After watching the Tigers give up two fourth-quarter touchdowns and struggle to put Arkansas away Saturday night, a rush of negative comments could be seen flooding Twitter and forums across LSU’s corner of the internet Saturday night.
Whether it be because LSU didn’t beat the spread or because the Tigers nearly allowed a comeback or simply because the offense is too boring and sometimes ineffective, it seemed everyone had something to complain about after LSU’s 24-17 victory against the Razorbacks.
Everyone, that is, except for head coach Ed Orgeron.
While waiting for Orgeron to begin his post-game presser in a room adjacent to the Tigers’ locker room, members of the media could hear Orgeron screaming at his team. Not with complaints, but with praise.
Orgeron was fired up after the Tigers picked up their eighth win of the season, a number many fans put as LSU’s cap entering the season, with two regular season games and one Southeastern Conference game remaining on the schedule.
“It was great,” Orgeron said. “It was great to see these guys happy. They worked hard all week. It was good to get on the plane. It was good to get out of Baton Rouge and come to a tough place to play.
“Although it wasn’t pretty, we won the football game and our guys feel good about ourselves. They’ve won eight games. Now we’re going to press on to Rice, and focus in on a good finish to the season.”
Much like after the Alabama game, Orgeron’s message was that the Tigers still have plenty to play for. Other than an (extremely) outside shot at making the College Football Playoff after the committee ranked them at No. 7 last week despite getting shut out at home, some of the country’s most prestigious bowl games are still on the table of LSU wins out.
The Tigers could potentially land in the Sugar Bowl right down the road for the first time since 2007 with wins against Rice and Texas A&M. The Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, and the Peach Bowl in Atlanta have also been discussed as potential bowl games for the Tigers should they win out.
So beating the spread and dominating opponents doesn’t concern Orgeron too much. It’s all about wins, and rightfully so.
“I wanted to come in and get the win,” Orgeron said. “Obviously, I want to play great and I want to do it in all categories. But focusing on getting the win for our football team. I’m proud of our team.”
Ultimately, that’s what LSU pays Orgeron to do: win football games.
And with a limited roster, a litany of offseason turmoil with endless negative headlines and preseason projections to finish with one of one of its worst seasons since the start of the Les Miles era, Orgeron has won games at an impressive rate few people saw coming.
Take a good look back at what people said about this LSU squad back in August. How many people predicted LSU would be a unanimous Top 10 team with the Sugar Bowl in play 10 games into the season?
Orgeron has taken an LSU team with some of its lowest expectations in recent memory and turned it into one of the most respected teams in the country.
The Tigers haven’t done everything perfectly along the way, and Orgeron will be the first person to tell you that.
From his failings in recruiting which he opined about after the Alabama loss, to being too conservative against Florida and too aggressive going for an unnecessary fourth-down conversion Saturday against Arkansas, Orgeron has made no attempt to shy away from the weaknesses he and his team have shown this season.
But he’s winning games and correcting mistakes when he can. After playing too conservatively against Florida, the Tigers dominated Georgia with an up-tempo offense that converted four consecutive fourth down attempts.
When LSU struggled to run the ball against Alabama, He allowed offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger to call a drive in which the Tigers ran the ball in 13 of 14 plays on their way to the end zone.
Saturday wasn’t the first time a good LSU team has struggled against a middling Arkansas team, and it most certainly won’t be the last.
The 2007 BCS National Championship team lost to Arkansas due to an inability to stop Darren McFadden running the wildcat. The 2013 team with an offense that included Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Jeremy Hill needed a game-winning touchdown drive led by freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings in the final minutes after Zach Mettenberger went down with an injury to pull off a win.
And a year later the Tigers handed former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema his first SEC win as the Razorbacks’ head coach in his second season as they got shutout in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
As every coach and player has said many times throughout their career, a win is a win. Saturday wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t particularly fun to watch.
But at the end of the day, LSU returns to Baton Rouge with an 8-2 record with five SEC wins under it’s belt.
It’s always tough to readjust expectations and goals when just a week ago the College Football Playoff was on the table as a realistic possibility.
But the Tigers have overachieved this season, even if they’ve done it by winning ugly. Like Orgeron continues to say, LSU still has plenty to play for. Don’t let a few questionable calls and poor plays distract from that fact.
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