The LSU Tigers entered a new era on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, and it featured plenty of offensive fireworks. It was a refreshing experience for the Bayou Bengals.
For at least one night, an announced crowd of 102,071 LSU fans felt on top of the college football world once again.
The Tigers weren’t playing for an SEC title or a national championship, but they did show the home crowd that they can pick up chunks of yards and score points in bunches—something that was all too rare under former head coach Les Miles.
LSU (3-2, 2-1 SEC) racked up 634 total yards in a blowout win over Missouri on Saturday night, which is the biggest total against an SEC opponent in program history. It was an emotional night in Baton Rouge, as the Bayou Bengals played their first game of the post-Miles era.
Interim head coach and Louisiana native Ed Orgeron, affectionately known as Coach O, had his team playing loose and carefree throughout the contest. That ‘O’ stood for offense on Saturday night, as the 55-year-old Cajun opened things up offensively against Mizzou from the start of a 42-7 thrashing at Tiger Stadium.
No Leonard Fournette? No problem for LSU, which received a standout effort from top backup Derrius Guice. The sophomore rushed for a career-high 163 yards, scored three first-half touchdowns and helped the Tigers jump out to 35-0 lead over the team that came in with the league’s top offense.
Guice was a central piece to a unit that debuted new formations and mixed up personnel, which was something that the 55-year-old Orgeron mentioned throughout his first week at the helm. Guice and Darrel Williams (three scores as well) went over the 100-yard rushing mark, and Danny Etling threw for over 200 yards. LSU’s first three-and-out of the game did not occur until late in the third quarter, and the team had five scoring drives of at least 75 yards.
It was a performance that perhaps only Orgeron and new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger saw coming.
The question remains whether or not the Tigers can have more of these types of games moving forward, starting with a trip to Florida, which has had its share of offensive struggles. Consider that LSU ran for 418 yards and averaged more than 8 yards per carry without its Heisman Trophy-contending star running back. And while Etling didn’t have much success on his long throws, he was able to connect with nine different receivers. It was the perfect complement to a strong ground game.
And it wasn’t exactly an exotic offense. In fact, it was simplified for Etling and Co. But different plays were run from the same formation, and an emphasis was put on the pass early to open up the run later. The Tigers even opened the game in a four-receiver set and called passing plays on their first four plays.
It was different, it was fresh and it was needed.
Orgeron, as he did when he was the interim head coach at USC, has started to create an environment on the practice field that will make the rest of this season loose and fun for the players. He has learned a lot from his failures as the head coach at Ole Miss, and fans in Baton Rouge hope that there is a lot more cheering in store for them as the year progresses.
It was just one game, but it revealed just how much talent resides on the offensive side of the ball.
And Coach O plans on showing it off to the rest of the SEC.