Ed Orgeron Dan Mullen

Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen, right, greets LSU head coach Ed Orgeron after the Bulldogs handed the Tigers an embarrassing loss two years ago in Starkville, Miss.

 

LSU wasn't finished singing the postgame alma mater after handling Florida so impressively Saturday night — the Tigers didn't know they were soon to be elevated to No. 2 in the country — when the "trap game" conspiracists were coming out of the woodwork.

Big game. Big win. National acclaim and attaboys. Infamous 24-hour rule kicks in, sure. But the LSU-Alabama game … dang, that thing is looking like a Game of the Century II, only with real offenses this time.

Oh, but settle down. Can't get ahead of yourself. First there's a visit from Auburn back in Tiger Stadium and …

No, wait. That's in two weeks.

When Saturday's afterglow wore off, LSU learned it was looking to squeeze in a quick trip to the Starkpatch for Mississippi State this week.

That'd be a 3-3 Mississippi State team coming off the embarrassment of bringing some respite to Tennessee's season from hell with 20-10 loss in Knoxville last week.

Trap game! Trap game!

And it sure has all the telltale markings.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron will pull out all the psychological stops.

He's already dipped into the coaching manual for "This is going to be about us this week, about us getting better, about us taking the next step, remaining hungry on our destination to where we want to go."

He might add that there's plenty of polishing LSU could do, and in fact he did.

"Especially on defense … that we're going to get fixed. A lot of stuff we can get fixed. They're all fixable."

Fine. Sometimes it works, sometimes entire teams nod off at the thought. Me, I'd suggest a team trivia quiz.

Quick now. Who handed Coach O his worst loss in his dream job as LSU's head coach?

Troy, circa 2017, you say? Good answer. But we're dealing with cold, hard numbers here. So we're looking for the widest margin off loss in Orgeron's tenure.

And everybody is screaming Alabama at once. Logical choice. What was it last year? Something like 29-0?

But guess again.

Saturday will be the Tigers' first trip back to StarkVegas since a 37-7 shellacking by the Bulldogs — do the math, that's 30 points.

And it might have easily been the worst game LSU played under Orgeron.

"We walked into a hornet's nest two years ago and I didn't have them ready," Orgeron recalled this week.

It came out of nowhere, too.

Maybe LSU was expecting another Mississippi vacation.

Granted, Starkville won't bore you with much night life.

But for a generation LSU treated Starkville like a relaxing weekend getaway. Starkville might as well have been down on the beach.

Curley Hallman never lost there. Gerry DiNardo wouldn't have if replay-review had been in effect for the 1999 game. Nick Saban and Les Miles had everything but bottle service for their trips. The blasted cowbells sounded like a victory march disguised as a lullaby.

All told, when Orgeron arrived for his first LSU trip to Starkville two years ago, the Tigers had won 12 of their last 13 visits.

You think you know a place. And then, without warning, everything had changed drastically.

It was like overnight Starkville had running water, was wired for electricity, had put in three or four stop lights, even had a couple of those newfangled four-lane highways to get you in and out.

There were rumors of widespread tailgating.

Mainly, Davis-Wade Stadium had gotten itself an upper deck, even more cowbell and it suddenly had become like one of the big-boy SEC hell holes to attempt to play in.

You come back to one of your favorite rest stops and they'd raised the rent while ransacking the place.

"That was one of the loudest stadiums we played in," Orgeron said. "Not only the cowbells, but the music, the fans were into it. Obviously they played lights out."

It did not go well for LSU.

The Bulldogs rang up 465 yards offense back when that was real yardage, and turned a 17-7 halftime lead into a laugher of a second half, all the while with those infernal cowbells clanging into overdrive.

LSU couldn't get out of its own way all night and never looked more helpless.

Orgeron had been there before. His last game with Ole Miss was in Starkville and it was his last game as head coach because he got fired shortly after his Rebels blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead.

So you'd think there's not much chance LSU's head coach will be looking past this trip.

"What happens with Mississippi State, they're going to pick one game a year that there's a target on," Orgeron said. "It always seems to be LSU. They're going to play their best game. We're going to expect their best football game. We're going to play to crowd noise.

"I'm going to have them better prepared, not only for the cowbells (but) the music, the fans in that stadium."


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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