BATON ROUGE - Now, Ed Orgeron is truly LSU's football coach.
He has experienced his first radio show at the TJ Ribs barbecue restaurant, and he was the main course for the most part.
A caller named Terry said that while he was watching the No. 11 Tigers lose at unranked Mississippi State, 37-7, Saturday night that he had never felt as embarrassed watching an LSU football game since 1981 when Tulane defeated the Tigers, 48-7. After venting his frustration, Terry gave the floor back to Orgeron.
"Hey, Terry," Orgeron said good naturedly. "I hope that made you feel better."
And it was on to the next caller. There were some positive calls.
"Hats off to you sir for taking full responsibility. That is something to be commended," a caller said to Orgeron, whose team fell to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference in his first full season as the Tigers' coach. LSU plays Syrcause (2-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium on ESPN2.
"Thank you, my friend," Orgeron said. "I appreciate that."
But there were a quite a few frustrated fans like Terry asking pointed questions.
One caller asked, "Coach, how is it that three games in, we're already running into this problem where I feel like there were guys who were quitting out there on you?"
Orgeron disagreed. "I don't see that," he said. "We didn’t see that on film. We looked at it. We grade loafs. We grade effort harder than anybody has. We didn’t see that. We felt the whole time on the sideline we were in the game that we were going to come back and win it. There was no question in our mind we were going to fight for 60 minutes. Now maybe you saw something on TV that I didn’t see, but I watched the film closely. I grade effort. I didn’t see that.”
Wayne in Kenner pointed out that Orgeron said on his radio show last week that the team practiced very well in preparation for Mississippi State. "But this Monday at the press conference, you’re taking responsibility for the lack of preparedness for this game. The contradiction has got everybody kind of confused. I’m hoping you can kind of elaborate on that for us,” he said.
"I understand that, and we did," Orgeron said. "We did do some things very well that week, but when we went back and looked at the preparation, when we went back and looked at some of the plays we ran in the game, they were not well executed during the week. I think that our plan could’ve been better. Our execution could’ve been better. We’re very hard on the way we practice. When we play well, especially when we play well on the road, we’ve had perfect practices. We went back and looked at it. There’s some things that we could’ve got better. And that’s the way we feel about it.”
A caller named Jeff questioned the $1.5 million a year salary for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who struggled in his Southeastern Conference debut with 270 total yards and seven points, which was the lowest point total for one of his offenses since North Carolina State was shut out, 41-0, by Clemson in 2014.
"First of all, we believe in Matt," Orgeron said. "Matt has done a tremendous job since he’s been here. He’s a hard working young man. We didn’t execute on Saturday night, but we didn’t play well as a team. It’s not his fault. It’s not the offense’s fault. All three phases did not perform the way we need to, so we’ve got to look at it. I really feel that throughout the course of the year Matt Canada is going to do a tremendous job for us.”
Ricky in Birmingham, Alabama, suggested that Canada cut down on all the motion and slow things down so as to conserve energy for the offensive and defensive lines, which Orgeron has said have depth issues.
"Wouldn't we be better served to milk the clock? It seems to me that way we'd have some energy on the offensive line, and by holding the ball, we'd save some wear and tear on the defnsive line. Thanks, and go Tigers," Ricky said.
"You bring up a good point," Orgeron said. “We discussed that this week. In fact, we discussed it last week. We are going to shift, and we are going to have motion. That’s part of Matt’s offense. He talked about it in his interview. I said he could do it. And I’m going to let him do it. But I think the hurry-up on offense has got to play within the game. If we’re struggling on defense, we need to have better ball control like we did against BYU. And we’re going to make some adjustments this week, and I think you’re going to see us slow our offense, not as much hurry-up offense if we need it.”
Charlie from Lafayette took up for Orgeron, saying he has not been at LSU for three years yet. Recent stories around the state have said factually that Orgeron has been an integral part of three recruiting classes (2015-17) at LSU and thus is more responsible for the roster than a typical newly hired head coach. Orgeron has not been at LSU for three years quite yet, though. He has been on staff for two years and nearly nine months.
"I think people need to be fair," Charlie said. "I'm very proud you're our coach. And I think you're still going to have a very good season. Remember, Penn State got beat 49--10 and ended up as the Big Ten champions."
Penn State bounced back from that 49-10 loss to Michigan early last season to finish 11-3 with a win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.
"Thank you. I appreciate that," Orgeron said.
Charlie from Lafayette also pointed out that the two targeting penalties against Donnie Alexander and Neil Farrell Jr. turned the game around early in the third quarter after LSU trailed by 17-7 at halftime. Soon, it was down 30-7 entering the fourth quarter. Both players were ejected and have to sit out the first half Saturday by NCAA rule.
"The two targeting penalties, they were senseless," Orgeron said. "They kept the drive alive, which resulted in the points. We disciplined those guys. We have informed them what targeting is all throughout the summer, and we will not allow them to do it again. And those guys will be suspended for the first half and be penalized."
HELP COMING TO D-LINE: Senior defensive end Frank Herron, who was expected to be a co-starter at defensive end with senior Christian LaCouture this season, will be off of his disciplinary suspension for the Auburn game on Oct. 14, according to Orgeron. He has missed LSU's first three games and will miss three more.
"Frank Herron, who is not eligible to play right now, not available to play, is practicing with our second team," Orgeron said on his radio show Wednesday. "In a couple of weeks, he should be ready to go."
Orgeron told reporters after the show Herron would be available for the Auburn game for the first time this season. According to a source close to the program, Herron has been suspended for half the season by the LSU athletic department for three violations of its year-round drug testing program.
The second violation calls for "suspension from 10 percent (rounding method used) of countable contests," which rounds off to one game for football players, according to LSU's written substance abuse policy. Several of the 11 players who were suspended for the season opener against Brigham Young fell under this part of the policy.
The third violation calls for "suspension from 50 percent of countable contests," the policy states. LSU's sixth game of its 12-game regular season is at Florida on Oct. 7. Auburn is the next week. Other players out of action so far this season in addition to Herron are expected to also be available for the Florida game.
Orgeron has had little or no comment on his players' suspensions all season.
LSU particularly needs Herron back for depth as it has been without regular starting defensive end Rashard Lawrence, a sophomore from Monroe, for the last two games. Lawrence, viewed as the Tigers' best defensive lineman by Orgeron and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, started on the opposite side of LaCouture in the season opener against Brigham Young. But Lawrence hurt his ankle in that game and missed the Chattanooga and State games. He has been practicing this week and is expected to play against Syracuse.
Aranda moved regular nose tackle Greg Gilmore into Lawrence spot for the State game and started backup nose tackle Ed Alexander at nose tackle next to LaCouture. Then Alexander was injured in that game and has been ruled out for the Syracuse game.
GUICE WILL PLAY: After Coach Orgeron said on his radio show Wednesday night that starting tailback Derrius Guice will miss the Syracuse game because of an injury suffered at Mississippi State, he said Thursday night after practice that Guice will start.
Guice convinced trainers that he could practice Thursday and did. Then Orgeron announced after practice that he would start.