BATON ROUGE, La. — Given enough time, the worst moments in life can somehow blossom into the most fortunate blessings. Ed Orgeron has had multiple examples of that in his unconventional rise to become LSU’s coach, but this week one such moment sticks out above the rest.
The last time Orgeron visited Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium, he got himself fired. Exactly a decade later, he couldn’t be more grateful.
The 2007 Egg Bowl was the crucial blow that ended Orgeron’s three-year tenure at Ole Miss. Specifically, an ill-fated decision he made late in that game against the Bulldogs pushed the snowball down the mountain.
With the Rebels holding a 14-0 lead early in the fourth quarter, Orgeron eagerly saw a chance to put the game away for good. Facing fourth-and-1 from midfield, he called for a handoff to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis rather than punting.
Green-Ellis never had a chance, getting stuffed three yards behind the line of scrimmage by what seemed to be the entire Mississippi State defense. The Bulldogs took advantage of the short field position and proceeded to rally for 17 points in the final 10:05 of the game.
The play that sank Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss
Dealt with the indignity of finishing winless in the SEC, Orgeron was promptly pink-slipped. Had the outcome turned out differently, Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone would have brought him back for one more season to try righting the ship.
“I should have punted the ball,” Orgeron said. “It was an emotional decision.”
But it turned out to be the mistake that made Orgeron realize he was not yet a competent head coach. In order to succeed, he knew he would have to do less commanding and more listening.
“That’s why I have mentors nowadays,” Orgeron said. “Especially when I get emotional and I ask them ‘What do you think?’ I ask Matt [Canada] ‘What do you think?’ I ask Pete [Jenkins] ‘What do you think?’ I ask Dave [Aranda] ‘What do you think?'”
No college football time-traveler from that November day 10 years ago would have imagined Orgeron ending up at LSU, which was then on its way to a national championship. But his successful 6-2 interim tenure at USC in the place of Lane Kiffin allowed LSU AD Joe Alleva to entrust him with the same job when Les Miles was fired last fall. A similar 5-2 record as LSU’s interim coach last fall landed Orgeron the full-time job.
And the only reason any of it came into being was because of the poor decision Orgeron made on that sunny Starkville afternoon. As such, Orgeron is every bit as grateful for his poor judgement as Mississippi State fans were the moment it happened.
“I thank the good Lord [about that decision] every day,” Orgeron said. “It’s just been a great journey. I live like this: Whatever happens, it happens for a reason and I move on to the next day.”
Editor’s Note: Orgeron’s interim record at LSU was originally listed in this story as 6-2. He earned his sixth win of the season after being named LSU’s full-time head coach prior to the Citrus Bowl.