Jim Engster: LSU football at lowest level in 21 years

Fifty two weeks removed from a 37-10 blowout of No. 5 Georgia to win the 2019 SEC championship, LSU coach Ed Orgeron experienced the indignity of Alabama’s Nick Saban avenging last year’s five-point defeat to the greatest team in college football history with a savage 55-17 thrashing of the Tigers in their own den.
Saban is 73-5 in his last 78 games; Orgeron is 3-5 in his last eight games after the 42-25 victory over Clemson in the Jan. 13, 2020 national championship game at the Superdome. Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney is 64-5 in the last five years. It takes some coaches longer to lose five games than others.
With 4.6 million people, Louisiana is about the same size as both Alabama and South Carolina. Those states have two major universities playing college football and recruiting native sons. LSU has the edge in recruiting in a state where football is king to all other pursuits. Orgeron has expanded the base and reaped a national harvest of prep athletes. The results off the field show Orgeron is more than holding his own in that competition with Saban and Swinney.
LSU fans expect Orgeron to be at a similar coaching level on the field as Saban and Swinney. He is not, and no one else is at the moment. There is no sugar coating this season, which has been an unmitigated disaster. Two games remain in which LSU will be installed as underdogs against Florida and Ole Miss. It’s no joke, but LSU may actually go bowling even with a 3-7 finish in the year of the pandemic and fewer teams to choose from for post-season bids.
The drop from the 15-0 perch to this calamity is the most precipitous collapse in college football history. Saturday’s 38-point defeat to Alabama is the most lopsided defeat for a defending national champion since national polls were started in 1936.
Orgeron will presumably be provided one year to correct this aberration. Make no mistake, he will only be provided only one season to rid Death Valley of the stench of defeat and devastation of the last ten weeks. LSU looks like a sure bet to finish this campaign with more points allowed than scored.
Last year, the Tigers outpointed 15 foes by a 672-318 margin, an advantage of 354 points or an average victory of 23.6 points.
This season, LSU is trailing on the scoreboard, 267-230. The last time LSU this happened in a season was in 1999 when Gerry DiNardo was sent on his way to set the stage for the hiring of Saban and the start of the Golden Age of LSU Football. The 3-8 Tigers of 21 years ago were outpointed 259-223. DiNardo became head coach at the close of the 1994 season when Curley Hallman closed his four-year tenure with a 4-7 mark while being outscored by one point, 271-270. The last two times an LSU football coach has presided over a season in which his team was outscored has resulted in the firing of both Hallman and DiNardo.
Orgeron will be required to rebound with at least eight wins in 2021. If he falls short, the Golden Age of LSU Football will have officially ended in 2019, and Coach O will have lasted the same amount of time post-championship as Auburn’s Gene Chizik. He savored an undefeated national title run in 2010 with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton and was fired on the Plains two seasons and 14 losses later.
A few months ago, it was written in this space that Orgeron was no Chizik. Look for the personable Orgeron to follow his Auburn predecessor to the comforts on a television studio if the current trend persists.

Running Quarterbacks are Rare Treasures
New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill is demonstrating that a runner in the game’s signature position is a precious commodity. Hill’s 83 yards on the ground in a 21-16 win over Atlanta pushed the Saints record to 10-2 and has Saints followers wondering if Drew Brees will be the starter after his broken ribs have mended.
LSU has never enjoyed a scrambling quarterback who was a threat to gain 1,000 yards in a season. In fact, the Tigers have only one quarterback in history to gain that many yards in a career.

Here are the leading LSU passers on the ground during their college stays:

1. Jordan Jefferson 1,018

2. Freddie Haynes 890

3. David Woodley 829

4. Nelson Stokley 821

5. Joe Burrow 820

6. Herb Tyler 778

7. Paul Lyons 671

8. Alan Risher 542

9. Steve Ensminger 504

10. Pat Screen 499

11. Brandon Harris 370

12. Billy Broussard 332

13. Carl Otis Trimble 281

In the college ranks, quarterbacks have yards discounted for sacks. It is hard to record big yards rushing from quarterbacks on passing-oriented teams. Because of sacks, Zach Mettenberger had a negative 313 yards rushing at LSU while Jeff Wickersham lost 216 yards in his career, Tom Hodson was a negative 177 and Jamie Howard lost 148 yards.
These LSU quarterbacks produced the most rushing touchdowns in their careers with the Tigers:
1. Herb Tyler 23

2. David Woodley 15

3. Joe Burrow, Alan Risher, Nelson Stokley, 13 each

6. Jordan Jefferson 12

7. Steve Ensminger 10

Another fallen Tiger
When former LSU offensive line stalwart Ruffin Rodrigue died in South Baton Rouge last month, he became the fourth prominent member of the LSU SEC title teams of the 1980s to go before their time.
Toby Caston, the splendid linebacker from Monroe, who was an anchor for the 1986 SEC champion Tigers and played seven years in the NFL, died at 29 years old on Oct. 2, 1994 in an automobile crash in Dallas.
Ralph Norwood, who was an offensive lineman on the ’86 and ’88 teams, died at 23 on Nov. 24, 1989 in a one car accident in Atlanta. Norwood was a member of the Falcons who had made him the 38th pick in the NFL Draft in the year of his death.
Eric Andolsek was prepping for his fifth training camp as a starter on the offensive line for the Detroit Lions when he died on June 23, 1992. He was killed at 25 on June 23, 1992 when an 18-wheeler veered off the road and struck him while he was cutting grass at this Thibodaux home.
Andolsek was a force on the 10-1-1 LSU team of 1987 that finished No. 5 nationally in Mike Archer’s first year and was a contributor to the 1986 SEC title which came in Bill Arnsparger’s final season as LSU coach.
Rodrigue, like Andolsek, was native of Thibodaux. He was a stalwart on the offensive line for LSU in the ’88 conference championship season that included the famous “Earthquake Game” in which Tom Hodson connected with Eddie Fuller on fourth down to give the Tigers a 7-6 victory over Auburn.
Well-known as the owner of Ruffino’s, which took the location of DiNardo’s in Baton Rouge, Rodrigue had expanded his operation to feature a popular restaurant in Lafayette.
Ruffin Rodrigue Jr. was 53 years old.

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Jim Engster | President, Tiger Rag

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