Head coach Ed Orgeron agrees with critics that LSU has not been playing championship caliber football, but he says they will get better.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ed Orgeron fought to hold his emotions in check as he looked into a purple-and-gold section of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium moments after LSU beat Florida 17-16 on Saturday night. The man so proud to be their head coach — proud to have been born and raised in Louisiana, and proud to have finally earned his dream job — held his held high, but would not cry.
He felt it, though: the inexplicable loss a week earlier to Troy and the soul-searching that followed; the pair of players-only meetings to clear the air; how he and athletic director Joe Alleva felt compelled to call both coordinators into the office to sort things out; the former players wondering aloud, What’s going on?; the constant wailing from fans and the media. Ten months after Alleva removed his interim tag and named Orgeron head coach, the honeymoon was over. Orgeron was fighting for his job again. “I earned it, whether you like it or not,” he told one zealous caller during his weekly radio show Wednesday.
He promised, “We’re ready to show the type of team we really are.”
And after grinding out a win in Gainesville, it’s clear that what they are is a work in progress. Playing with a sense of purpose again, the offense overcame key injuries and the defense racked up five sacks, beating a similarly short-handed Florida thanks to a missed extra point. Orgeron rallied the troops, but the mixture of relief and celebration afterward felt beyond the scope of the game: a pair of teams fighting to see who was fourth-best in the SEC.
Outside the locker room, Orgeron and Alleva locked eyes.
“What do you say, Joe?!” Orgeron shouted.
“What do you say?!” Alleva responded.
The men embraced, embattled coach and embattled athletic director surviving one game at a time. By beating rival Florida, they might not have to hear about Orgeron’s $12 million buyout –…