Yes, we play another football game this weekend, and it’s a big one. LSU fans and players circled the Texas A&M game on the calendar right about when the previous Texas A&M game ended a couple weeks ago.
You don’t need me to tell you how angry you are about that game still, and trust me, however you feel, the players feel it a million times more. I mean, read this article from The Advocate this week and take in those player quotes. This is a team that is downright seething.
But I don’t want to talk about the Texas A&M game. That game is gonna go the way it’s gonna go, and let the chips fall where the may. No, what I want to talk about is this season in general and some of the men responsible for it.
This season, right now, might be the greatest season in LSU history. I generally hate our collective recency bias. Everything has to be the best thing or the worst thing ever, and I have to tell you… history is long. It is simply arrogant to dismiss wide swaths of history just because the pictures are grainy, or in black and white.
But this season has been a gift. LSU isn’t just great, they are fun. Every game seems like an exercise in finding new ways to break the scoreboard. The team is not just racking up huge totals, they seems to specialize in clutch plays. Whenever the game gets close, that’s when they play their best.
Yes, the defense has struggled here and there, but it has effectively slammed the door in our tightest games (okay, except Texas).
The defense held Auburn to six consecutive punts in the second half to turn a tie game at halftime into a 23-13 lead before Auburn scored a late TD to make the game look closer. LSU actually fell behind by a touchdown on the first drive of the second half against Florida, only for the defense to stiffen and not allow another point, as the offense scored 21 unanswered. The defense wobbled in the second half against Bama, but it never fell, and Bama never got the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead, though they did score a long touchdown in the game’s final 90 seconds to make the score closer.
What I’m saying is, this season has been a delight and even the things we’re complaining about aren’t that big of a deal. Pass the turkey and some of Billy’s oyster dressing. Enjoy and give thanks for a great year.
The architect behind this remarkable team is Mr. Second Choice himself, Ed Orgeron.
When Ed Orgeron was hired, the decision was widely derided by many people as the unwanted result of an embarrassing search. And when I say many people, I mean me. I’ll quote myself a week after the hire:
This was a chance to do something bold, and instead we settled. This was a status quo hire right after the administration made a clear signal the status quo wasn’t good enough. If we were going to do this, why didn’t we spare ourselves the headache and just keep Les Miles? What’s the difference? This is an administration without a plan.
I don’t want to say that Coach O is a guaranteed failure. It’s more that I just don’t understand Alleva’s thinking at all. You can frame this however you want, and Ponamsky has proved himself to be a master at PR, but this hire is about minor tweaks, not a major blowup. I felt that once you fired Miles, you were on the path of major blowup and it was time to see it through. Alleva clearly felt that it was just time for minor tweaks and a major messaging overhaul. This is a sequel, not a reboot.
Here we are, three years later, and it doesn’t feel like a minor tweak. What I thought was a sequel was instead a complete reboot disguised a s a sequel. I was completely and utterly wrong (well, at least I didn’t say he was a guaranteed failure, so like… 90% wrong).
Though if I’m going to make fun of my old opinions, I should point out that I steadfastly stood by Ed after the Troy loss and the rats were jumping ship. The Troy loss turned out to be a great thing, as it gave Orgeron the courage to do things his way. Either he was going to succeed or fail, but he was going to do it his way, without regrets. It was a moment of clarity for the program.
However, the time is not to throw up our hands and give up. After all, we’re not Auburn fans. We don’t concede full seasons. I’ve got little sympathy for Tiger fans who have adopted a woe is us posture, spending their time researching Coach O’s buyout instead of looking at how this team can get better.
The current staff deserves a full-throated support right now. Barring a complete meltdown, a coach needs to time to implement his own vision for the program, and any transition will have its hiccups. Okay, I’d prefer if that hiccup wasn’t losing to a Sun Belt team, but Coach O is in the process of remaking the team in his own image, and we are nowhere near the finished product.
What a finished product, eh? Orgeron, after some early struggles, has delivered on every promise. The offense is now a monster. LSU is competing for titles. We have somehow stepped up our recruiting from great to “oh my God” levels.
And he did it by being true to Louisiana and not giving a damn what any other person said. He’s made mistakes, but unlike a lot of coaches, he learned from them. He put Steve Ensminger back in charge of the offense, over the objections of nearly every person on the internet, and it has worked out like gangbusters.
Orgeron has shoved it in the face of every person who doubted the hire, and I could not be more thrilled. This thing could have spiraled out of control after the Troy loss, and instead he treated that as the spot where you build the foundation. Once you get to the lowest point, stop digging.
If any player symbolizes the Ed Orgeron era so far, it is Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Similarly dismissed and derided, Clyde was supposed to be a place-holder back until the vaunted five star freshmen took the job away from him. It was simply inevitable, as you can’t beat talent.
But a funny thing happened on the way to inevitability. Clyde Edwards-Helaire became the second best player on the team, behind only the potential Heisman winner and Best Quarterback in LSU History, Joe Burrow. He got stronger as the year went on, only reaching the 100-yard mark once in his first five games (106 against Vandy).
Since then, he has been the veritable rock of the LSU offense. His tough running and refusal to go down was symbolic of the LSU effort and will to win against Alabama. Counted out by just about everyone, even LSU fans, CEH has blossomed into another great LSU running back, keeping the 1000-yard rusher tradition alive.
We doubted them. OK, I doubted them. And they have beautifully and spectacularly proved me wrong. I can’t think of anything I’m more thankful for in regards to LSU football. Ed Orgeron and Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn’t just silence their critics, they turned them into believers.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is my favorite LSU player ever. I cannot thank him enough for this season. Please keep proving me wrong.