HAMMOND, La. — As the fingers were pointed and recriminations made over the SEC’s decision not to play last weekend’s game between Florida and LSU, Tigers interim coach Ed Orgeron was far from the storm in both a literal and figurative sense.
“Coach O” spent this Saturday night in his happy place — a college football stadium in Louisiana surrounded by his kind of people. Not on the sidelines or tucked away in a suite, but in middle of the stands amongst his fellow fans.
For the moment, at least, the postponement of the Florida-LSU game was a blessing in disguise as Orgeron got to see his son, Parker, play in a college game for the first time as McNeese State visited Southeastern Louisiana in a Southland Conference game.
“Obviously I’m disappointed we didn’t get to play Florida. I thought we would have played very well,” Orgeron said. “But the situation at hand happened. The consolation is that I got to see my son play.”
It’s a rare position for Orgeron — or any coach — to be in. Even when their sons are playing in high school, assistant coaches are usually on the road Friday night convincing someone else’s son to come play for them.
But in the same season that his twin sons began their college careers at McNeese — Cody is a redshirt quarterback — Orgeron is experiencing his biggest professional moment at the same time as what is arguably his proudest parenting moment.
Caught in the middle is his wife Kelly, the new First Lady of LSU football.
She had been attending Parker’s games in Lake Charles, La., a two-hour drive west of Baton Rouge. But when Ed was elevated to head coach, she went from Cowboy Mom to Tiger Wife, attending LSU’s 42-7 win over Missouri. It wasn’t too tough of a decision — McNeese’s game was televised that night, so she was able to watch Parker’s first touchdown catch while seeing Ed lead the Tigers to a win in person.
Picking which game to go to may seem a dilemma moving forward, but Kelly does not see that as a blessing and a curse.
“That’s going to be tough. I haven’t decided just how that’s going to work yet,” she said. “I look at as both a blessing. It’s a blessing that Ed has the opportunity to be the interim head coach. And it’s a blessing that Parker is a freshman playing on McNeese. I’ll take it one day at a time and see where it goes.”
Parker’s first game in front of his pops was a busy one.
He was the Cowboys’ leading target, catching 5 passes for 67 yards. Due to injuries to other players, he also served as McNeese’s punt returner for the first time all year, though you could hardly tell as he cleanly returned three punts for a total of 44 yards.
In a true “world’s collide” moment for Coach O, on one play his son was tackled by a player he once coached — defensive end Sione Teuhema, who transferred to Southeastern after he was kicked out of LSU’s program by Les Miles last spring.
It did not end up being the storybook ending for the Orgerons. Parker dropped a would-be touchdown pass in the third quarter, his first drop of the year. And McNeese fell 31-24 on a stunning deep ball that turned into an 82-yard Southeastern touchdown when the Lions were just trying to get into field goal range with less than 10 seconds to go.
But having the whole family together on a Saturday night — the rarest scenario for the Orgeron clan in 2016 — made it an ideal weekend for a central figure in the most talked-about non-game of the year.
“It was a great night,” Orgeron said. “I’m glad my wife and I were able to be here to support the team and see my boy. Obviously we were disappointed that the team didn’t win. But we had a great time watching.”