By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
The clock showed just a few ticks before midnight when CoCo Orgeron shuffled into the crowded postgame interview room behind Tiger Stadium’s north end zone. She took her place with the rest of the Orgeron clan, standing amidst the throng of reporters who were also waiting for her son to speak.
And what an emotional night it must have been for the man who grew up in Larose as little “Bebe” Orgeron.
Ed Orgeron improved to 3-0 as LSU’s interim head coach behind three long touchdown runs from Leonard Fournette and a second-half shutout of the Southeastern Conference’s best quarterback.
With the 38-21 triumph, Orgeron became the first coach in program history to win each of his first three assignments by double digits. That’s an explosive start for a coach trying to prove the interim tag should be dropped from his dream job.
Oh, and it all came at the expense of the school that unceremoniously canned him from his first head coaching gig back in 2007.
Orgeron fielded constant questions about his disastrous three-year tenure at Ole Miss during the run up to the game. He spoke of forgettable memories and lessons learned.
The coach downplayed the idea of having any extra motivation on his part, preferring to make it about his players. Nevertheless, Greg Gilmore, one of those players, said last week he saw a different fire in Orgeron’s eyes once the Tigers turned their attention to the Rebels.
Basking in the afterglow of victory, a reporter served up a golden opportunity — or a baited hook, depending on your perspective — for the fiery coach to launch into an airing of grievances and throw up a proverbial middle finger to his humbled former employers.
Specifically, Orgeron was asked for feelings about the game, prefaced with you said you left behind what happened at Ole Miss.
“Absolute zero,” Orgeron declared. “This was for the team. We’re 3-0. Whatever happened there was a long time ago. I’ve coached at many other schools and I love being a Tiger. Absolutely zero.”
Dwelling on what happened in Oxford during those three seasons wouldn’t do Orgeron any good, and he knows it. Besides, he’s in the midst of the opportunity he’s craved for years at the school most near and dear to his heart.
As far as Ole Miss goes, Orgeron says his failure spurred personal growth to become the coach he is today. He figured out what worked, and kept it, as well as discarding what didn’t
But here’s the cherry on top: Tom Herman, the Houston coach who is the darling of the upcoming coaching carousel season, took it on the chin 38-16 against a bad SMU team. A second straight defeat for the previous undefeated Cougars.
That’s not to say LSU’s opinion of Herman would change — nor that of Texas and any other program willing to axe its coach to enter the Herman sweepstakes — but landing the LSU gig is a zero-sum game for Orgeron, and every bit helps.
Orgeron’s chances of keeping the full-time gig become more realistic with every successive victory, though he knows full well the road will continue to get exponentially more difficult after the open date.
- Unsung Hero
Everyone knows fullbacks are America’s most hardy Americans. Maybe that goes double for backup fullbacks.
Starter J.D. Moore left the Ole Miss game early in the first quarter and did not return, pressing sophomore Bry’Kiethon Mouton into action.
This wasn’t Mouton’s first rodeo. He’d filled in admirably — though not necessarily effectively — for Moore when the veteran went down with a knee injury last season. That experience gained paid dividends against the Rebels.
Mouton led the way on two of Fournette’s three length touchdown runs. Both were lead toss plays running right, and both times Mouton cleared out the hole to allow Fournette to explode into the secondary and down the sideline toward pay dirt.
“He did a tremendous job,” left tackle K.J. Malone said. “We all play with the next man up, and we all trust the next guy that comes in. He did his job.”
That’s been a constant theme up front for an offense that’s played without every starting offensive linemen besides Ethan Pocic at one time or another this season.
Garrett Brumfield replaced Will Clapp for multiple series Saturday as Clapp appeared to re-aggravate an arm injury that kept him out against Southern Miss.
But LSU’s blockers have kept the offense rolling by their ability to shuffle, shift and roll with the punches, a mindset that apparently extends to the Tigers’ fullbacks.
“It’s like Coach O says, it’s whatever it takes,” Pocic said. “It doesn’t matter who is in. The same is expected, and the people that are subbing in, Garrett Brumfield and Mouton, they’re doing great jobs.”
- Woo Licks
As Ole Miss defensive back Deontay Anderson can surely attest, nobody in college football lowers the boom like Leonard Fournette. The freshman is just the latest defender to have the misfortune of winding up on the receiving end of one of those downright violent truck sticks.
But Buga wasn’t the only Tiger laying the wood on Saturday night. LSU’s special teams, once a point of serious consternation, dished out three noteworthy hits as well.
The best came from Jamal Adams, a feared defensive enforcer in his own right. Adams, blocking for punt returner Tre’Davious White, came in and de-cleated two tacklers in pursuit with one clean, legal blow to the mid-section. Now that’s getting your money’s worth.
The other two came from freshman linebacker Devin White, who flashed some serious tackling force on a pair of takedowns covering kickoffs inside the opposing 25-yard line. He’s got a bright future on defense once senior linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley graduate.