LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron has deflected questions about his past at Ole Miss this week.
He’s dismissed story lines revolving around his opportunity to beat the program that gave him his first head coaching job in the Southeastern Conference, and which fired him after three losing seasons.
“That’s the furthest from my mind,” Orgeron insisted as 25th-ranked LSU prepared to host No. 23 Ole Miss on Saturday night. “This is about the LSU Tigers.”
Orgeron coached the Rebels from 2005-2007, when he hired an assistant named Hugh Freeze, who is now Ole Miss’ head coach.
“That was a long time ago,” Orgeron said. “That’s far from my memory, I promise you.”
Be that as it may, it doesn’t change the fact that Orgeron, a Louisiana native, can’t really afford a loss to Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 SEC) if he wants to keep a job he has long coveted.
Fortunately for Orgeron, LSU (4-2, 2-1) has ample talent and seems to have hit its stride in the two games since he took over for Les Miles, who was fired in late September. The Tigers trounced Missouri 42-7 and demolished Southern Mississippi 45-10. Odds makers have listed LSU as the favorite by nearly a touchdown.
“They have, in the last few weeks, offensively put up a lot of big numbers,” Freeze said. “We are playing one of the better teams in the country this Saturday night and it is a great opportunity.”
Led by quarterback Chad Kelly, whose 308.2 yards passing per game leads the SEC, Ole Miss hasn’t had trouble scoring. But the Rebels’ defense has struggled at times, giving up 34 or more points in all three losses.
“They are not as stout as they’ve been in the past,” Orgeron said. “But I know this is a game they’re going to want to be playing very well.”
While three losses makes Ole Miss a long shot to get back into the SEC title race, Kelly asserted that the Rebels remain highly motivated.
“We’re playing to win every single game regardless of the outcome of the game before,” Kelly said. “I hate to lose and so do those guys in the locker room.”
LSU running back Leonard Fournette practiced this week for the first time since aggravating his left ankle injury on Sept. 24 and looks ready to play again. But LSU doesn’t want Fournette’s return to marginalize Derrius Guice, who has rushed for at least 155 yards in each of his three starts in place of Fournette.
“We want to rotate our guys, we want them to keep fresh. It might be a possibility of putting them both in the backfield at the same time,” Orgeron said. “They’re both outstanding.”
Ole Miss at LSU
Where: Tiger Stadium
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 105.3 FM, 870-AM, 103.1 FM