BATON ROUGE, La. — One second. One yard. These are the smallest increments of measurement on our watches and our football fields.
And by being on the wrong end of those infinitesimal margins, two LSU head coaches may suffer the same fate in the same season. The gap between glory and ignominy has rarely felt so tiny.
For Les Miles, the writing already was on the wall. His time was supposed to be up last November, but a popular uprising within the LSU community overwhelmed athletic director Joe Alleva to the point that he was left with no choice but to bring back the popular coach.
Miles’ time ran out because of time.
With one more second on the clock, Miles is still munching the grass at Tiger Stadium following a dramatic win at Auburn. His Baton Rouge mansion isn’t for sale. And he certainly isn’t spitballing names for a potential coaching staff at Purdue.
It’s possible, even, that LSU is still on the fringes of the College Football Playoff conversation with a win over Auburn. LSU still would have lost to Alabama, but a theoretical win over Florida would have put the Tigers at 8-2 and still in the mix if enough crazy things happened in the final two weeks of the regular season.
Because of one second, we’ll never know that branch of history.
And because of one yard, we probably won’t know a future that includes Ed Orgeron fulfilling his lifelong dream of being Louisiana State University’s head coach.
As of Friday morning, when Alleva penned a letter detailing what he wants in the Tigers next head coach, Coach O seemed to fit the description to a T. And when looking through things with a wide-angle lens, he still does. But boy, does that one yard hurt.
The only feather missing from Orgeron’s cap at this point is a true signature victory. Though last week’s 38-10 pounding of Arkansas was impressive, the Razorbacks simply aren’t very good. No one the Tigers have beaten since starting their “second season” under Coach O is.
Florida provided an opportunity for LSU to get that big-game win Orgeron is lacking. And he should have gotten it. The Tigers outplayed the Gators thoroughly enough to win by 17 points or more, but a series of cataclysmic events inside the Florida 10-yard-line resulted in LSU only scoring 3 points in its final four trips deep into Gator territory.
It’s not the loss that dooms Orgeron so much as the sloppy way it happened — a way that painted a vivid reminder of LSU’s failures when Miles’ teams were at their worst.
There is a chance that in the long term these moments will end up being positives in LSU history because they ushered in some hot-shot coach who turns the Tigers into a perennial playoff contender.
There is also a chance Alleva will swing-and-miss as badly as Florida once did with Ron Zook or Will Muschamp. Or Texas with Charlie Strong. Or USC with Steve Sarkisian, who was hired rather than Orgeron.
The greater point is this: whether for good or bad, the course of LSU football history is about to be altered in some way. And for it to be altered twice in one year, by the thinnest margins of time and space, speaks to how fragile a thing history really is.