The fallout has not yet settled from last weekend’s implosion in Starkville. Many people are still radioactively mad and are holed up in places that foster such toxicity.
And to be perfectly fair, for good reason. It was a bad loss, one LSU should never have to experience regardless of turnover in Baton Rouge and steadied improvement in Starkville. Les Miles was let go and he never led a team into such a poor performance as was displayed last week.
But maybe it was exactly what this team needed.
Since Orgeron took over, it’s been almost nothing but sunshine and butterflies. When Ed accepted the interim title of head coach, he was able to pull back on the stick and save the team from total free fall. An offensive record was set in six straight games and a mulligan was issued for Alabama, with the only dour note coming from being a yard and a fluke pass away from beating Florida. And that was followed by a beatdown of Texas A&M which lead to the full-time hire of Orgeron, which he validated by kicking Louisville and newly minted Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson’s collective ass up and down the field in Orlando. And then Matt Canada was hired to crank things up to 11.
LSU was hit with a wave a transfers, but that was quelled by impressive performances against BYU and Chattanooga to open the season. And then last week happened.
Nobody ever has or ever will like losing. But with some space between the game and now, I can see how that loss can become a big part of the program moving forward.
Losses to Alabama, Auburn, and Florida aren’t accepted, and never will be. They are losses that Les Miles was fired for collecting too much of and the final step from keeping LSU in the national title picture. But those are understandable losses against opponents that LSU sees at their level. When LSU loses to those teams, the question is “what went wrong”.
That’s not the question that was asked about this program this week. Everybody knows what went wrong: LSU got their ass beat by somebody they were wholly glossing over because history suggested it.
The question asked after last Saturday was “what is LSU now?”.
Coaching changes are rarely ever met with instant success, especially when it’s more of a program retooling than it is a coaching change. But given the talent and coaching given at LSU’s disposal, they still shouldn’t get socked in the mouth by Mississippi State and fail to get up off the mat. Even Mississippi State fans weren’t expecting LSU to just quit after going down.
It was without a doubt the worst regular season loss LSU has ever had. It was the “come to Jesus” moment that defines a football team in that it either makes or breaks them for years to come.
And it was six days ago. Tomorrow, LSU hosts Syracuse. At home in prime time, on ESPN2. Make no mistake, the entire college football collective will be watching to see how LSU responds.
They’re not rooting for or against LSU. They’re looking for a referendum on the new LSU, if they will be a team that fights to the end with nothing held back or if they give up like LSU teams of recent have after losses.
Ed Orgeron came here to change the trajectory of LSU football. Building a dynasty in the shadow of another is difficult, but it’s even harder when your only blueprint is “win more”. Now after being humbled, the path is slightly more clear: the first step is to respond. LSU can win and nothing will change, a 24-14 win over Syracuse will do nothing to erase the truth that came out of that “come to Jesus”.
LSU needs to make a statement. I’m sure the gameplan was to beat Syracuse without giving too much away, but that ship has sailed. LSU needs to body Syracuse. Not for pettiness or for rankings or for computer points but because they need to define what the program is now.
Take the first step.