AUBURN, Ala. — It looks like The Hat is running out of magic.

Late in the game, LSU trailing Auburn 18-13 by what would eventually be the fateful final score, it was obvious we’d seen this movie before.

LSU was getting outplayed, outgained, making enough foolish mistakes to do itself mortal harm. And yet there was Les Miles team with too much pluck, determination and talent (let’s not deny it) to allow itself to be embarrassed and humbled by an already twice humbled Auburn team.

This was exactly the kind of game LSU has pulled out many, many times under Miles. I would like to enter into evidence Exhibit A: the Matt Flynn to Demetrius Byrd pass to beat Auburn in 2007 (a pass when a field goal would have sufficed) that ended with :01 on the clock.

LSU defied the odds then and prospered greatly. But to borrow a line from Knute Rockne, now it seems the breaks are beating the boys. As in LSU’s season-opening 16-14 loss to Wisconsin, it appears the football gods are trying to level the Miles playing field.

Just when he needs a miracle, just when the water around him is starting to boil and he’s looking more and more like the proverbial three-minute egg in that white hat of his, Miles can’t catch a break.

Maybe it’s that fate has finally turned his back on the man for whom being second-guessed has become a cottage industry in Louisiana. Maybe fate has decided enough is enough, and that Miles must save himself from himself.

Right now, it looks like he can’t.

LSU had the ball and the time, just enough of it, to produce another miracle finish, to write the nickname for this game in way that winners always write the history.

But once again, slipshod clock management was a major factor in LSU’s demise.

LSU marched from its 25 to the Auburn 14 when Danny Etling was sacked by Carl Lawson at the 20. That forced LSU to call its final timeout with 24 seconds left.

On third-and-16 from the 20, Etling threw to Malachi Dupre in the right flat for 10 yards, Dupre being wrestled to the ground with 20 seconds left.

From there, it took FIFTEEN seconds for LSU to line up and for Etling to snap the ball on fourth-and-6, which turned into a pass to Travin Dural to the 2 where he was stopped with :01 left. LSU was flagged for an illegal shift, the ball placed at the 15.

As every anguished LSU fan knows by now, Etling rolled right and completed a touchdown pass to D.J. Chark in the back of the end zone. Adding insult to injury, Etling was behind the line of scrimmage and Chark was inbounds when he made the catch.

The touchdown was a real thing, until it wasn’t.

“I thought we won,” said Etling, who showed tons of heart for literally coming off the deck after a helmet-to-helmet in the second quarter hit left him dazed and bruised.

 

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But it was ruled, correctly, that LSU should never have been allowed to run the play as the game clock went to zero before Etling took the snap.

One team was declared the winner.

Then the other team was.

Oh, the Steve Harvey of it all.

How typically Miles. How typically LSU and Auburn.

It has to be crazy.

It has to be heartbreaking.

It has to be something you haven’t seen before.

An artistic masterpiece it was not. It never could have been. This game was billed coming in as a desperate tug of war between two schools, two coaches, both in dire need of a big Southeastern Conference victory, and it lived up (or down) to that billing. In a college football age of high-tech offensive weaponry, this was rocks and wooden clubs.

In the end it was Auburn’s Gus Malzahn who survived, at least for now. In the end, it’s Miles who must find an exit strategy out of a disappointing September bookended by two gutwrenching defeats in Green Bay and Alabama.

Miles has done Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Cell escape before. Many, many times. But with a team with every reason to win, with every resource at his disposal and enough riches to pay his coaches it would make some third-world countries choke with envy, Miles is not getting LSU to perform at a championship level.

Hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff? Done unless LSU runs the table against the likes of Florida and Ole Miss and Alabama and Arkansas and Texas A&M and gets ANOTHER miracle assist to make it with two losses. Twisting on a thin thread are LSU’s hopes of even winning the SEC West.

But miracles are in thin supply at LSU these days.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​