By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
The debut of the Coach O Show featured unstoppable O, dominant D, and, most importantly, a much-needed W.
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In Ed Orgeron’s first game as LSU’s head coach, the Tigers enjoyed a historic offensive outburst and dominant defensive effort in a 42-7 win over Missouri.
Derrius Guice paced the Tiger attack with 163 yards on 17 carries, scoring three touchdowns — all in the first half. Darrel Williams added 130 yards and a trio of scores himself, and Danny Etling completed 19-of-30 passes to nine receivers for 219 yards, putting a bow on a balanced and buoyant offense that surpassed 600 yards under the guidance of interim coordinator Steve Ensminger.
LSU’s 634 yards on the night set a new school record for yards in an SEC game, besting the previous record of 630 set in 1987 at Ole Miss and 1967 against Mississippi State.
“That’s pretty good,” said Etling, smiling. “How about that, huh?”
Etling wasn’t the only one smiling. Orgeron flashed his pearly whites all day, from the team’s pre-game walk down Victory Hill all the way until and beyond the postgame celebratory Gatorade bath bestowed by his players on the field.
“I give credit to our coaching staff, they stuck together, they do it for the kids,” he said. “It was a tremendous day, we went on that Tiger walk, we could feel the electricity in the stadium. And I told them that big plays fuel emotion. They’re going to be there, you want to get them cranked up? Make big plays.”
His players obliged — Guice, in particular.
In the absence of Leonard Fournette, who was sidelined with a nagging ankle injury, the sophomore native of Baton Rouge spearheaded a first half offensive onslaught that saw the host Tigers (3-2, 2-1 SEC) rack up 357 yards in the first 30 minutes — 19 yards more than they managed in total in last week’s 18-13 loss to Auburn. His first score, a 42-yard cut back with 6:46 left in the first quarter, was the best of the bunch, capping off a 9-play, 84-yard drive. That was the first of four such drives exceeding 80 yards, the most by LSU since 2001.
Together, he and Williams combined for 293 yards and all six LSU scores.
“I’ve been seeing those boys run and excited about them,” said Orgeron. “And there’s some things that they do fabulous. And, obviously, Leonard’s a great player. But I told the guys, you’re time’s going to come. When you’re time’s going to come, let’s see what you got. And they did it tonight. I was very proud of them.”
“It just shows how talented we are at that position,” added Malachi Dupre, who had four catches on six targets for 34 yards. “For a team to go out there and rush for 400 yards without our top rusher shows how much talent we have. The running backs played great, and when the ball was in the air, the receivers did what they were supposed to do.”
After a turnover on downs in Mizzou (2-3, 0-2 SEC) territory, LSU scored a second courtesy of Guice again, a four-yard plunge following a 13-play, 89-yard drive that milked 6:01 off the clock, and his third touchdown was another home run from 37 yards, giving LSU a 21-0 lead it would take into the half.
The game wasn’t Guice’s alone though. The Tigers shared the record-setting 634 yards among nine receivers and six ball-carriers.
“The more people you get involved, the more ownership and buy-in there is,” said fullback J.D. Moore, who finished with a catch for nine yards on two targets. “A win like this where everyone is having success creates unity across the team, which is what Coach O is trying to emphasize.”
By some measures, it was LSU’s best offensive half since before Les Miles’ arrival. The Tigers’ 18 first downs were its most in the first half since 2004, when they had 21 in a 51-0 win over Mississippi State.
“Most of the core framework of our offense stayed the same,” said Moore. “Just the strategy of play calling and a few wrinkles here and there. As long as we canbe fundamentally sound and run the plays we’ve been successful at, we’ll be good.”
The run game remained the focal point, but the pass was just as important, if less spectacular. The Tigers came out in a four wide formation on the first series, determined to spread Mizzou out before establishing the run.
“We spread them out a little bit, as you saw, and we started throwing the football to loosen them up on the run,” said Orgeron.
“It helped a lot,” Etling said of the game plan. “It opened up some holes and forced them to extend their defense…We ran the ball well, and I think it was because we had a nice mixture.”
LSU’s defense was every bit as dominant as the offense, limiting the nation’s No. 3 passing attack to just 17-of-37 passing for 167 yards, a late score, and a Tre’Davious White interception in the first half. Drew Lock’s passer rating entering the game was 162. Against LSU, it was just 78.5.
Williams made it 28-0 on the other side of halftime, scoring from a yard out on a touchdown set up by Etling’s 18-yard connection to tight end Colin Jeter. Williams finished with his first career 100-yard game.
He added a second touchdown, this time from two yards with 10 minutes left, to put LSU up 35-0. The key play on that 10-play, 86-yard drive was a 41-yard bomb from Etling to Chark, who wrestled the ball away from Aarion Penton after a deflection.
Mizzou scored a consolation touchdown late when wide receiver Eric Laurent took a reverse and passed to Lock for a 21-yard touchdown.
Williams answered with his third score, vulturing a touchdown from Nick Brossette, whose 60-yard scamper put the Tigers inside the 10. His two late scores were LSU’s first points in the fourth quarter all season, something Orgeron emphasized all week.
“The thing I liked about this game is we played for sixty minutes,” said Orgeron. “We put the pedal to the metal and there was not going to be any let up by our football team.”
For Orgeron, it was the perfect bookend to an unforgettable week. The Louisiana native has long eyed the head coaching job at LSU. The week began with Orgeron promising to “flip the script” on LSU’s season and ended with a Gatorade bath and a win.
The first act of that script couldn’t have gone any better.
“The whole week you could feel the state of Louisiana on fire,” he said. “I’m proud of Louisiana. This is how it’s supposed to be.”