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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron on the field in the first half as the Bulldogs host the Tigers, Saturday, October 19, 2019, at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss.

LSU’s 2020 football season is over.

There are many who wish to never see another like it again.

While socially distant fans exited a quarter-full Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, masked reporters sat in the press box using video conferencing software to ask LSU coach Ed Orgeron and a few players to reflect on an unusual year.

It was an unusual night, an unusual setting, an unusual game.

LSU staffers mopped up puddles from the rain that dripped into the open-air press box. For four home games these staffers, along with dozens of other game-day employees, serviced an unlikely season that in the summer seemed virtually impossible to complete.

The Southeastern Conference Championship Game played on television screens hanging on the walls. The league completed 69 of its 71 scheduled games, and LSU was one of the 10 SEC teams to play every game within its shortened 10-game, league-only season.

It took a delayed Sept. 26 start date, plus two extra landing-spot weekends for postponed games. LSU needed both, and, in beating Ole Miss 53-48 on Saturday night, the school played in its latest regular season game since a squad of Tigers traveled to Havana, Cuba on Christmas Day in 1907 and beat a local team 56-0.

Coronavirus outbreaks postponed both the Florida and Alabama games, and, with some schedule shuffling, LSU was able to continue its long-standing rivalry with the Crimson Tide although contact tracing knocked the Tigers below the league's 53-scholarship player roster limit the first time.

The pandemic caused great expense — the LSU athletic department projects it will lose $80 million in revenue and has already eliminated 20 jobs — but a partial season from its bell cow program saved further financial losses, however nominal.

Optimism for the 2021 season arrived Friday, when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Louisiana will receive 28,275 doses of Pfizer's vaccine this week. A slow crawl toward normalcy has begun, and, still, the winter/spring sports face similar logistical hurdles while the battle against the pandemic continues.

But, now, LSU's football season is over, and the program enters an offseason where further difficulties await.

Husch Blackwell, the firm investigating LSU's Title IX cases, is expected to conclude with a public report in February. The university's reported mishandlings of sexual assault cases has already implicated that Verge Ausberry, LSU executive deputy athletic director, and Sharon Lewis, LSU's associate athletic director over football recruiting and alumni relations, failed to appropriately report cases of abuse to the Title IX office.

Meanwhile, the NCAA's infractions case involving LSU's football and men's basketball programs is still being reviewed by the Independent Accountability Resolution Process. A timeline and any final sanctions remain unknown, but LSU has already self-imposed penalties that include banning itself from a bowl this season, plus cutting eight football scholarships over the next two years.

Orgeron and his coaching staff are already facing a challenging roster management problem. Transfers, opt-outs and suspensions have left LSU with just 69 scholarship players — a significant dip below the NCAA's 85-scholarship limit — and the depth issue could remain if a significant number of players leave the team.

LSU has 15 seniors and 13 draft-eligible underclassmen who could graduate, transfer or depart for the NFL draft.

Last year, LSU tied the single-school NFL record with 14 players drafted in April, and six more immediately signed undrafted free agency deals. Nine of the players were underclassmen, and, already, three underclassmen (Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Shelvin, Terrace Marshall) have announced they are leaving early for the NFL draft.

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Orgeron has said he's been re-recruiting players to stay, including seniors whom the NCAA has ruled can return for another year due to pandemic.

"I think that we're going to have a little bit more of guys staying than have left before," Orgeron told reporters Saturday. "I'm gonna talk to a lot of guys that have the opportunity to have an extra year and come back, especially on the offensive line. I think I can get most of those guys back, we'll see."

Nowhere is LSU's need for retention more pronounced than on the offensive line. Every lineman who has significant playing time (over 60 snaps) is eligible to leave for the NFL draft, and, if they all do, LSU is left with two players who played before the Ole Miss game: Charles Turner (58 snaps), Marlon Martinez (13).

LSU has five other scholarship linemen on its roster, and four-star tackle Garrett Dellinger remains the only offensive lineman to sign with LSU's 2021 recruiting class. Orgeron has said he intends to use the team's five final slots to pursue other offensive linemen, whether in high school or through the transfer portal.

The rest of the roster is a combination of position groups that has seen a recent surge of talent from its young players. Nine true freshmen and sophomores started against Ole Miss, and 14 more played in the game.

Kayshon Boutte, a true freshman, established himself as LSU's next star receiver by setting a school and SEC record with 308 receiving yards against Ole Miss.

Max Johnson showed promise in his two comeback victories as a true freshman quarterback, but it's most likely that he'll spend another year behind the scenes when injured starter Myles Brennan returns next season.

On the defensive side, true freshmen BJ Ojulari and Jaquelin Roy offer promise on a defensive line that will be bolstered by incoming recruits like five-star tackle Maason Smith, as will a young secondary with Top 3 safeties Sage Ryan and Derrick Davis.

The linebacker corps has been unsteady in a rotation that includes juniors Damone Clark and Micah Baskerville, who have not yet announced whether they will return. Graduate transfer Jabril Cox has been the leader of the unit — with three interceptions, a sack and a recovered fumble — and he indicated Saturday that he has played his final game.

"It's one that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," Cox said. "Especially being the last one... being a senior."

Ultimately, Orgeron will also decide whether he will restructure his coaching staff. LSU's defense recorded historic lows in both points allowed per game (34.9) and yards allowed per game (492).

Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini is guaranteed the remainder of his three-year, $2.3 million per year contract if he is fired without cause, which places his buyout around $5 million.

Orgeron declined to speak about those decisions just yet, saying Saturday night that "I'm gonna enjoy the victory."

LSU avoided its first losing record since 1999, and Orgeron said the team showed promise for the future with "grit," "courage," and "a belief that we're gonna win."

"I think throughout the season our team became tougher, our coaching staff became closer," Orgeron said. "We continued to fight. We went through a lot of adversity. There were some games that we didn't play very well. But we came back and played well and we finished strong. That's what I'm going to remember about this team."

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