This time, no drama, just a game
LSU and Texas A&M apparently will attempt honest football Saturday night.
If you haven’t been paying attention in recent years, just know that that will be an abrupt about-face.
Imagine that. Just a football game.
No juicy subplots.
There will be luxury suites above the fray instead of the figurative smoke-filled rooms.
So where’s the soap opera?
Isn’t that was this “rivalry” game — hey, it’s getting there — has been all about?
The last three years the LSU-Texas A&M game — the one on the field, the blocking and tackling and whatnot — seemed like nothing but a convenient backdrop for rumors and innuendo, dealing and conniving and one notably ham-fisted botched coup attempt.
But it would appear that the dust has now settled.
Everybody can take a deep breath and settle in for the long haul.
Saturday the final scoreboard might even be the main story.
So what we have now is a football circle of life:
Ed Orgeron, the self-avowed 100-percent pure Cajun, will lead Louisiana’s Flagship University against Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M team in College Station.
Meanwhile, Texas coach Tom Herman will coach the Longhorns against the Kansas Jayhawks, who will be playing their final game before your old buddy Les Miles winks and puts his quirky touch on that dumpster fire.
Everybody seems relatively happy, excited about the future. Even Kansas.
But, oh gosh, what a long and twisted road it was to get here.
And the LSU-Texas A&M game itself always seemed to be an afterthought.
On Monday, Orgeron pretty well summed up his last trip to College Station two years ago for a Thanksgiving night game, then as LSU’s hopeful interim head coach — key word, interim.
“We got to Texas A&M, Jimbo Fisher was getting the (LSU) job. That was Wednesday. Then Thursday night (during the game) Tom Herman was getting the job. Then Saturday Ed Orgeron got it.
“I’m glad I’m here. I thank God for this job. I think everything happens for a reason.”
It probably didn’t hurt that while the rumors were flying left and right, Orgeron and the Tigers were in the of process of boat-racing the Aggies 54-39 (it wasn’t really that close).
And that wasn’t even the craziest weekend in this long-running saga.
Go back to the previous year, with Miles twisting in the wind for several weeks in advance of the game.
The top candidate to replace him was none other than Jimbo Fisher, the rarity among rarities in that, before winning big at Florida State, he had once been popular with LSU fans in the thankless (scapegoat) job as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator.
So LSU fans, having been assured by the media that Miles’ ouster was a done deal (and it was at the time), turned out in droves to Tiger Stadium to vocally pay their final respects to the Mad Hatter.
After all, even those who had grown weary of his Model-T offense all agreed that he was a swell fellow. Athletic Director Joe Alleva was perfect in role of the villain; it was no secret that he and Miles weren’t exactly chummy.
A hand-lettered sign in the stands above the tunnel leading to the field read:
“Keep the Hat”
“Fire the Rat”
It was an absolute lovefest, quite a send-off for he’s a jolly good fellow. Players carried him off the field one last time. Real tears were shed by grown men.
Except that Miles didn’t go anywhere.
It was perhaps the most Les Miles Moment ever, but the Board of Supervisors had an attack of firers’ remorse and reversed course during the second half of LSU’s inconsequential 19-7 victory.
When everybody gathered to hear that Miles was done, Alleva instead kept a stiff upper lip and tried his best to act like he was thrilled to announce that he hoped Miles would remain LSU’s head coach for a long, long time.
Well, four games into the next season, anyway, when Miles heeded none of the warning signs, kept the same offense and was fired with enough season left for Orgeron to get a legitimate audition for full-time work.
But Fisher’s name kept coming up, then Herman’s, though neither with enough traction to get an agreement in place. Fisher stayed at Florida State one year too long. Herman took the Texas job.
So Orgeron was probably the Tigers’ third choice at best.
“Doesn’t matter,” Orgeron said this week. “I got here, man, you know? I was a defensive lineman. I wasn’t always the first to get a date, you know what I’m saying? I had to work at it.”
Last year it was Texas A&M’s turn to stage the sideshow in Tiger Stadium — only this time the subplot rumors of Kevin Sumlin’s firing turned out to be true shortly after the Tigers’ 45-21 victory.
The Aggies promptly lobbed a $75 million salvo across the Sabine to announce that it was “rivalry on” by hiring Fisher, LSU’s favorite rumor.
So maybe now LSU and Texas A&M can just play a football game.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU
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