For better or worse, Ed Orgeron will finish at LSU football on his terms
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — LSU coach Ed Orgeron exited Bryant-Denny Stadium with his arms extended toward the Tuscaloosa sky. Each hand throwing up an "L" for his soon-to-be former employer.
Based on his posture, an outside observer would have thought the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide on Saturday night.
A 28.5-point underdog at kickoff, LSU (4-5, 2-4 SEC) fell short of shocking the third-ranked team in the country. Alabama (8-1, 5-1) prevailed 20-14, keeping pace in a rare three-team race for the SEC West.
Just don’t tell Orgeron that LSU had nothing to lose.
“I don’t like that statement — nothing to lose, because there’s a game to lose, and that’s important,” Orgeron said.
“I truly thought we were the better team tonight. We came up just a couple plays short. I wish we came up with a better plan on offense.”
For better or worse, Orgeron is finishing out at LSU on his terms. The better was a defense that tore Alabama’s high-powered offense apart. The worse was an offense that couldn’t stay on the field or break 300 total yards.
Orgeron was critical of LSU’s offensive performance and for good reason. Alabama sacked Max Johnson four times. The Tigers finished 2-for-3 in the red zone, the lone stop coming on a critical fourth-and-goal at the 7 with 6:46 to play.
But the blame falls on Orgeron as well. The airboat gambler routine was the right play in the first quarter, when a fake punt helped LSU extend its first drive and take a 7-0 lead. It wasn’t smart in the fourth quarter when every point counted.
If Orgeron had called for Cade York — one of the SEC’s best kickers — on that fourth-and-goal, LSU could have cut Alabama’s lead to three. That would have allowed the Tigers to tie the game in the final minutes.
A defiant Orgeron stood behind his decision to keep the offense on the field.
“We walked into the stadium and we were going for it,” Orgeron said. “There was no question. We were going for the win the whole time. We were not gonna let this crowd intimidate us. Not gonna happen.”
The public chastising Orgeron gave the defense led to maybe its best outing of the season. LSU harassed Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, sacking him five times. Defensive coordinator Daronte Jones played straight man-to-man coverage behind those blitzes, and despite missing five starters in the defensive backfield, the Tigers held their own in the secondary.
Alabama was completely one dimensional. Young passed for 302 yards, while the Crimson Tide was held to 6 total yards rushing.
“We thought that we had to be more diverse on defense,” Orgeron said. “We worked our tails off this week and I have to give Coach Jones for those third down blitzes. I thought our defensive guys really really got better during the open date.”
The trick now is to bottle the same energy for the rest of the season. And find ways to actually win.
It’s still possible for LSU to send Orgeron out with a bowl game. The final three games are all at Tiger Stadium. Arkansas and Louisiana-Monroe are winnable, while Texas A&M presents another tall task.
“People are tired of me saying we had our best week of practice, but it really was true,” Orgeron said. “Our guys played so hard and I could tell.
“This is gonna lead into the last three games.”
Adam Hunsucker covers LSU for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @adam_hunsucker. Enjoy Adam’s work? Consider a digital subscription for unlimited access.