Ten years ago seems like an eternity for Ed Orgeron and for Mississippi State.
That was the last time Orgeron stood on the sidelines at Davis Wade Stadium as a head coach and made a call that he regrets to this day. Ultimately, the call likely cost him the Egg Bowl win in Starkville and eventually his job in Oxford.
Ole Miss led 14-0 with under 12 minutes remaining and faced fourth and 1 from the MSU 49. Instead of punting the football and putting the Bulldogs deep in their own territory, Orgeron wanted more. He handed the ball off to BenJarvus Green-Ellis who lost three yards.
State scored on the next possession seizing momentum and starting a run of 17-straight points that would give the Bulldogs the win.
“I should have punted the ball,” Orgeron said. “It was an emotional decision. That’s why I have mentors nowadays, especially when I get emotional and I ask them what do you think?”
Oregeron’s tenure at Ole Miss ended with a 10-25 record in three seasons. It took him a while to get back, but he’s made the most of his second chances.
In 2013, Orgeron became the interim coach at Southern California following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He finished out the year for USC with a 6-2 record. He returned to his home state of Louisiana in 2015 as the defensive line coach and assumed the same interim head coaching tag after Les Miles’ sudden firing last season.
The Tigers also went 6-2 to finish out the season and Orgeron earned his dream job as the head coach of the Tigers shortly after their bowl win.
“I think Ed has had the opportunity to be the head coach. I’m sure he learned a lot from it.,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a head coach, and I’ve been able to remain being a head coach and learn from a lot of mistakes. Not everybody in today’s world gets that opportunity.”
Now Orgeron comes back to Starkville this Saturday for the first time as a head coach since that fateful day. He said this time he would be punting if faced with the same situation at 6 p.m. inside a rocking Davis Wade.
Orgeron also expects a much different atmosphere than his last trip and experienced the renovated stadium in 2015 with the Tigers in their 21-19 win. He’s prepared this week with a John Deere tractor directly behind the offensive huddle and large speakers playing MSU’s fight song and clanging cowbells.
“I’ve been there many times. I respect the Mississippi State people. They’re tough, they’re blue-collar, they’re hard-nosed and they love their football team,” Orgeron said. “The last time I was in their stadium I was amazed about the improvements that they made and modernized that stadium. It’s loud. It’s college football.”
MSU (2-0) enters the game with the SEC’s highest scoring offense (53.0 ppg) and rushing offense (304.0 ypg). Countering will be the LSU (2-0) defense which is first nationally in rushing (31.5 ypg) and surrendered just 170 yards per game against BYU and UT Chattanooga.
Something has to give on Saturday night but Mullen is expecting his team to be ready for the challenge. With a home win over the Tigers last coming in 1999, the Bulldogs have plenty to play for.
“Everything’s different. If they need me to motivate them, they’ve got problems,” Mullen said. “They don’t need a big rallying cry this week. This is our home SEC opener against a ranked team. They know it’s different. You can just feel the intensity picks up a bit with everybody.”
Mississippi State vs. LSU
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Where: Davis-Wade Stadium, Starkville
Radio: 1580 AM, 96.9 FM