Orgeron has made football at LSU relevant again

Last Saturday night at Tiger Stadium, it was like the good old days – the days when LSU ran the football with authority, then turned the game over to the defense, which harassed opposing quarterbacks.
 
As the seconds ticked off a 38-21 whipping of Ole Miss, the Ed Orgeron bandwagon, the one that wants him to go from interim to permanent LSU head coach, was filling up.
 
It would be overflowing with a win next Saturday over top-ranked Alabama.
 
What Orgeron and his team have done is impressive, even against suspect opposition.
 
In three games, the Tigers have defeated an SEC team with a 1-3 league record (Ole Miss), scored 42 points and totaled 634 yards of offense against a bad SEC team (Missouri), and scored 35 straight points in a rout of an average Conference USA team (Southern Miss).
 
LSU shouldn’t be rushing to offer the job to Coach O, yet. But the impact he and his staff have made in a month is unmistakable.
 
After running for a school record 284 yards and three touchdowns against the Rebels, running back Leonard Fournette said something about the LSU offense that hasn’t been said in a long time. Fournette said he couldn’t wait to get back because “there was a vibe” about the offense.
 
What Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have done is make the job of opposing defenses much more difficult. The Tigers are spreading the formation, and quarterback Danny Etling has responded by getting the ball downfield to a host of receivers.
 
No one has benefitted more than wide receiver D.J. Chark. In Etling’s five starts, Chark has 15 receptions, three for touchdowns. Chark has receptions of 40, 41 and 80 yards. An effective passing game has uncluttered the tackle box.
 
Running back Derrius Guice has 382 yards on the ground during LSU’s three-game win streak. And, the Tigers have suddenly turned into a club that plays its best in the third and fourth quarters. LSU has outscored its last three opponents 73-7 in the second half.
 
Last season, in four games against Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, the Tigers scored a total of 36 points in the second half.
 
How did LSU suddenly become a very good second-half team? “Shorter practices,” said Orgeron. “And, we have great players.”
 
Suddenly, those players think they can be great.
 
In the final seconds of the win over Ole Miss, students chanted: “We want Bama! We want Bama!” A month ago, such a thought would seem to be wishing on a star. At the very least, LSU football is once again relevant.
 
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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