LSU football's magic has run out for Ed Orgeron, like Gerry DiNardo in 1999 | Marcase

John Marcase
Special to The Town Talk

There are simple ways to measure whether LSU football coach Ed Orgeron is not doing his job well.

Falling behind 21-0 to Kentucky is one measuring stick.

In 1999, Kentucky beat LSU, 31-5. Coach Gerry DiNardo was fired following the season.

Kentucky beat the Tigers, 42-21, in a similar manner Saturday and it is difficult to see Orgeron surviving much longer at LSU.

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Admittedly, Kentucky might have its best team since the late 1970s and has without a doubt its best coach – Mark Stoops – since Bear Bryant. The Wildcats are now 6-0 for the first time since 1950, when Bryant was coaching.

Aside from that 1999 debacle, the Wildcats have rarely, if ever, dominated LSU as thoroughly as what took place in Lexington last week. Take it from someone who has followed Kentucky for nearly four decades.

Sure, there have been plenty of times Kentucky has outplayed LSU and lost. There have been a few times when the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the Tigers and won. But there has never been a time when Kentucky has kicked LSU’s tail like Saturday.

The Wildcats led 35-7 early in the fourth quarter. LSU’s defense made Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, who threw just three incompletions, look like the second coming of Bo Nix. Levis, a senior transfer from Penn State, passed for three touchdowns and rushed for two more, one week after Auburn’s Nix flummoxed the LSU defense in rallying Auburn to a 24-19 victory. It was Auburn’s first win in Baton Rouge since, ahem, 1999.

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The 42 points were the most a Kentucky team has scored in regulation against LSU, and the 42 were just three shy of the 45 UK scored in its season-opening win over Louisiana-Monroe.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron hoists the national championship trophy with quarterback Joe Burrow after the Tigers defeated Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Two seasons ago, Orgeron was the king of the bayou, and for good reason. He was the captain of a football team that put together perhaps the most impressive regular season in college history en route to the 2019 national championship.

Today, that program is rudderless. The decline has been quick and steep.

A year ago, there were legitimate excuses. Mass turnover from that 2019 team that lost 16 starters and had 14 players drafted by NFL teams, including Heisman Trophy quarterback Joe Burrow. Passing game whiz Joe Brady also went to the NFL as Carolina’s offensive coordinator.

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COVID-19 prevented spring practice and hamstrung off-season workouts. You can even blame the pandemic for Orgeron hiring defensive coordinator Bo Pelini to replace Dave Aranda without a formal interview. Pelini oversaw one of the worst defenses in LSU history last season, allowing 492 yards a game, second worst in the SEC. He was justly fired.

There are no excuses now. Orgeron is in his sixth season in charge of the Tigers. This is the sixth consecutive season LSU has started with a different offensive play-caller in charge, and the Tigers are on their third different defensive coordinator in as many seasons.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron joins his players in singing the school's alma mater following their NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Starkville, Miss. LSU won 28-25. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

When Orgeron took over for Les Miles five games into the 2016 season, he rallied the Tigers. When LSU hired Orgeron as Miles’ permanent replacement, it was deserved. Anyone could tell he had the pulse of the team and the players wanted to play for him.

And the Tigers won.

That is no longer the case. LSU is 8-8 since beating Clemson for the National Championship. Worse, the Tigers (3-3) likely won’t be favored to win another game this season save for ULM on Nov. 20.

Like DiNardo in 1999, there appears to be no magic left from Coach O’s fairytale homecoming.

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.