Orgeron has hangover remedy

One of the more notable and understandable student rebellions in Tiger Stadium came in 1997 when the LSU youngsters poured onto the stadium floor at the conclusion of Gerry DiNardo’s 28-21 upset of No. 1-ranked Florida.

Defensive coordinator Carl Reese got a lot of the credit for that shocker, with a plan that frustrated Steve Spurrier’s Fun ‘N Gun offense.

Darth’s Visor spent a lot of time in frustrated flight that night. The Tigers, 5-1, were the toast of the nation — cover of Sports Illustrated — and shot up to No. 8 in the national rankings.

The next week, still cozy at home, LSU lost to unranked Ole Miss 36-21 (as Reese apparently didn’t get the memo that the Rebels’ tight ends were eligible receivers).

The promising DiNardo Era never was the same again, which led to …

Believe it or not, civilian Tigers rushed the field during Nick Saban’s first season, in 2000. One week after losing to UAB, Saint Nick upset No. 11 Tennessee in overtime.

Happy Days were here again.

The next week LSU lost to Florida 41-9.

Saban eventually recovered very nicely, thank you very much, but you can see the point. Even he wasn’t immune to the hangover.

Just because you pull off an upset and pop the champagne, it doesn’t always mean the corner has been turned.

We could go back to even more ancient times — 1982, when household oranges flew from the stands and the students poured down to celebrate a 55-21 win over Florida State that put the Tigers in the Orange Bowl.

Somebody remarked at the time that it was fortunate LSU wasn’t clinching a Gator Bowl spot.

LOL.

A week later they all reconvened in Tiger Stadium, ready to party again, only to get upset 31-28 by a 3-7 Tulane team, still the last time LSU lost to an in-state outfit.

Lesson never learned: it’s one thing to come up with a brilliant plan and a wild-eyed effort to pull off the big upset; it’s quite another to keep it going.

That’s how this week LSU somehow finds itself in a classic “trap” game against a Mississippi State team that last year beat the Tigers 37-7.

It’s a tough gig for a coach.

Back to earth. Back to the grind (or, if you’re Saban, back to the The Process).

It’s where LSU finds itself after everybody had a merry ol’ time before, during and immediately after last week’s 36-16 demolition of No. 2 Georgia.

But this challenge should fit right into the Ed Orgeron business model — especially now that it’s clear he’s made good on his promise to unshackle offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.

One of the most refreshing things about Coach O is that he doesn’t let his ego get in the way of his self-imposed job description. He’s all about letting two coordinators, Ensminger and defensive whiz Dave Aranda, have the freedom to do their thing.

Contrary to popular perception, it’s a little more complicated than grunting in raw Cajunese and finishing every sentence with “Geaux Tigers.”

He really is a coach, not a cartoon character. Somebody had to pull the trigger on all those fourthdown gambles last week. But it’s more than that, too.

“What’s the job of a head coach?” tight end Foster Moreau, one of the more thoughtful and well-spoken Tigers, asked in the afterglow of the Georgia upset. “Think about that. We have incredibly high-paid tactical coordinators who do an incredible job and create incredible game plans.

“So what room does that leave for the head coach.”

He paused for effect.

“He’s got to make sure that every Saturday we are mentally, physically and emotionally ready to play.

“And (Orgeron) has done that every Saturday that I’ve been around here. It might be a different wrinkle. He might cut practice by five minutes … but he knows what he’s doing.

“People just hear his accent and think, “Oh, this guy is just rah-rah and gets people pumped up,’ … but the lengths he goes to make sure we are ready to play on Saturdays, it’s astounding.”

Sometimes the Xs and Os are the easy part, even though Ensminger often sleeps in the office anyway.

Last week, for instance, quarterback Joe Burrow said that after excellent practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Orgeron let them know in no uncertain terms that Thursday’s was the worst he’d seen since he’d been at LSU.

It evidently struck a nerve.

“Just a feel,” Orgeron said of how he manages the human nature inherent in his 18- to 22-year-olds. “Been coaching for 35 years, trying to feel the pulse of a team. Look at practice, see if we’re practicing hard enough, No. 1. No. 2, if we’re practicing too hard, scale back. (You have to) know that each week is going to be different … feel the pulse of the team, make an adjustment when you have to.”

This week with Mississippi State is a totally different emotional animal than last week against Georgia.

It’s where Coach O earns his keep.


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

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