ORLANDO, Fla. — The LSU Tigers appear to be stuck in some kind of nightmarish time loop when it comes to the Citrus Bowl and playing bowls against Notre Dame, a repeating pattern from which they are unable to escape.

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Last season’s 29-9 Citrus Bowl romp over Louisville was, it turns out, an anomaly in LSU’s déjà vu-like frustrations. New Year’s Day against the Fighting Irish it was back to the recent, uncomfortable normal for the Tigers.

Remember New Year’s Day 2005? Iowa’s Drew Tate sent Nick Saban out here as LSU’s coach (it was the Capital One Bowl then) with a 56-yard last-play bomb to senior wide receiver Warren Holloway in a 30-25 Hawkeyes victory.

What’s in your wallet, Nick? At the time it was a fat contract from the Miami Dolphins. But Holloway had to feel even richer after the only TD catch of his career.

Monday, it was Notre Dame and the similarly unlikely combo of backup quarterback Ian Book and wide receiver Myles Boykin who teamed up to be the Tigers’ tormentors. Book hit Boykin with a 55-yard touchdown pass with 1:28 left. Boykin snared it with one hand while Donte Jackson fell and John Battle got run over as he steamed into the end zone.

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Three years ago at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee, Notre Dame beat LSU 31-28 with a closing field goal in a game where the Tigers were stopped on the goal line in frustrating and controversial fashion to end the first half.

That time, you could argue the refs did it to LSU. This time, there’s little question the Tigers did it to themselves. In a football version of death by a thousand cuts, LSU missed two field goals inside 40 yards (does former LSU soccer goalkeeper Mo Isom still want to kick?) and was twice stopped just short of the goal line on offense (a motion penalty when LSU was going for it at the 1 set up the first missed field goal). There was a bad decision by DJ Chark to field a punt at his 1, 10 men on the field on a couple of formations … we could go on. To top it all off, LSU’s defense went from bravely keeping the Tigers in the game while the offense stumbled and the kickers showed feet of clay to being unable to stop the Irish once they put Book in at quarterback late in the first half.

“We looked sloppy,” said Ed Orgeron, referring mostly to his special teams. But, as he well knew, LSU’s special teams woes were only a snapshot of the Tigers’ sloppiness. Overall, this one had a lot of the hallmarks of a Les Miles loss, not the kind of comparison Orgeron wants to be made about his regime.

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Perhaps, as was the case against Notre Dame in that Music City meltdown, the Tigers’ execution had something to do with the simmering dramas involving their coordinators.

All week here the story was Matt Canada, who it appears is on his way out after just one season as LSU’s offensive coordinator. As the first day of 2018 dawned here in Central Florida — very un-Florida-like in its chill and gloom but weather that had to make the guys from South Bend feel right at home — the attention shifted to defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

He spurned a contract offer from Texas A&M to be Jimbo Fisher’s new defensive guru. The Aggies are looking for a replacement for John Chavis, who left LSU for A&M after the 2014 Music City Bowl against Notre Dame.

Aranda apparently will stay in Baton Rouge. This is a must for LSU. It was one thing to lose Chavis to A&M back then (reports now have him continuing his tour of the SEC West at Arkansas). But if Aranda had jumped ship, after Fisher went from Florida State to Texas A&M when LSU initially wanted him to be its coach to replace Miles, it would have been a massive blow to LSU’s prestige — along with its coaching brainpower.

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As much as Coach O apparently wants Canada to go (he completed dodged a question about Canada in the postgame presser like Book dodging LSU defenders), that’s how much he wants Aranda to stay. Even after some of the defensive breakdowns after Book took over Saturday, keeping Aranda in place is well worth it for the Tigers.

It turned out to be a lost weekend in Florida for Louisiana football fans, and again in eerily similar fashion. The Saints won the NFC South on Sunday despite losing 31-24 down the road at Tampa Bay, beaten on a 39-yard Jameis Winston-to-Chris Godwin touchdown pass with 9 seconds left. Same shot up the right sideline on the same side of the field as LSU and everything.

This is all getting a little spooky. Maybe LSU and the Saints should head back home and forget these two games ever happened.

The trick is to keep them from happening again. And again.


Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​

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