BATON ROUGE, La. -- If Ed Orgeron has designs on becoming LSU’s full-time head coach, he’s off to a great start.
For the first time all season, LSU looked like a team that deserved its preseason top-10 ranking. On Saturday, the Tigers dominated Missouri 42-7 in Orgeron’s debut as LSU’s interim coach.
LSU triumphed without All-American running back Leonard Fournette playing a down, and without Les Miles presiding over the home sideline for the first time since 2004.
There was so much to like about Orgeron’s first game as LSU’s head coach that it’s difficult to say what was the best part of the night for LSU.
Was it the rushing effort -- Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams combined for 293 rushing yards and six touchdowns -- with Fournette sidelined for a second time this season by a sprained ankle? Was it LSU’s 634 total yards, with Steve Ensminger taking over for the fired Cam Cameron as offensive play-caller? Was it Dave Aranda’s defense, which surrendered 265 yards to a Mizzou team that came in averaging 569.5 yards and 44.5 points per game? Was it LSU controlling a game for four quarters, the first time it could make that claim this fall?
Take your pick. It was all great, and it came on a night when nobody knew what to expect from either team.
LSU (3-2, 2-1 SEC) was fresh off an enormously disappointing 18-13 loss at Auburn last Saturday, in which its game-winning touchdown was overturned because the Tigers did not get off the final play in time. The next day, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva fired Miles, the winningest coach in school history, and named Louisiana native Orgeron as interim coach.
Mizzou (2-3, 0-2) came in on a roll, having defeated Delaware State 79-0 a week ago while rolling up 698 yards of total offense.
But traveling to Tiger Stadium -- especially on this electric night, with a beloved Cajun taking over as LSU’s coach -- is about as far away from a home game against a lowly FCS program as a team can get. This was simply not Mizzou’s night.
Guice (17 carries for 163 yards and three touchdowns) and Williams (21 rushes, 130 yards, three TDs) ran over and around Mizzou defenders all night, becoming just the 30th LSU tandem to ever rush for 100 yards apiece in one game.
Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock came in averaging an SEC-high 377 passing yards per game but finished just 17-for-37 for 167 yards and an interception Saturday. LSU’s vaunted secondary was draped all over Lock’s receivers throughout, limiting the visiting Tigers to 4-for-14 on third down and forcing eight punts.
Whether this means LSU is truly back is anybody’s guess. Next Saturday’s trip to Florida (4-1, 2-1) will be a much better gauge of where LSU sits as a conference contender. But for the first time in a few weeks, fans in Death Valley were optimistic again -- and their new coach had a lot to be proud of as the leader of his home state’s flagship program.