Looking for motivation, LSU playing for bowl eligibility, avoid embarrassment

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, November 20, 2021

Ed Orgeron almost sounded like an actor getting direction.

What’s my motivation?

That was the central question this week as LSU’s lame-duck Orgeron Era limps home in the midst of a the first three-game losing streak in his tenure for a nonconference game against Louisiana-Monroe.

Just don’t tell him that he and the Tigers (4-6) have nothing to lose.

“Somebody says well, “What do you got to lose?’ ” he said.

Then he paused before going full-blown Herm Edwards:

“It’s a game,” he said, his voice rising. “We play to win … the … game. OK?

“And that’s important for us, to compete. But I want these guys to finish strong and to be proud and know life is going to give you a bunch of stuff but fight like a man. You got to keep on fighting. And if you keep on fighting … then you got to teach your children to keep on fighting. If you stop now, you’re gonna stop then. It’s no secret.”

In other words: Playing for pride.

Technically the Tigers are still in contention for a bowl trip, which would take an expected victory as a 29-point favorite over the Warhawks tonight plus finishing the regular season next week with a home upset over nationally ranked Texas A&M.

Orgeron, who will finish his dream job whenever LSU’s season ends, made it clear he and his injury-depleted team would like to reach the postseason.

So that’s something.

But there’s the other side of the coin. What are you playing NOT to do?

In an already tough season, the Tigers surely don’t want to break another streak. But LSU hasn’t lost to an in-state school since long before any of the current players were born — 1982, in fact — when they lost 31-28 to Tulane. Since then it’s been a run of 34 consecutive wins against Louisiana schools.

Or, there’s the simple motivation of the last two weeks having let two victories that were there for taking slip away.

“They’re (ticked off). I don’t blame them,” Orgeron said.

ULM can also reach bowl eligibility, although it would take a mega-upset in Tiger Stadium tonight and another shocker next week against Sun Belt West champion Louisiana-Lafayette.

But the Warhawks, who also have lost three in a row, are a different kind of 4-6 than LSU.

After going 0-10 last season, ULM has shown marked progress under veteran first-year coach Terry Bowden, who’s best known for his days in the Southeastern Conference at Auburn.

“I’ve seen crazier things happen,” Bowden said of tonight’s game. “And I’ve been a part of crazy things happening.

“I do know the players will play as hard as they can and they won’t quit.”