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Before They Bowled, They Brawled: Revisiting A-State/LaTech 1989

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For Red Wolves fans, the New Orleans Bowl game with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs is a solid match-up between two talented opponents. For Indians fans, it's much more personal.

The Superdome is the site for some Indian Payback
The Superdome is the site for some Indian Payback
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The 1989 season wasn't memorable for either team. Louisiana Tech finishes the year 5-4-1. Arkansas State turned in an equally uninspiring 5-6 mark. Both programs were unaffiliated with conferences; rogue 1-AA independents seeking identity. The Indians, as A-State was known in those politically incorrect times, were led by the immortal Larry Lacewell. Captaining the Bulldogs was Joe Peace.

The Louisiana Tech/Arkansas State matchup of 1989 had everything but peace, though.

Imagine a football game from 1989, and you'll find that this one had it all: Trick plays. Huge shoulder pads. The wishbone formation. Terrible punting. Missed XPs. A scrappy WR named "Slaughter." The only thing missing was a Frank Stallone soundtrack and a cameo appearance from Dabney Coleman. Who knows why the two longtime rivals had to engage in fisticuffs. Perhaps it was the stress of coping with Time Inc./Warner Communications merger. Maybe everyone was still sore about the costly wreck of the Exxon Valdez. Surely it had nothing to do with the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

Regardless of the reason, Arkansas State entered the game winners of the last four over Louisiana Tech.  Upon kickoff, A-State immediately built a 14-0 lead, generating plenty of enthusiasm from the Jonesboro crowd. But LaTech clawed back into the game, and by the middle of the third quarter, the score was 27-18, A-State.

And then things got punchy.

Indians QB Roy Johnson scrambled in the backfield, dashing first to the Louisiana Tech sideline before reverse course and scrambling to the Arkansas State sideline, where he was met by a late hit. And then, boom. It was a fracas! A donnybrook! A punch-out potpourri!

"There's not any pushing and shoving here!" stated the game announcer. "I mean there are fists being thrown and both teams are going after it on the field!"

The majority of both teams participated, causing referees and clear-headed coaches to pull bodies out of piles like nacho chips.

Posted by Karl Patrick Terrebonne on Monday, December 14, 2015

"Tech players were taunting and late hitting a lot. Refs let it get outta hand. You could feel it building and sense it was coming," recalled an eyewitness to the game. "(Louisiana Tech) thought they were the 1-AA Miami of the time."

The fight fired up Louisiana Tech, who would go on to overtake A-State in the fourth quarter to secure a 40-37 victory. A-State old-timers still recall that night bitterly, and take a very dim view of Louisiana Tech. The New Orleans Bowl should be a terrific game of evenly matched opponents, but there will be many old Indians fans look for payback.