BATON ROUGE, La. — The irony is strong for LSU football players this week. In order to move on from the fact that Les Miles was fired in his 12th season running the program, they must heed the advice of… ex-coach Les Miles.
“Coach Miles had a rule. After 48 hours, you have to move on,” said junior fullback J.D. Moore. “So in his own rule, we’re going to have to move on.”
On an emotional level, moving on probably would not be possible if Miles was not permitted to speak with the team Sunday evening after athletic director Joe Alleva made the decision to fire Miles and offense coordinator Cam Cameron.
“Certainly (hearing from Miles) helps (with moving on),” Moore said. “I think it was a class move from the administration to let him address us, because we’re all family. He had nothing but could things to say about ‘Coach O’ and the program moving forward, which is the amount of investment he has in this program.”
That said, it’s still a difficult process for some players to get through. Miles didn’t have time to meet with very many of the young men he recruited on an individual basis because their focus has to be forward to Missouri and the rest of the season under interim head coach Ed Orgeron.
The hurt cuts deepest, maybe, for quarterback Danny Etling because it goes down so many levels. It was Cameron, a fellow graduate of North Vigo High School in Terre Haute, Ind., who persuaded Etling to transfer to LSU after a miserable experience at Purdue left him contemplating a future without football.
“It’s obviously heartbreaking,” Etling said. “When I left Purdue, I didn’t know whether I was going to go D-II or I-AA or even if I wanted to play football.
“I didn’t have any other options. I got a call then from Coach Cameron (here) and Coach Bielema (at Arkansas). Coach Cameron and Miles breathed some new life into me. I don’t even know if I’d be playing now if it wasn’t for them.”
And then there is the surreal nature of how the whole thing went down, with a last-minute clock management meltdown against Auburn resulting in an 18-13 loss when replay determined the ball was snapped to Etling after the clock expired, negating his would-be walk-off touchdown pass to D.J. Chark.
If that play actually happens 1-2 seconds sooner in real time, the entire course of LSU football history changes one way or the other.
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“I replay that final sequence a lot regardless, just hoping and wishing we could have gone another way,” Etling said.
Of course, there were other plays that went awry before the walk-off that wasn’t.
“I went back an hour after the loss and took some notes. There are plays here and there – yeah that busts through, yeah he makes that block, yeah we don’t fumble on that run play on second-and-short, the gap was opening up and I think Leonard would have run out of the stadium,” said tight end Foster Moreau. “There’s a lot of plays where if ‘this’ would have happened then ‘that’ would have happened.”
But there are no what-ifs for the Tigers moving forward. What is, is. Etling, at least, seems to recognize he was ultimately powerless to prevent what has happened.
“At the end of the day you can’t beat yourself too much over it,” he said. “At the end of the day it was a foregone conclusion, I guess.”