Bye, bye, Bébé: Orgeron wins final game at LSU

Published 5:00 am Sunday, November 28, 2021

BATON ROUGE — Things couldn’t have looked much more bleak for LSU late against Texas A&M.

It bordered on helpless, edging up on hopeless — third-and-11 and the Tigers at their own 14-yard line after consecutive sacks with an offense that had been dead most of the second half.

What was left of Tiger Stadium was heading to the exits as another good and honest effort looked to be wasted by a fourth-quarter collapse.

Those fans were probably numb to this kind of disappointing tease by now anyway, weary of the dominating final quarter Texas A&M was putting together.

Ed Orgeron?

Well, uh …

“I was thinking something good was going to happen,” he said.

Really. That’s what he said he was thinking, surely the minority opinion among those gathered for the LSU head coach’s swan song.

“Our backs were against the wall,” Orgeron admitted. “We were down.”

But never mind that not much of anything has gone right for LSU in the two years since Coach O was the toast of the state with the 2019 undefeated national championship.

He’d been telling his Tigers all game to “just keep fighting, something good will happen.”

And then it did — a crazy, nutty finish as out of the blue as it was improbable.

Quarterback Max Johnson, fresh of his fifth and sixth sacks, milked a first down, then hit Jaray Jenkins for a 31-yard gain and — miracle of miracles — tossed a 28-yard pass that Jenkins somehow caught right at the end zone pylon with 20 seconds remaining to send Orgeron out with a 27-24 upset of the No. 14 Texas A&M.

“How ‘bout those Tigers?” Orgeron shouted in his final LSU news conference. “You don’t think I was excited. What a way to end that game!”

With the win the Tigers (6-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) got bowl eligible, but Orgeron won’t be there for the postseason.

He said in the upset’s afterglow that it was a “mutual decision” between he and the LSU administration that he’ll step down and that offensive line coach Brad Davis will coach the team wherever it ends up.

Maybe it’s best that way.

If Orgeron had to leave his dream job, this was the way to go out in style.

“Kept on fighting,” he said. “These guys stuck together. Think about all the injuries … the coaching staff stuck together. I’m just so happy about that.”

The winner was the last of Jenkins eight catches for 169 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown for the game’s first touchdown while the Tigers were jumping to a 17-7 halftime lead.

The Tigers struggling offense racked up 412 yards against the SEC’s second-best defense.

But it was back in a familiar rut in the fourth quarter as the Aggies (8-4, 4-4) scored two touchdowns with relative ease for a 24-20 lead.

A 15-yard penalty on a Trey Palmer’s punt return had the Tigers staring at a long 85 yards to victory with just over 3 minutes to play.

It must have seemed like miles.

“Keep fighting,” Orgeron told them again. “They believe in each other. Our backs were against the wall … they stuck together. The coaching staff stuck together.”

The winning pass was pretty simple: send four Tigers deep and hope one gets open — and Jenkins did.

“Max threw the ball and I had to make a play,” Jenkins said. “He trusted in me. I had to make the catch.”

Just like you draw it up?

Who knows?

“That was the play design … I guess,” Orgeron said.

He couldn’t be sure.

“I didn’t even have my headset on,” he admitted. “I was just a cheerleader by then.”