By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Ed Orgeron had the most Ed Orgeron moment of his LSU tenure in a crowded tunnel just before leading his team out on to the field for the second half at Neyland Stadium.
The Cajun coach was doing his post-halftime injury with ESPN sideline reporter Allison Williams, but his gravelly voice could barely be heard over his charged-up team whopping it up behind him and the torrential downpour raging outside.
Only about a quarter of the interview was discernable through the television, but one excited utterance could be deciphered through the swirling winds.
“You gotta love football, man,” Orgeron screamed. “It’s like playing football when you’re a little kid in the backyard!”
Leave it to a coach from LaRose to look so quintessentially in his element on a field that was as much swamp as turf by that point in the proceedings.
Tennessee, getting a lift from its interim coach, played with the emotional edge in the first half, but LSU led 17-10 at the intermission anyway thanks to a pair of muffed punts by the Vols. Both were the result of wind gusts that’d bent a goalpost and dislodged part of the scoreboard prior to kickoff.
The storm finally hit at halftime, and LSU came followed its coach out of the tunnel riding a storm of their own and buried the lowly Vols 30-10 in a wild-weather affair in Knoxville.
LSU kicked off into a blinding deluge and pinned Tennessee’s anemic offense inside its own 10-yard line. The Tigers imposed their will with nine consecutive runs on a demoralizing 50-yard march that concluded with a Derrius Guice touchdown plunge.
Trailing 23-10, Tennessee went for a fourth-and-1 deep in its own territory on the ensuing drive. Nose tackle Greg Gilmore generated a push in the middle and LSU stuffed a QB sneak short of the line to gain. Darrel Williams cashed in the short field position for his second touchdown of the game.
“We came out in the second half and already knew what was going to happen,” Guice said after the game, his teeth chattering in between syllables. “No matter what the weather is, you’ve got to be ready to play ball.”
Conventional wisdom would say that such inclement weather would favor the two-touchdown underdog playing at home with nothing to lose. Instead LSU embraced the elements and took control of the game in emphatic fashion.
The performance harkened back on one of Orgeron’s go-to phrases this season: “It’s always going to be about us.”
Orgeron preaches to his team to never worry too much about the opponent or circumstances. He took the emphasis off Alabama’s juggernaut status and LSU hung tough on the road. He wasn’t concerned about an early kickoff against Arkansas or the weather in Knoxville and LSU won both games going away.
That inward focus is central to the job Orgeron and his staff have done getting this season back on track after that infamous Troy defeat had the program on the brink of disaster.
LSU is now 5-1 since then and has a home date against Texas A&M remaining with a chance to finish 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 2012. A win coupled with an Auburn loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl would have LSU finish second in the SEC West.
Desirable bowl destinations will certainly be in play if LSU defeats Texas A&M again. Win the bowl and the Tigers would post a 10-win season in Orgeron’s first season at the helm.
Not sure Orgeron has had as much fun in any of the previous seven victories as he did leading his troops through a downpour on Saturday night.