BATON ROUGE – Bob Dylan and The Band were among those credited with starting the craze of audience members holding up lighters during their tour in early 1974. That modernized to cellular phones in more recent decades.
On Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, the flashy, cellular phenomenon hit Tiger Stadium as LSU and new interim head coach Ed Orgeron, a deep throated Cajun from Larose, mesmerized and stirred - if not healed - a crowd of nearly 100,000 by taking a 28-0 lead with 11:09 to go in the third quarter on their way to a 42-7 victory over Missouri in Orgeron's smashing debut. LSU had not been up by that much that early in a Southeastern Conference game since the then-No. 1 Tigers took a 42-3 lead over Ole Miss with 12:35 to go in the third quarter of a 52-3 win on Nov. 19, 2011, on their way to a 13-0 start and Southeastern Conference championship.
The floundering LSU offense had not scored 28 points in its previous six complete SEC games, three of which were losses. LSU led 21-0 at the half with 19 first downs to five and 357 yards to 110, but it did not sit back. It took the second half kickoff 75 yards for the touchdown in eight plays – four runs and four passes mind you - and Tiger Stadium was all sparkly about it. It was something to see – not that much unlike the fireworks show to cap off a day at Disney World.
“I remember one time looking up and seeing lights in the crowd,” said LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark, who caught three passes for 58 yards. “And I didn’t even know what that was about. It was pretty amazing. I mean, Tiger Stadium’s already beautiful, and then seeing those lights. It was really crazy on the sidelines, like, ‘Man, what is this?’ It was great. The crowd was into it. Coach O brought a lot of energy.”
LSU scored another touchdown on its first possession of the fourth quarter, too, moving 86 yards in 10 plays – five passes and five runs by the way – for a 35-0 lead. That marked the fourth touchdown drive of more than 80 yards. LSU had not done such a thing since 2001 during a 35-21 win at Alabama on its way to the SEC title.
The place was rocking with Coach O on lead electric guitar for “Louisiana Larose.”
“We could feel the electricity in the stadium, and I told the guys that big plays fuel emotion,” Orgeron said. “The fans are going to be there. You want to get them cranked up? Make big plays. And obviously, the output we had on offense was tremendous.”
Tailback Derrius Guice gained a career-high 163 yards on 17 carries with a 42-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on LSU’s second drive. He scored from 37 yards out for the 21-0 halftime lead and had a 22-yard run and a 21-yard catch and run. Tailback Nick Brossette had a 60-yard run to set up LSU’s last touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tailback Darrell Williams had a 20-yard run and gained 131 yards on 21 carries.
Quarterback Danny Etling completed 19 of 30 passes to nine receivers for 216 yards without an interception. LSU possessed the ball for 42 minutes and 33 seconds to just 17:27.
When it was all done, LSU had set a glittering school record for total yards in an SEC game with 634, breaking the record of 630 set in a 55-0 win over Mississippi State in 1967 and tied in 1987 in a 42-13 win over Ole Miss. LSU’s 418 rushing yards did not break the school record, but it was the Tigers’ most in an SEC game since putting up 426 in a 45-0 win over Ole Miss in 1976 and most in any game since rushing for 433 in a 35-34 win over Houston in 1996.
“Tremendous,” was how Orgeron described new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger’s play calling.
“We spread them out a little bit early, as you saw,” he said of opening the game in a four wide receiver set. Etling hit only one of four passes in that formation to start, but nevertheless it may have achieved its purpose.
“It loosened them up on the run,” Orgeron said. “We did some things – the slants, the short easy throws, the four wides – that opened them up a little bit. And then we ran the ball. It was kind of making the offense look a little different - maybe some of the same plays, but from a different formation and different personnel groupings. I think it was a cumulative effect of our whole coaching staff. There were a lot of ideas there, a lot of guys working hard to implement the new system within the system we had.”
The concerted effort climaxed with a great concert and opening act for Orgeron, who replaced the fired Les Miles just last Sunday.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect,” junior fullback John David Moore said of the coaching change. “I knew he was a loud, passionate, boisterous kind of guy. But you could tell he’s been a head coach before (at Ole Miss from 2005-07 and USC’s interim coach in 2013). He really had command of the room, and he really set the tone for the whole week. I was impressed with that.”
In a matter of days, Orgeron preached “one heartbeat” and brought the team together.
“He’s got a very endearing personality,” Moore said. “The fact that he’s saying and emphasizing unity was one thing, but the way that he acts it with his persona is very unifying.”
His encore will be at Florida on ESPN at 11 a.m., which may be too early for the light show, but Orgeron will likely still be all aglow.
“The whole week the state of Louisiana was on fire,” he said. “It started on the radio show, and then everything was going, and I’m just proud for the state of Louisiana. This is Tiger Stadium. This is what it’s supposed to be.”
Orgeron ran off the stage triumphantly as if he was Springsteen, but dripping with a Gatorade shower from his players and a specially decorated game ball that said, “Ed Orgeron, First Win as Head Coach,” and “Hold That Tiger,” in purple and gold.
“Special, obviously special,” he said. “It’s something that I dreamed about. But I just couldn’t get into that. I was just so busy. Every day was new and being a head coach again, getting the program together, getting the everyday practice schedule together. And hey, you walk down the hall and everything is, ‘Got this. Got this.’ And you’re rocking and rolling.”
And the LSU music may be just beginning.
“We’re going to enjoy it,” Orgeron said. “It’s a tremendous honor to be the head coach at LSU – a tremendous honor.”
Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.