LSU regular season ends as a solid success
BATON ROUGE — LSU won’t win a conference championship or a national championship this season. However, that doesn’t mean that the 2017 LSU Tigers don’t have plenty about which to be proud.
After dominating Texas A&M 45-21, LSU’s seventh straight win against the Aggies, the Tigers finished the regular season 9-3 and winners of six of their last seven games after a 3-2 start.
The team that walked off the field in Death Valley on Saturday night was much different than the one that fell to Troy back in September.
“It’s been quite the turnaround since the Troy loss,” said quarterback Danny Etling, who passed for a career-high 347 yards and three touchdowns Saturday night. “We’re proud of the guys and what they’ve done and we’ve got a chance to go get a 10-win season.”
“To be honest with you, after the Troy game, I couldn’t think about anything but one second at at time,” said Head Coach Ed Orgeron. “I knew that we could get the team together, take it one day at a time, get the team right, fix the things that we could fix…Looking back on all the things that we went through, it’s been a remarkable feat by our football team and our coaching staff.”
It has been remarkable. The Tigers started the season with one of the most inexperienced teams in the conference. The annual exodus of talent to the NFL forced LSU to play nearly 20 freshmen this season and start more first-year players than it had in any season since 1986.
That would be difficult for any program, but at LSU, where the expectations are always high (sometimes unreasonably so), it couldn’t be an excuse for failure.
Though Orgeron faced heavy criticism at the beginning of the season, the coach and his staff did what coaching staffs are supposed to do. They established an identity and they made their players better.
“We pride ourselves on being physical here,” he said. “We pride ourselves on being able to run the football and we pride ourselves on being able to stop the football. I have to thank our strength staff for making our guys bigger, stronger, and faster this year and we want to continue to build on that.”
The Tigers are stil far from perfect. There were points left on the board on offense, shaky special teams play, and scores given up too easily on defense, but the fact is LSU has the fourth best record in the SEC. Only Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama have more regular season or conference wins than the Tigers.
A year ago at this time, Orgeron still had the word “Interim” preceding his title. Now “Coach O” is 15-5 at the helm and those who doubted that he could handle one of the most prestigious jobs in college football are much fewer in number and more muted in their criticism.
As they should be.
Orgeron already had one of the top defensive assistants in the country in Dave Aranda, and the addition of Matt Canada on offense has looked better and better as the season has gone on. The Tigers seem like a program on the rise, possibly back to the elite status it enjoyed from 2003-13 when LSU won 10 or more games eight times with three SEC championships and two national titles.
The Tigers are confident and playing their best football right now. Whomever they face in the postseason will have to be prepared to meet their energy and their skill. LSU is sure they’ll be ready.
“We want to get us a great bowl game,” said linebacker Devin White. “So we can go dominate another team…and ride this momentum into next year.”
It’s hard not to be optimistic looking ahead to next season, but everyone should take a moment to appreciate this season’s journey and the coach who led them to this point. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride, but it does seem to be one taking LSU football in the right direction.
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Sports 1280am host/CCS reporter
David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…