LSU hadn’t played a game in 14 days, and it showed.
The Tigers were rusty and flat in the first half against Southern Miss, and the scoreboard was a tell-tale sign.
The teams went to the lockers tied at 10.
But after a heated discussion from head coach Ed Orgeron, LSU woke up in the second half and battered the Golden Eagles, winning their second-straight game in the new coach’s tenure.
LSU beat Southern Miss 45-10 on Saturday, using a 35-point second-half onslaught to seal the win.
The Tigers generated 459 yards in the win – the second-straight strong offensive showing for the Tigers under Orgeron and new coordinator Steve Ensminger.
Quarterback Danny Etling was a big culprit in the win, completing 11-of-18 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
Orgeron said the key was playing LSU football in the second half – something the team didn’t do early in the game.
“You know, we eliminated our mistakes,” Orgeron said. “We came together as a football team. We came out and we played with more energy. We came out of halftime and scored on a long run with Derrius Guice, then we forced them to turnover the football and we just kept on playing for 60 minutes.”
The first 30 of the 60 minutes weren’t all that good for LSU.
Southern Miss got the ball to start the game and ate half of the first quarter on an eight-minute, 15-play touchdown drive, capped on a 1-yard touchdown run from halfback Ito Smith.
Golden Eagles coach Jay Hopson said the score was exactly what the team needed.
“It was a good start,” Hopson said. “We just couldn’t sustain it.”
LSU answered the score with one of its own two drives later when DJ Chark took a jet sweep to the house, which tied up the game at 7-all late in the first quarter.
The teams traded field goals in the second quarter, which sent the game to halftime tied 10-all – a shocking score when one considers that the Tigers were more than a 24-point favorite in the game, according to several casinos.
Halfback Derrius Guice said things weren’t chaotic at halftime, but admitted that they were heated.
He said Orgeron tongue-lashed the team, and so, too, did junior halfback Leonard Fournette, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
“He said we weren’t playing LSU football,” Guice said of Fournette’s interactions with teammates. “I guess that sparked everybody.”
That it did.
LSU dominated the second half of the game, controlling both lines of scrimmage and dictating the final 30 minutes of the game.
The Tigers scored 28 points in the third quarter – three touchdowns of the four coming on plays greater than 60 yards.
The first two scores of the quarter were by Guice – the first a 61-yarder and then a 20-yarder.
The final two were passes – bombs to Chark and Malachi Dupre.
After the onslaught, LSU led the game 38-10, and were firmly in control of the proceedings.
Orgeron said LSU’s offense was clicking so smoothly that the defensive coaches were ripping the offense that they were actually scoring too quickly.
The Golden Eagles controlled time of possession in the loss, because of LSU’s short drives and big plays.
“Pete Jenkins was chewing Steven Ensminger’s butt off for scoring too fast,” Orgeron said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Hold up, Pete, don’t worry about it. It’s OK.’ Yeah, we’re going to have to have some ball control to keep the ball away from (better teams) and have longer drives … But we also want explosive plays, too. We want those bombs – maybe earlier in the game, but we want to be able to throw those long balls.”
LSU capped the scoring in the game in the fourth when Etling hit Dupre again – the icing on the cake in a breakout performance for the junior.
Dupre had three catches for 100 yards and two scores in the win.
“He was fired up about it,” Orgeron said of Dupre’s performance.
But perhaps not quite as fired up as Orgeron was at halftime when the score was notted up at 10.
Orgeron said his halftime speech was a good one, but wasn’t too over the top.
“It was good – believe me,” he said with a laugh.” But it was no Vince Lombardi speech or nothing.”
Players disagreed. They said the coach ignited a flame that got the team going.
“We wanted to finish strong,” Dupre said. “And in the end, we did.”
LSU takes on Ole Miss next Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
The game is set to kick off at 8 p.m.
Photo: LSU vs. Missouri by Sean Gasser.