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BATON ROUGE, La. – In his first full season as LSU’s football coach in 2017, Ed Orgeron delivered a dramatic, stirring and memorable answer after his team fell 24-10 to No. 1 Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
The No. 19 Tigers fell to 6-3 with the loss, while Alabama rolled on to 9-0 and headed to coach Nick Saban’s fifth national championship at the Capstone.
But LSU had outgained the Tide, 306 yards to 299, and outrushed Alabama, 151 yards to 116.
In a 10-0 loss the year before under interim coach Orgeron, the Tigers had mustered just 33 yards on the ground and 125 total. In a 30-16 loss in 2015 under coach Les Miles with Orgeron as an assistant, LSU tailback Leonard Fournette gained 31 yards on 19 carries, ending a Heisman Trophy race he had been running away with through the first seven weeks. Alabama won the national title that season too, and tailback Derrick Henry took the Heisman.
So, Orgeron saw the tide – if you will – begin to turn in that ’17 game. So, when he was asked by a Baton Rouge television sports anchor if he felt like that game was “laying the groundwork for next year and years to come,” Orgeron cut him off.
“We coming,” he said with his eyes and face at laser focus. He didn’t say it with the usual thick Cajun accent either. It was clearer.
“We coming,” he said again with his eyes shooting gamma rays at the questioner. “And we ain’t backing down.”
There was a pause, and you could hear a crawfish drop.
It was classic, and soon went viral throughout LSU Nation along with Orgeron’s patented “One team, one heartbeat” and “Block out the noise” that had been circulating wildly since he became interim coach four games into the 2016 season.
LSU lost badly to Alabama the next year at home, 29-0, but Orgeron’s prediction was just delayed one year. The Tigers finally slayed the dragon on Nov. 9, 2019, for the first time since 2011, beating the No. 2 Tide 46-41 with LSU as the No. 1 team in the nation at Bryant-Denny Stadium. And LSU quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman, and the Tigers went on to win the national championship at 15-0.
LSU has gone 9-9 since that season and 7-8 in the SEC, while Alabama has gone 20-1 and 14-1 in the SEC since with another national championship last season and another Heisman, this one going to wide receiver DeVonta Smith of Amite, Louisiana.
Orgeron was fired effective at the end of the season three weeks ago after a 3-3 start, including a 42-21 loss at Kentucky on Oct. 9.
No. 3 Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) hosts LSU (4-4, 2-3 SEC) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN in the first game of the annual series since 2006 not on CBS. The Tide is favored by 28.5 points, according to FanDuel. LSU was an underdog by the same number of points last season and the biggest defending national champion underdog in 40 years, and it lost 55-17 at home.
“It’s LSU-Alabama,” Orgeron said Monday at a press conference in the football facility. “Throw all the records out. That’s enough said. They’re going to be ready to go. I’m going to be ready to go. Tremendous challenge. A lot of respect for this football team, but we coming.”
It didn’t sound the same at all. Orgeron said it like a man possessed in 2017, like he meant it, and he did. And he was right.
On Monday, it sounded like an afterthought. Like, this will sound good here.
Orgeron sounded and looked tired, weathered, like someone finishing the string. Or he sounded like that because he had a cold. But everyting seems so different from just two years ago this month.
“I was sittin’ out there thinking how things have changed,” Orgeron said in referece to a porch outside his upstairs office that overlooks the Mississippi River and much of LSU’s campus. “Last time we were going over there (to Alabama), I was sitting on my porch out there – I knew if we win that game we had a chance. But we had to go through Alabama. And that was a big victory for us.”
Now, Alabama is expected to ram through LSU yet again.
“Things are different now,” Orgeron said. “But it’s still LSU-Alabama. My job is to get these guys to play as hard as they can. We’re going to be prepared. We’re going.”
That sounded hollow, too.
And in a few more weeks, Orgeron will be going, but like the Eagles song, he may be “Already Gone.”
LSU QB MYLES BRENNAN ENTERS NCAA TRANSFER PORTAL
LSU senior quarterback Myles Brennan told Orgeron on Monday that he would be entering the NCAA transfer portal. Brennan was expected to contend with sophomore projected starter Max Johnson for the No. 1 job in August practices, but he broke his left, non-throwing arm just before practice was to begin. Brennan was loading a boat to go fishing, slipped on the dock and fell on his arm.
He had surgery, but his arm has not healed enough for him to play. Johnson has started all eight games this season after starting and winning LSU’s final two games last season.
Brennan plans on finding a school where he can start for one season as a graduate transfer.
“He just came in and talked to me,” Orgeron said Monday. “He was teary eyed. It was a tough decision for him. Obviously, he’s not going to play this year. He’s not ready. I didn’t expect him to play (all season). I knew his rehab was taking a little bit longer, and he had some other things that he’s got to work on. He had a knee that was hurting. So, there are some things that he needs to get fixed up, get healthy.”
Brennan started LSU’s first three games of the 2020 season, but suffered an abdomen injury while being tackled at Missouri and was lost for the season. A 2017 signee out of Long Beach, Mississippi, Brennan was a backup from 2017-19.
“I told him, ‘Hold your head high. You gave all you can to LSU. You graduated from LSU,'” Orgeron said. “And I wish him the best.”