SouthernMissLSU bf 2302.jpg

Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson, left, and LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron meet at midfield after the second half of the LSU Southern Miss football game Saturday Oct. 15, 2016, in Tiger Stadium. LSU won 45-10.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

To tell the truth, Ed Orgeron’s "Tell the Truth Monday" looked like it needed to come a couple of days early for LSU.

A serious halftime attitude adjustment was in order after a first half in which the Tigers looked like they were still decompressing from midterms or looking ahead to Ole Miss or subdued by that pregame moment of silence for Mike VI.

 

Trouble seeing the video above? Click here

Against a Southern Miss team that got stomped 55-32 by the Fighting Frank Wilsons of Texas-San Antonio in their last game, the Golden Eagles came out and dictated terms to LSU through the first half like Jeremy Foley giving Greg Sankey the what for. The Tigers seemed to forget the aggressive, energized team they were last time out two weeks ago in a record-setting 42-7 romp over Missouri, a game that appeared to signal a new path forward for the Tigers under their interim head coach.

The score was 10-10 at halftime. The Golden Eagles were mighty pleased. The Tigers were mighty steamed. So they retreated to their locker room and steamed the wrinkles out of their less-than-stellar effort with some straight talk.

“It was no Vince Lombardi speech,” insisted Orgeron, who has made labels for different days of the week, like "Tell the Truth Monday," as signposts for his interim coaching tenure. “I just challenged them. They came in and punched us in the mouth. Let’s see what we’re going to do. I knew we’d have to go through some adversity at some point.”

The Tigers came out in the second half and started dealing adversity right back to Southern Miss. In essence, LSU turned the game into a track meet and dared the Golden Eagles to flap their wings fast enough to keep up.

They could not. Derrius Guice scored on a 61-yard run on the third play of the half. The Eagles fumbled on the ensuing possession, with Jamal Adams recovering at the USM 22, and two plays later Guice was back in the end zone on a 20-yard run, part of another impressive night for the sophomore as he rushed for 162 yards on 16 carries in Leonard Fournette’s stead.

Then came an 80-yard dump-and-run pass to wide receiver D.J. Chark, who turned on the afterburners as he left a USM defender with an angle on him in his contrail. Finally, Danny Etling launched a mortar shot to Malachi Dupre covering 63 yards, a pass so wide open it looked like USM’s secondary was back on the bus.

With all the focus on how LSU’s offense has changed since Orgeron and new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger took over, it’s worth remembering how impressive the Tigers defense has become.

LSU gave up an opening touchdown drive to USM, aided by a pair of penalties that kept the Golden Eagles aimed for the end zone on a 75-yard march.

After that, though, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s vise clamp slowly crushed USM’s hopes. The Golden Eagles managed only one more field goal, albeit to force that surprising 10-10 halftime deadlock, and ended up with just 242 yards. This for a team averaging 532.2 yards and 40.2 points. This despite LSU having lost starting free safety Rickey Jefferson this week to a broken leg.

For the second straight game, LSU held its opposition to less than half its average yards per contest after handcuffing Missouri in a 42-7 victory two weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Tigers continue a remarkable statistic, allowing on average just one touchdown per game through the first six.

The resulting “What was all the worry about?” 45-10 victory looks great in the newspaper and on the website. But with apologies to USM and Mizzou, the preliminaries and muscle flexing and simply outdistancing the opposition by sheer talent are over for the Tigers. LSU is 4-2, as good as could be expected for a program that has fired its coach and benched its starting quarterback and has now played half the season without Fournette, arguably the nation’s best player.

Orgeron lifted LSU spirits everywhere by saying after the game that he thinks Fournette will be able to play against Ole Miss, which comes to Tiger Stadium off a seesaw 34-30 loss at Arkansas. The laser-beam focus on Fournette’s ankle will be intense — maybe hot enough to promote more healing, who knows? — as will be the daily watch for signs to see whether he is truly on his way back to the field.

 

Can't see the video? Click here.

Guice has been great, but LSU needs more than his frenzied, sliding running to keep winning. Thanks in part to the canceling of LSU’s home game with South Alabama to reschedule the Florida game here Nov. 19, all five of LSU’s remaining Southeastern Conference opponents were ranked going into Saturday’s action.

If you want the definition of a gauntlet, it would look like this: No. 12 Ole Miss (though the Rebels are sure to drop), No. 1 Alabama, at No. 22 Arkansas, No. 18 Florida and at No. 6 Texas A&M.

“The competition is going to get a little stiffer,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to get tested.”

That’s telling the truth, all right.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​