

That’s the way it stood, anyway, with those 18 tiny ticks remaining. A hoarded of disappointed Tech fans were honking their way, mad, through the racetrack, headed for home in defeat. But Bradshaw still stood on that trapdoor of a field with NSU’s hangman’s noose around his neck.

Eighteen seconds. Time for a play or two. Could Terry shoot his way off the scaffold? Measured in 18 seconds, the 82 yards between Tech and the NSU goal was the distance between Ruston and Natchitoches. Even the State Fair queens on the sidelines knew all Bradshaw could do was shoot long. Miracle stuff. More Tech fans left.

Terry took his shot. He retreated with the ball, back to the Tech 10-yard line, almost under the gallows, looking all this time. The player Bradshaw saw, even as the trapdoor creaked, was flanker Ken Liberto. Football has its own pretentious jargon, but all Liberto had done was simply run down the sideline as far and fast as he could; a playground route.

Bradshaw, composed, the champion javelin thrower, speared the flanker with the ball at mid-field in front of the Tech bench. Then Liberto, a tall, dark-haired Shreveporter who at 190 pounds could move like a jackrabbit, simply outran the anguished Northwestern players to a touchdown.

It all seemed to happen in slow motion. One last Demon defender dove desperately at Liberto and nicked his heel at the NSU five. No good. And arriving in the end-zone almost simultaneously with Ken Liberto was, characteristically, a jubilant Terry Bradshaw. It was 42-39, Tech, after the extra point Tech and Terry had cheated the hangman.

That was the end, but for those Tech fans who remained there was the sense that something had happened; that more than a game had been won. President Jay Taylor vaulted his box-seat railing and led an impromptu Tech ban concert.

It was a turning point – for Tech football, Maxie Lambright and Bradshaw. The Bulldogs won the rest of their games in ’68 and were launched on a football dynasty that would last a decade. Bradshaw, who had only won Maxie’s confidence the spring before, had gone into orbit over State Fair Stadium.

This coming Saturday’s game renews the rivalry which produced the 1968 crossroads. And who knows: history may be haunting State Fair Stadium this October, too, See you there.

For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow @LATechFB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at

Box Score (Final)
Northwestern State vs Louisiana Tech (Oct 19, 1968 at Shreveport, LA)

Score by Quarters                     1              2              3              4               Score             
Northwestern State                   9              10           14           6               39                   Record: (3-2,1-1)
Louisiana Tech                           7              0              21           14             42                   Record: (4-2,2-2)

TECH Buster Herren 2yd run (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Larry Brewer 7yd pass from Terry Bradshaw (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Terry Bradshaw 1yd run (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Terry Bradshaw run (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Terry Bradshaw run (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Ken Liberto 82yd pass from Terry Bradshaw (Richie Golmon kick)
NSU  TEAM Safety
NSU  Vic Nyvall 78yd kickoff return
NSU  Rusty James 21yd field goal
NSU  Al Phillips 13yd pass from Don Guidry
NSU  Al Phillips 29yd pass from Don Guidry
NSU  Tommy Wallis 2yd run
NSU  Rusty James 4-for-5 on PAT attempts

                                                                       NSU                     LATECH
FIRST DOWNS                                              17                        24
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)                                  45-177                52-265
PASSING YDS (NET)                                      196                      258
Passes Att-Comp-Int                                   28-9-1                 29-13-2
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS                  73-373                81-523
Fumble Returns-Yards                                0-0                       0-0
Punt Returns-Yards                                     4-64                    2-12
Kickoff Returns-Yards                                 6-161                  7-119
Interception Returns-Yards                       2-36                    1-9
Punts (Number-Avg)                                   8-40.1                 8-39.9
Fumbles-Lost                                               1-1                       0-0
Penalties-Yards                                            6-49                    9-65
Possession Time                                          00:00                  00:00
Third-Down Conversions                           0 of 0                  0 of 0
Fourth-Down Conversions                        0 of 0                  0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances                        0-0                       0-0
Sacks By: Number-Yards                            0-0                       0-0

RUSHING: Northwestern State-Guidry,Don 12-82; Ware,Richard 12-46; Papa,Tony 8-31; Wallis,Tommy 8-18; Nyvall,Vic 4-15; Howard,Melvin 1-minus 15. Louisiana Tech-Sanchez,Bubba 8-97; Herren,Buster 11-75; Golmon,Richard 13-72; Lord,Mike 7-39; Bradshaw,Terry 13-minus 18.

PASSING: Northwestern State-Guidry,Don 9-28-1-196. Louisiana Tech-Bradshaw,Terry 13-29-2-258.

RECEIVING: Northwestern State-Phillips,Al 7-159; Nyvall,Vic 1-26; Haney,Wayne 1-11. Louisiana Tech-Spinks,Tommy 5-74; Liberto,Ken 4-131; Sanchez,Bubba 3-46; Brewer,Larry 1-7.

INTERCEPTIONS: Northwestern State-Boogaerts,John 1-29; Hrapmann,Ken 1-7. Louisiana Tech-Callais,Andy 1-9.

Stadium: State Fair Stadium    Attendance: 28,000