O Boy: It’s Coach O vs. Cody O in Saturday’s LSU home opener

McNeese State quarterback Cody Orgeron, the son of LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron, has worked himself up from a sixth-string walk on, to become the Cowboys starter the past two seasons. Photo by: Richard J Martin

They’re both adept doing their best to eliminate external distractions.

They’re well versed in the expression “blocking out the noise”, something handed down from father to son through a tight-knit relationship and lifetime of football together.

But there’s no discounting prevalent emotions when LSU (0-1) hosts McNeese State (0-1) in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game in Tiger Stadium where Tigers’ head coach Ed Orgeron welcomes the Cowboys who are quarterbacked by his son Cody.

“Block out the noise,” Cody Orgeron said. “He’s had to block out the noise in his career but that’s just what comes with the territory. Whether being the head coach at LSU or being a starting quarterback, there’s always going to be critics, people saying you should have done this or that.”

For what is believed to be the second time in college football history and first in nearly four decades the Orgerons will oppose one another where the stakes for the second week of the season are extremely high.

Former NFL great quarterback John Elway twice lost to his father Jack when the elder Elway coached San Jose State to wins over Stanford in 1981 and ’82. John Elway won their initial meeting in 1979.

“It is challenging,” Ed Orgeron said. “I’m going to coach the way I know how to coach. I may tone down a couple of words I use because it’s my son but besides that, Cody knows we’re coming. We’re hungry. We have this (bad) taste in our mouths. We’re coming and McNeese is in our way, and he understands that.”

The LSU-McNeese encounter has additional layers beyond coach-player bond. It’s literally an Orgeron family reunion where Cody will not only have to contend with his father, but also twin brother Parker and half-brother Tyler Spotts-Orgeron who are both on the Tigers’ shadow coaching staff.

“It’s definitely difficult,” Cody said. “I have both of my brothers on the sideline and my dad. I feel like it’s me against the whole fam(ily). I wouldn’t want it any other way. I live for stuff like that. You dream of moments like this as a kid and it’s finally here. I can’t wait to go out there and play and have fun.”

The game’s significance gained intensity following season-opening losses for both teams.

LSU, then-ranked 13th nationally, didn’t give a stellar account of itself in a 38-27 road loss to UCLA, a game in which they only led (7-0) once.

The Tigers returned home, having fallen out of the national polls, with plenty of work ahead on both offense and defense and McNeese – and Cody Orgeron – standing in their way. LSU has never lost to an FCS opponent in 28 previous games.

“Underdog, David and Goliath story,” Cody said of the perception of his team’s chances in the game. “Going in there to put up a fight, just play with your heart. Just fight all 60 minutes. Give it your all and let’s see where the chips fall.”

McNeese suffered a similar fate. The Cowboys dropped a 42-36 game at home to Division II West Florida in a game Cody Orgeron shined with a career-high 367 passing yards with two touchdowns.

Cody Orgeron began his second year as McNeese’s starter, a sign of his perseverance after arriving in Lake Charles as a walk-on and sixth on the team’s quarterback depth chart. He was a former tennis player that later discovered a passion for football where he and his twin brother went on to enjoy a terrific on-field connection at Mandeville High.

While Parker’s playing career was cut short by injuries at McNeese, Cody climbed the Cowboys’ depth chart where he became a starter during the 2020 season which took place during the spring, enabling Ed Orgeron to attend each of his son’s seven games.

Five months later, they’ll be in different colors opposing one another.

“First of all, the game’s about LSU winning,” Ed Orgeron said. “It’s about LSU-McNeese. Personally, I’m proud of Cody. He earned a scholarship. He’s graduated, he’s going to get his graduate degree. Cody was always a late bloomer. His brother was the star football player, but he caught up his senior year.

“He brought his team to the semis but playing against Cody’s going to be pretty cool. He’s going to be talking some smack. I know he’ll come to the sideline and talk a little smack. He knows all of our players. He’s excited to play in Death Valley. Once the game starts it’s competition. I’m the head coach at LSU, he’s the quarterback at McNeese. We’ve both got to do what we can to win the game.”

Cody Orgeron’s career at McNeese won’t soon be forgotten. He ranks among the best quarterbacks in school history where he ranks sixth in touchdown passes (37), seventh in completions (401) and eighth in both yards (4,697) and attempts (680).

His best season came in 2019, completing 202 of 348 passes for 2,628 yards for 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

“It’s going to be crazy. I think it’s going to be fun,” LSU sixth-year defensive end Andre Anthony of facing McNeese and Cody Orgeron. “There’s going to be a lot of trash talking. We’re definitely going to get it on.”

Anthony is among a familiar group of players Cody Orgeron has become friends with during the course of his father’s tenure at LSU, which began six years ago when he joined Les Miles’ staff as defensive line coach.

Once Miles was fired after the first four games of the 2016 season, Ed Orgeron was promoted to interim coach and given the permanent head coaching job at season’s end before the Tigers beat Louisville in the Citrus Bowl basis in 2017.

He’s 45-15, including a magical run to an undefeated national championship in 2019n when he was a consensus choice as college football’s National Coach of the Year. But after a 5-5 record last season and a loss to open the ’21 season, he finds himself the subject of criticism.

Father is not getting any sympathy from his son.

“It’s kind of a difficult situation but I can’t get caught up in that type of personal mindset,” Cody Orgeron said. “It’s just another football game to me, going out there and trying to win. On any given Saturday any given team can win. That’s why you play the game. Go lace up the cleats and let it fly.

“This one’s special. I always dreamed about playing in Death Valley. Obviously, it’s a unique situation playing against my dad but at the same time it’s just another football game. It’s 11 on 11, go out and fight and compete and let the best man win.”

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