Ed Orgeron should be praised up and down for the way he changed the atmosphere at USC overnight after the midseason firing of head coach Lane Kiffin. He loosened up the Trojans, changed their attitude and even led them to a key 38-31 win over Arizona.
But all that probably won't be enough for him to keep his job.
Orgeron had a chance to stake his claim as the next head coach of the Trojans when they took on rival Notre Dame last week.
However, that chance went out the window with USC's 14-10 loss. Orgeron probably knows as much since USC is likely going to shop around for the top big-name candidate available.
His players certainly alluded to that reality after the loss to the Fighting Irish. Quarterback Cody Kessler told ESPN's Arash Markazi afterward that he wanted that win for "Coach O" and his staff:
This one is killing me and I'm trying to hide it. We wanted this one as a team so bad for this coaching staff. They worked so hard for us and our reward to them is to win games and that's all we can do.
It sucks that it didn't turn out like we want, but the effort was there. We put everything out there on the field. Coach O told us we played so hard and we have nothing to hold our heads down about.
USC will have a few more opportunities to post marquee wins coming up. The Trojans will take on three opponents slated in the BCS rankings: No. 25 Oregon State, No. 12 UCLA and No. 6 Stanford.
A strong finish and wins over top teams could go a long way toward Orgeron dropping the "interim" title and moving on as the full-time head coach.
However, the real key to his promotion came against Notre Dame. USC inserted the key but broke it in the lock, leaving the door likely sealed.
USC hung tough throughout, trailing just 14-10 at the half. Unfortunately, the Trojans just couldn't generate enough (or any) offense in the second half to turn the key and push the door open.
The Trojans' defense gave them a chance to win the game, but their offense might as well have stayed in the locker room at halftime.
Their second-half driver breakdown tells the story. Kessler threw an interception to start the second half, then USC went three-and-out four straight times. They went three-and-out again and missed a field goal attempt, failing to take advantage of a drive that started on Notre Dame's 47-yard line.
USC's comeback attempt ended with two straight failed fourth down conversions and just two first downs in the final 30 minutes of play.
That failed execution all but knocked Orgeron out of the running for the USC head coaching job. Star safety Dion Bailey also gave a heavy hint to the elephant in the room after the loss:
Coach O loves us and he let us know. He just instilled the fight in us again. We love Coach O. We did everything in our power to get him this victory, but we just came up a little short.
While Orgeron is more than likely going to come up just short of earning the job at USC, his effort in turning around the Trojans just might be enough to earn him a look by another team with a head coach opening.
While the comments of Bailey and Kessler reveal how much that loss hurt Orgeron's chances at becoming the next Trojan head coach, they also showed that he is an excellent leader, the type of leader that many schools would be glad to have.