Will Ed Orgeron get the LSU head coaching job?
That remains to be seen.
But if he doesn’t, his hopes may have come up exactly a half-yard short on Tiger Stadium’s natural grass on Saturday afternoon against Florida.
The Tigers trailed Florida 16-10 late in Saturday’s game, inching the ball to Florida’s 1-yard-line with just 3 seconds to play.
The final play was all or nothing – an inside toss from quarterback Danny Etling to halfback Derrius Guice.
But Guice broke the wrong way, and Florida pounced on it.
The halfback battled and leapt for the end zone, but was stopped – about a foot short of victory.
The end result was a 16-10 win for Florida – a triumph that seals the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division for the Gators. It also ends LSU’s hopes at making the Sugar Bowl and again begins the conversation about the school’s head coaching future.
After the game, players supported Orgeron – some even calling for him to get a long-term extension.
Orgeron, himself, didn’t play along with the banter, but instead lamented about one that got away.
“This is a tough loss. Especially at the end,” Orgeron said. “We weren’t clicking on all cylinders today and it showed. … This was probably the worst we’ve played since we started our new season.”
The Tigers couldn’t get out of their own way on Saturday.
They opened the game with a bang.
They forced a punt, then drove down the field on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard run by Derrius Guice, which made the score 7-3.
But then the team started firing ammunition into its own foot.
After a Florida field goal made it 7-3, LSU had a chance to get insurance points, taking the ball to Florida’s 7-yard line.
But on a first-and-goal snap, Guice fumbled, which gave the Gators back the ball with no damage done – taking the game to halftime with the Tigers on top by just four.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Orgeron said. “We had poor, poor red zone play.”
It never got better.
In the second half, LSU took the opening kick and drove the ball to Florida’s 1-yard-line.
Again … they got no points.
Florida stopped a third-and-goal run, then LSU muffed the snap on the ensuing field goal.
The Gators then found lightning in a bottle on the very next play when quarterback Austin Appleby hit Tyrie Cleveland over the top for a 98-yard touchdown to go on in front 10-7 – a lead that LSU answered two drives later with a field goal of its own to bring the game to the fourth quarter tied at 10-all.
But then, some strange things happened.
Florida drove down the field on a long, run-heavy drive that stalled out at the 1-yard-line, but still netted 3 points and a 13-10 advantage with 4:37 to play.
LSU never got a chance to answer that score, because sophomore Donte Jackson fumbled the ensuing field goal, which netted Florida another field goal and a 16-10 lead, which started all of the drama and the Tigers final sequence – a 13-play drive, which needed 75 yards, but only got 74.
“It was a wild game,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “We’re happy to come in here and find a way to get it done.
After the game, talk around the LSU water cooler was less about the loss and more about the future – specifically as it pertains to Orgeron.
Safety John Battle said the blame isn’t on Orgeron, but is on the team’s players for playing poorly.
“It’s on us,” Battle said.
Offensive lineman Ethan Pocic and cornerback Tre’Davious White agreed.
Both said they don’t know what the future holds for LSU football, but they think Orgeron should be a big part of it.
“He’s improved this team so much,” Pocic said. “They need him to be here and to stay.”
“Any player on this team would want him here,” White added. “We all want him to be our head football coach.”
Whether they get their wish remains to be seen, but he sure could have used an extra yard on his resume on Saturday in Death Valley.
Photo: LSU vs. Southern Miss by Sean Gasser.