It just means more, the nice lady in the SEC commercial always tells us. And I believe her. No one could lie to me whilst walking along the beach with a gentle smile.
On Saturday night, Ed Orgeron tried to convince us that beating Ole Miss did not mean any more to him than any other SEC win. He wasn’t as believable as the nice lady on the beach, but maybe that’s just because the bowels of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium are no beach.
“I’m just happy for our team,” Orgeron said. “It had nothing to do with none of that.”
“That” would be Orgeron’s personal history with Ole Miss, where he went 10-25 as coach from 2005-07.
“Whatever happened in the past… we were fortunate to have an SEC job here,” Orgeron said. “It didn’t work. I think my family and I have let that go. This is just another SEC game for us and another place to play.”
It may well be true that Orgeron has moved on. For him, the Ole Miss job was a blessing in disguise. He learned his many shortcomings as a head coach, and has had the good fortune to fix them in the place where he wanted to be his whole career.
But even though he won’t come out and say that beating the Rebels meant more to him on a personal level, his players could sense that this game was vital.
“This game in particular means a lot more to Coach O because of his history here,” said running back Derrius Guice.
Guice fed off that fuel for a cool 276 rushing yards.
Defensive tackle Greg Gilmore also believed that Orgeron had a higher intensity before kicking off against Ole Miss. But as he importantly noted, that’s just the way Coach O has been ever since the Tigers were stunned by Troy at Tiger Stadium.
“He didn’t say nothing out of character, but we felt the energy,” Gilmore said. “We played for him and we played for our team. We know the history. That fueled us a little bit… He had that fire in him before the game. We felt it, especially on the D-line. I think the last three games he’s had that fire. That’s really helped us.”
One thing that Orgeron won’t deny? That the matchup against Alabama on Nov. 4 is ultimately how his program will be measured. The Crimson Tide are the gold standard in all of college football, and Orgeron isn’t about to spew any corny coach-speak about it being just another game.
“We’ll talk about it in [the locker room],” Orgeron said immediately after beating Ole Miss. “It is a big deal. It’s LSU-Alabama… we all know it’s a big challenge, but they’re going to be up and ready for it.”
Only Orgeron and those closest to him can say whether Ole Miss really did mean more. The good news for LSU is that if it did, he did an excellent job of hiding it. Regardless of his personal history, the game that means everything to the Tigers is ultimately the one that means the most to him.