LSU football: New offense led by Ed Orgeron shows immediate results
Coach O brought the O.
And, oh, it was something.
Under its fiery new Cajun leader, LSU blasted Missouri 42-7 on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium, rolling up the most yards (634) in a Southeastern Conference game in school history and stuffing the league's top-ranked offense in Ed Orgeron's dashing debut as interim head coach.
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"Whole week," Orgeron said, "you can feel the state of Louisiana on fire."
They're toasty now. This one was never in doubt.
"We played for 60 minutes," Orgeron said. "We put the pedal to the metal. ... We're just getting started."
LSU outgained Missouri 158-31 in the first quarter, jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead and stifled a Missouri offense that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the league. Eight of Missouri's first 10 drives ended in a punt, and coach Barry Odom's squad did not cross LSU's 45-yard line until 10 minutes were left in the third quarter.
By that time, Guice, an electric sophomore out of Baton Rouge's Catholic High, had scored three times, racing in from 42, 4 and 37 yards. He was the lead horse in an offense that flashed new formations and different personnel — tweaks that Orgeron alluded to throughout the week.
Odom admitted after the game that LSU "did a couple of things different."
It started during practice this week. Those were more fast-paced and shorter, the players said.
LSU had two 100-yard rushers (Guice and Darrel Williams, who also had three TDs) and a 200-yard passer (Danny Etling) in the same game for the first time since 2013 against Furman. Orgeron's group put together four drives of at least 80 yards in the same game against an SEC team for the first time since 2001.
The Tigers broke their record for offense in a conference game on the last significant snap on their final drive, eclipsing 630-yard outings against Ole Miss (1987) and Mississippi State (1967).
"The output we had on offense was tremendous," Orgeron said.
"Great game plan. Everything was working tonight," receiver D.J. Chark said. "We were able to give them a start to a new season."
Etling missed a handful of long passes, but he made a few snazzy plays with his feet and kept the offense chugging. LSU's first three-and-out didn't come until late in the third quarter, and the Tigers had scoring marches of 84, 93, 89, 85 and 75 yards.
New offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger's unit put on a show a week after a woeful offensive outing at Auburn resulted in the ouster of head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
LSU fired those two Sunday afternoon, moving Orgeron, a Larose native, to head coach and Ensminger to the coordinator role. The team responded in a rousing way with its former coach watching from afar.
In an interview that aired Saturday morning on ESPN, Miles said he planned to watch his former team play Missouri (2-3, 0-2) from his Baton Rouge home and that he "understands" LSU's decision to fire him because the school wanted "more production, more wins."
They got one on a cool early October Saturday in Baton Rouge. A trip to sluggish Florida (4-1, 2-1) comes next. LSU and Orgeron did this without their star tailback, too: Fournette, nursing a bruised and once-sprained left ankle, did not dress out, and the coach said the running back could not have played even if LSU needed him.
What a great night for The Tigers!— Coach Ed Orgeron (@Coach_EdOrgeron) October 2, 2016
It didn't Saturday. LSU ran for a whopping 418 yards, averaging more than 8 yards per carry. Williams ran for 130, Nick Brossette had 73 and Etling, despite those downfield struggles, hit nine different receivers with his 19 completions.
It all had Coach O happy afterward — and wet. The gravel-voiced Cajun got a Gatorade bath after the game. He called it a "dream" walking into Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
"It makes us feel good knowing that we've got our coach's back," Chark said of the win. "It's a new season for us. Going on the road next week, playing against a good Florida team, we just want to show we got Coach O's back again and (we're) going to fight for him in The Swamp."
Orgeron stepped onto the field more than two hours before pregame warmups, receiving a warm welcome from a few hundred students in the stands. Before leaving the playing surface, the coach raced toward the student section, pumping his fist and pounding his chest.
Halfway through the first quarter, after Guice's 42-yard touchdown run, he threw his chest into the running back for a rare midgame chest bump from coach to player.
Orgeron and Ensminger flashed that reworked offense the head coach talked so much about all week. The practice tweaks weren't the only differences. LSU simplified its offense, specifically for the quarterbacks, the players said. They ran different plays from different formations, too, Orgeron said.
And they passed early, a key in opening up the running game late.
"Well, we opened up with the passing game," Orgeron said in an interview with ESPN immediately after the game. "We loosened them up a little bit, just what the game plan was, then put the run to them."
LSU opened the game with four receivers — including Russell Gage, a Redemptorist High grad who played more snaps in the game than he has in his three-year career. The Tigers passed the ball on their first four plays, each of them a four-receiver formation.
"It's definitely something new," Chark said.
"It was a nice mixture of both (old and new offense)," Etling said. "We went out there and executed the plays that were called."
LSU roared to a big lead and rolled up a whopping 19 first downs in the first half, hitting 350 yards late in the second quarter. The Tigers hadn't hit that mark in five of their previous nine complete games.
Orgeron made his first critical call in the first quarter, going for it on fourth-and-2 at the Missouri 25. Guice was stuffed for no gain, the only speed bump in an otherwise fiery opening half in an explosive opening act.
"We're going to stay hungry, going to get better," Orgeron said. "There are going to be bigger and better opponents down the road."
This article was written by Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.