Larose native and longtime college football coach Ed Orgeron has waited his whole life for this.
On Saturday night at 6:30 p.m., he will officially be the head football coach of the LSU Tigers.
The Orgeron Era will begin this weekend when LSU takes on conference foe Missouri – a game that will be broadcast before a nationally televised audience on the SEC Network.
For the Tigers, the game is a must-win situation. LSU is 2-2 on the season and can’t much afford to lose any other ballgames the rest of the way.
For Orgeron, it’s a chance to show school administrators and fans that he’s equipped to hold this job for the long haul – a position he’s dreamed about having since he was a kid.
Orgeron changed up LSU’s entire routine this week, shortening practices, inviting alumni to the team’s facility and making other subtle tweaks to give life to the program.
“Now we’re starting a new season – one game at a time,” Orgeron said. “Whatever happened in the past doesn’t matter. We’re (going to) practice the way we know how to practice with energy, believe in ourselves and have some fun playing football again, having fun in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, winning some football games.”
Orgeron plans to change things up in the final eight games of the LSU season.
A lot of those tweaks will come on the offensive side of the ball.
The Tigers’ interim coach spoke at length about LSU’s offensive issues this week, saying that he respects outgoing coach Les Miles, but wishes he’d have opened up the team’s offense a bit more.
Orgeron said he plans to run an offense similar to what he featured at USC – the last time he was an interim head coach.
That offense features a lot of power running plays, yes. But it also has an emphasis on balance and short, quick passes that get athletic receivers into open space.
That should benefit quarterback Danny Etling and guys like Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural and others who have had a tough time getting on firm footing so far in 2016.
Orgeron confirmed that junior halfback Leonard Fournette reinjured his ankle in last Saturday’s loss against Auburn. The coach called Fournette a game-time decision for Saturday.
“We’re going to spread the ball out a little bit – do some different things to change the style of play,” Orgeron said. “There’s a lot of things on offense that we’ve done well, running the football, but we want to have a different passing game. We want to be more creative and find ways that the quarterback can get the ball down the field throwing it.”
Defensively, the Tigers have been OK, and haven’t allowed more than 20 points in a game all season.
But those stats will be put to the test on Saturday against a Missouri offense that’s proven capable of scoring points in bunches.
Missouri’s offense has been among the SEC’s best in 2016. They’ve already had two games where they’ve scored more than 60 points, including last week’s 79-0 victory over Delaware State.
The main culprit in the team’s success is quarterback Drew Lock – a prolific passer who’s completed 96-of-162 passes for 1,508 yards and 14 touchdowns on the young season.
When throwing the ball down the field, J’Mon Moore is usually the target. He’s caught 26 passes for 434 yards and six scores in just four games.
Missouri coach Barry Odum said he likes some of the matchups his team will have offensively in Saturday’s game. He said he thinks Lock is up for the challenge heading into a hostile environment.
“He’s a tremendous leader,” Odum said. “He’s taken ownership of playing the position really well. He’s got a competitive spirit.”
Orgeron agreed, conceding that Missouri will offer LSU a stiff challenge.
But he thinks his team is ready.
This night is one Orgeron’s been looking forward to a long, long time.
He doesn’t plan to leave Tiger Stadium without a win.
“Growing up in south Louisiana, being the head coach at LSU is a dream,” Orgeron said. “But it is a well-respected position that I am holding right now, and I hold it in high esteem and I understand the expectations at LSU. I fully, fully intend to meet all those expectations.”
LSU offense v. Missouri defense
For as bad as LSU is offensively, Missouri has been pretty equally dismal defensively, allowing big points to their worthwhile competition. We think LSU’s new offensive approach will work, so we give them the edge in this one.
LSU defense v. Missouri offense
Missouri can score points against bad teams. That much has been established so far in the 2016 season. But after getting locked down against West Virginia, and being limited against Georgia, we have doubts about how successful they’ll be on Saturday night. We give LSU the edge.
LSU has so many holes on special teams that coach Ed Orgeron told special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto to focus only on that unit, taking the linebackers coaching position off his plate. I can’t favor LSU over Missouri in this realm with the way the team has been punting. It’s putrid.
LSU 31, Missouri 9
Photo: LSU vs. Jacksonville State by Sean Gasser.