With LSU on a bye this week, SEC Country is taking a look at the plays, players and moments that have defined the first two-thirds of the Tigers’ season. First, we take a look at the biggest “what if?” of 2017.
Just a couple feet and a couple seconds may end up being all the difference for Ed Orgeron and LSU in this season and beyond.
Though every LSU fan would like to forget the Troy game, they shouldn’t. It was likely the wakeup call that saved the Tigers from further ruin. And the margin really was as narrow as it gets.
With time winding down in the first half, Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers hit John Johnson for a 20-yard gain on fourth-and-9. It seemed like an utterly meaningless play — Johnson was tackled in the middle of the field and the half ended. The teams headed to the locker room with Troy holding a surprising but hardly insurmountable 7-0 lead.
Then, out of nowhere, came the momentum-shifter.
Official review determined the clock never stopped to reset the chains on Troy’s first down. Had it been noticed in real time, the Trojans would not have been able to rush their field-goal unit onto the field with 2 seconds left. But because of the officials’ mistake, Troy essentially got a bonus play.
The Trojans made the most of it. Both teams were pulled out of the locker room to give Troy its free play, a 37-yard field goal attempt. Kicker Evan Lagassey doinked it off Tiger Stadium’s famed H-crossbar, giving Troy a 10-0 lead as the Trojans streamed back to their locker room like they just won a championship.
But what if Lagassey’s kick bounced the other way off the crossbar?
The mojo is reversed. LSU heads to the locker room thinking “Man, did we dodge a bullet.” And there is a strong likelihood that LSU’s talent takes over after halftime. Instead of marching for a touchdown on the first drive of the second half, Troy is stopped in its tracks. The Tigers end up with an ugly, uninspired 21-14 win.
LSU beats Troy. And then…
No embarrassing loss to a Sun Belt team equals a happy ending for the Tigers, right?
Not so much. If LSU beats Troy in this alternate universe, it is exposed by Florida the following week. Without the call to arms — athletic director meeting with coordinators, Orgeron meeting with team leaders, team leaders holding teammates accountable — a flat, disorganized LSU team is no match for the Gators.
After the loss to Florida, LSU comes home for a game against Auburn and falls into a 20-0 hole. And with its confidence frayed, LSU can only watch that hole continue to grow as Auburn cruises to a 37-14 win.
Ed Orgeron is 0-3 in the SEC heading to Ole Miss and on a searingly hot seat. That’s probably still a game LSU wins, though it could become a different story if Orgeron gets desperate and stops trusting his instincts in search of that first conference win.
Regardless of that outcome, LSU heads into its bye lacking the confidence to have any chance at Alabama. A trip to the Independence Bowl looms as the best possible outcome.
Fortunately for LSU, that entirely plausible path has been avoided. Sometimes bad things happen for good reasons. It just takes the perspective of time to see why.