And with an ugly 16-10 loss to Florida on Saturday afternoon, Ed Orgeron’s chances of becoming LSU’s head coach took a mortal blow.
LSU was completely out-played on Saturday. Yes, the box score might not show that with big yardage totals in the Tigers’ favor, but Florida won at the line of scrimmage in the second half when it mattered, and maintained a consistently higher energy level. They looked like they wanted this one more, and that’s something Coach O will have to answer for.
In a lot of ways, it played out like the typical upset scenario. Heavy underdog sticks around due to mistakes from the favorite, hits one big play and suddenly all of the pressure is on the favorite to make plays and win the game.
Credit the Tigers for a final drive that was ballsy as hell, but a mental mistake on the final play ultimately cost them the game. And now, there’s the potential for some major upheaval within this program.
Look for the next week or two to play out something like this:
LSU will now head to College Station to play the Aggies on Thanksgiving Night. On the following Friday/Saturday, Orgeron and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva will meet at some point. If the Tigers win on Thursday, Orgeron will likely still be given the chance to make his pitch for this job — yes, that pitch will include staff changes and an offensive coordinator/QB coach — if not, he’ll likely receive a very nice bonus for his work as interim head coach, a chance to lead the team one last time in a bowl game and asked to at least listen to a potential pitch from the other candidates regarding a position on staff.
Sometime after the final games wrap up on Saturday, or on Sunday, Alleva will start the official business of reaching out to other candidates. The top of the list will be Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. And then things start to get complicated.
Yes, there is interest in Tom Herman, but he’s not the top of the list. That spot very clearly belongs to Fisher. The question then becomes about other jobs, namely Texas and Oregon, both of which are expected to be open by the end of next week. Herman could easily be caught up in a bidding war between those schools and based on what I’m told, he doesn’t have much of an interest in LSU compared to the Texas job anyway. Likewise, I would expect Fisher to get some interest from Texas as well – or at least some rumored interest, in order to drive up his price. The ball will be entirely in Sexton’s court, and if LSU is going to hire Fisher, expect it to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $6-8 million dollars a year.
If LSU does win the final game, Orgeron would likely still be the fallback candidate if Fisher or Herman are unavailable, as the list of candidates would still feature a lot of question marks.
Ideally, I think Alleva would like to have a decision made and a coach in place by the beginning of December, ahead of the conference championship games. I would expect word to start to leak out over the course of that week. The recruiting dead period will begin on December 12, which sets up as an important deadline. It is imperative that LSU settle this matter before then, so that the new coach can hit the trail ahead of time and then use the dead period to try and get a staff lined up. If this goes beyond that, LSU could hemorrhage recruits in the process, setting this transition back even further.
Saturday’s loss made a murky situation that much more uncertain, and now means that LSU may be at a significant disadvantage in hiring its next head coach.
With that in mind, here are a few notes from Saturday’s game:
- We’ll start right out with LSU’s penultimate play, and what went wrong on it:
- The play call was known as “pylon left.” Fake the dive inside, pitch out wide, run to the corner. Derrius Guice, unfortunately, steps to his right, and throws the timing off. Had he stepped left initially, he either walks in or just has Quincy Wilson to beat, in space. The cliché is a game of inches, but this time, it was just a few steps.
- It came right on the heels of, what to that point had been a fantastic closing drive by the Tigers and Danny Etling. The quarterback made smart decisions, handled pressure and even drilled a fourth-and-10 completion to D.J. Chark that kept things moving. The pass play was, coincidentally, an old Florida Fun-and-Gun concept, “Mills.” Chark ran a post and was able to get open, while the strong safety squatted down on a curl route from DeSean Smith at tight end.
- LSU even managed the clock well, playing for the win and making sure there would be no final chance for the Gators. They just couldn’t quite finish the drill.
- Fantastic call from Dave Aranda to end Florida’s first drive:
- LSU shows it’s bear front with all five linemen covered, but only rushes three and brings Dwayne Thomas from the safety spot. Nose tackle pushes towards the right A-gap and the back tries to help out wide first without seeing Thomas coming, and he had an easy path.
- LSU responded with a pretty nice opening drive, mixing in a nice bit of misdirection game with passes to frustrate the Gator pass-rush. Eleven plays, 63 yards to paydirt. If only they could have replicated that.
- Stat of the day No. 1: take it away Delly…
Florida with Beckwith on field: 9 carries for 20 yards (2.2 per carry)— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 20, 2016
Florida without Beckwith on field: 26 carries for 106 yds (4.8)#LSU
- No word yet on when Beckwith may return, or if we’ll see him again in an LSU uniform.
- Stat of the day No. 2: Florida converted four third downs in this game, and all but one came on third-and-short. Which means otherwise, the Gators went one-for-nine on any third down of longer than one yard.
- And the killer:
Nugget: #LSU scored 3 points on four trips inside the Florida 8-yard line.— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 19, 2016
- While the Tigers’ redzone woes were mostly due to their own mistakes, like Derrius Guice’s fumble and the botched hold by Josh Growden that resulted in an aborted pass attempt, Florida’s defense relied on their corner combo to roll nine men into the box and do everything they could to frustrate LSU’s passing game.
- And as much as I hate to say it, the coaching staff spent way too much time in the second and third quarters wasting carries on Leonard Fournette. He just wasn’t himself, even if he did occasionally make a nice run. While he didn’t appear to be walking with much of a limp, you could clearly see he just didn’t have his usual explosion off the cut and couldn’t do much damage in the open field. I know that it’s very difficult to tell a heart-and-soul player like Fournette no when he comes to you and says he’s ready to play, especially in his final home game. Orgeron had to handle it better.
- The energy of this game changed completely on the 98-yard touchdown pass to Tyrie Cleveland. The Gators had run that play out of the same double flexed tight end look before – Cleveland was able to separate, but Austin Appleby couldn’t quite connect. When Florida showed the same look again, even backed up in their own endzone, my first thought was “they’re going to take that shot again to try and back us off.” It looks like Jackson was a bit lazy off of the line, never got a jam on Cleveland and allowed him to get a step. Misses the tackle, and the Gators had the lead. And from then on out, they played like a team that knew they could win the game.
- In closing, just an ugly game all around. When I left the house I’m currently living in to walk to the game, news of the pre-game skirmish — which Florida’s Wilson admits to starting – and Fournette sitting out gave me something of a sense of dread. I missed kickoff, thanks to LSU not having gates 8-9 fully open and creating a massive bottleneck to get in:
- Got in my seat right as Florida’s first drive ended, then sat through a very bright, surprisingly hot miserable final home game of the year. Now, we just wait and see if things get worse from here.