Orgeron hot seat cools with wins over ranked teams

If any coach in college football understands the value of talent procurement, it is LSU’s Ed Orgeron.

On a Saturday in Auburn, Alabama, Orgeron’s career record climbed above .500 (34-33) with a 22-21 win over the nation’s then seventh-ranked team.

That nugget went overlooked as LSU ended Auburn’s 13-game home winning streak and defeated a Top 10-ranked team for the second time in three weeks.

Those who mimic Orgeron for his gravelly voice and for his thick Cajun accent must also acknowledge his shrewd moves in the offseason that have paid major dividends.

On the game-winning field goal drive against Auburn, transfer quarterback Joe Burrow threw a perfect pass to wide receiver Dee Anderson to convert a third-and-7. A few plays later, Burrow converted a fourth-and-7 with a perfectly thrown slant route to wide receiver Stephen Sullivan.

CBS analyst Gary Danielson, a former quarterback, tossed Burrow some deserved praise.

“I am tipping my hat to Joe Burrow,” said Danielson.

With the help of two pass interference calls, the LSU drive set up Cole Tracy’s game-winning, 42-yard field goal. Tracy, a graduate transfer from a tiny Division II school in Massachusetts, split the uprights.

Orgeron gave his kicker the ultimate sign of respect. When the Tigers reached the Auburn 25, LSU ran the ball three times.

The transformation of the LSU kicking game also includes true freshman kickoff specialist Avery Atkins, who had 15 touchbacks on 18 kickoffs in three games.

So, a team that starts four seniors and lost a starting guard to suspension and the club’s best pass rusher to a season-ending knee injury is one of the biggest early-season stories in college football.

The win over Auburn has quelled, for now, the speculation that Orgeron is on the hot seat. On the Friday before the Auburn game, a local New Orleans newspaper website ran a headline: “Would a win Saturday over Auburn get Ed Orgeron off the hot seat?”

Twenty-four hours later, Orgeron, still perceived as the interim head coach, outcoached the Auburn coach, who has a seven-year, $49 million contract.

In that game, Orgeron’s Tigers checked all the boxes. The defense intercepted future first-round pick Jarrett Stidham twice and held Auburn to only four third-down conversions in 12 attempts.

The offense didn’t turn the ball over, and made big plays when needed. LSU possessed the football for 35 minutes. The Tigers also won the kicking game. Auburn’s average field position in the game was its own 25-yard line.

Ed Orgeron has now won 24 of the last 32 games he’s been the head coach and has won 18 of 24 at LSU. Two of those losses were to Alabama, and one each to Florida, Notre Dame, Mississippi State and Troy. Troy, by the way, won at Nebraska 24-19.

In the coming weeks, a daunting 2018 schedule will ratchet up. But there’s more than a purple-and-gold glimmer of hope.

On a Saturday on The Plains, LSU had the better quarterback and kicking game. No one understands their importance more than the former interim head coach at LSU.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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