LSU players recall emotional win taken away last visit trip to Jordan-Hare
BATON ROUGE, La. — It’s difficult to speak about the last trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium. After all, members of this LSU football team have distinct memories of that Saturday night time warp in which a late snap altered a whole chapter of the program.
Heading into the game, both Les Miles and Gus Malzahn were on the proverbial hot seats, but those in the desert may have considered Auburn’s head coach as a more likely bet. That was before a heart-wrenching finish in 2016.
Trailing by 5 and time ticking winding down, Danny Etling — making his second start in an LSU uniform — rolled to his right and chucked the ball up perfectly as he reached the sideline and and found DJ Chark streaking in the back of the end zone. Chark, then a reserve receiver behind Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, corralled the catch, kept both feet inbounds and came down with what it appeared to be the game-winning touchdown.
Upon further review, Etling did not get the snap off in time. The game clock was already on zero by the time the play started, meaning all of the drama was for nothing. LSU came short against Auburn, 18-13, and on Sunday, Miles was out of a job.
“Tough night,” Coach Ed Orgeron, then the Tigers’ defensive line coach, recalled. “On the last play we scored, time ran out on the clock, though. Emotional day for everybody. Coach Miles did a great job for everybody over here. That was an emotional time for everybody. Unexpected things happened, but we dealt with it and we moved on.”
Orgeron took over as the interim head coach and rattled off a 6-2 record en route to earning the full-time job that November. It was a new era of LSU football, but to this day, it’s hard to get past the theatrical fashion in which the prior one ended.
That game is still hard for Foster Moreau to digest. For one, he was battling an illness, which he said kept him from soaking in the entire experience of playing inside Jordan-Hare. However, Moreau snagged his first LSU touchdown at the end of the first quarter as Etling flipped a 3-yard pass into the hands of the tight end, who barreled into the end zone for his team’s lone touchdown of the contest.
Like the memorable final play of the game, Moreau’s touchdown required a booth review. The joy endured in the opening quarter, notching a career achievement in a pivotal SEC showdown, balanced by the way the game eventually unraveled remains a difficult task two years later.
“I scored my first touchdown. I can’t forget that play — it was absolutely wild,” No. 18 looks back. “I remember some sort of confidence, excitement and happiness, and that plummeting down into the darkest depths emotionally as a football player — from what we thought to be a historical comeback in at the last second being torn away from us. That was a tough game and a tough loss, and we’re certainly going in trying to avoid that this time.”
Context of that Sept. 24 contest two years ago still escapes members of the team, including those like senior Garrett Brumfield, who can vividly recall that historical moment to a tee. The memory doesn’t provide much ease either.
Like Moreau, Brumfield takes issue with the notion of pulling off a successful comeback in thrilling fashion only to have it ripped away, be handed a loss and parting ways with the coach who recruited him to LSU. LSU’s starting left guard, a self-proclaimed Renaissance Man, doesn’t dwell on that game, but certainly looks forward to rewriting history upon his return to the venue on Saturday.
“It was a two-minute drive in every sense of the way that you practice with bullets flying,” Brumfield began. “I was in that game. That was the situation: we ran out of time. We thought we won the game in those two minutes. Winning the game was the best moment of my career. Losing that and seeing the situation flip on us — it was heartbreaking.
“You kind of reflect on that moment realizing was the scenario was. It’s a new season, a new year, a new week from last week, and we’re trying to win every football game. I’m ready for another opportunity.”
Since that loss at Auburn, LSU is 12-4 under the direction of Orgeron as the full-time head, including a successful comeback over these Tigers last October in Tiger Stadium. However, through two games this fall, there’s been a mixed review of this LSU football team, which upset Miami in the season opener, but supposedly struggled in a 31-0 defeat of Southeastern last weekend in Tiger Stadium.
The conference opener against Auburn reminds some members of the team, like linebacker Devin White, of the doubt surrounding the team prior to the Miami game. White believes his team thrives off that.
As a reserve defender in that game two years ago, White was more focused on getting onto the field as opposed to the outcome or realizing that coaching jobs were theoretically on the line. He turned to defensive coordinator Dave Aranda at the time about taking a series before the coach explained to him it was on White to remember his series.
That disappointment was sandwiched by watching Chark haul in a highlight-worthy catch only to realize it was too late. Miles was the coach responsible for recruiting White to Baton Rouge and deciding to shift him from running back to linebacker as a freshman. That doesn’t fuel him; the doubt does. Given how the game ended two years ago, the emphasis is not on redemption, but execution to avoid any dramatic finishes this time around.
“I remember I didn’t get in at all,” White laughed. “When DJ caught the ball, it was overturned and we were so sad. I remember losing and it wasn’t a good feeling. I remember our defense being pretty dominant, holding them to straight field goals. There weren’t a lot of good feelings, so I want to get a great feeling in that stadium.
“This turn versus Auburn, I don’t want to be reminiscing in the past. Coach Miles got fired and it’s time for us to make plays. I like when people doubt us because we always have our backs against the wall. We talk about putting your hands and fighting, and we’re going to come in ready to fight and give it all we’ve got.”