ORLANDO, Fla. — The music from the steamy, noisy, happy LSU locker room spilled into the interview room every time the door swung open. On the riser, Derrius Guice kept time in his seat, reminiscent of the moves he put on the Louisville defense during the previous few hours in the Citrus Bowl.
Tre’Davious White was there, too, his grin lighting up the room like a 100-watt bulb, but no Ed Orgeron. Finally, LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette bid the news conference moderator to get started without Coach O.
“He’s dancing,” Bonnette said.
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Orgeron and his Tigers had every right to celebrate long and loud. They had just done a two-step on Louisville, its vaunted offense and its celebrated Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to the tune of a 29-9 rout that was really more dominant than that.
The game ended in the east about 9½ hours before the new year arrived. But for the Tigers, there were fireworks aplenty under the bright Florida sunshine.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Dave Aranda won the chess match, Arden Key blasted through a school record and Ed Orgeron got Win No. 1 as LSU’s full-time hea…
Finally, Coach O took the stage, wearing a smile to rival that of his senior cornerback, apparently with moves to rival his sophomore running back. He deflected the praise and the personal trappings that the game carried for him, but he clearly looked like a man who had come through a personal gauntlet and was pleased as hell to be on the other side, reaping the rewards.
“This isn’t about me,” Orgeron said, now 1-0 as LSU’s full-time head man. “You’ve got great players, (so) let them play, right? I’m awfully proud of the way they bought in.”
Bought in. Paid in full. Check, please.
The Tigers sped home to beat the midnight hour with their fruit cocktail of a Citrus Bowl trophy in tow and a bowl full of reasons to be happy about the way their controversial, star-crossed, topsy-turvy season ended.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Turns out, LSU didn't need Leonard Fournette.
As great as Guice played, as impressive as wide receiver Malachi Dupre’s career-best effort was — his one-handed grab over the middle in the first half was that of a poor man’s Odell Beckham Jr. — the story of this game was LSU’s defense.
Louisville’s offense was a powerhouse. The Cardinals ranked first in the nation in scoring, entering Orlando averaging 45.3 points per game. They ranked second in total offense at 558.8 yards per contest. They had brought Lamar Jackson to town, clutching his Heisman after piling up nearly 5,000 yards of offense and 51 touchdowns by himself.
The Tigers took all that Louisville glitter and power and stuffed it inside a locked filing cabinet beneath Camping World Stadium that read “Do Not Open Until September.” They took a can of spray paint and wrote “Do Not Enter” on both goal lines.
Louisville’s offense, dangerous as plutonium, was rendered as inert as lead by defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s group. Louisville managed just three field goals and 202 yards. Jackson had his worst day of the season, completing just 10 of 27 passes for 153 yards and rushing for 33 yards on 26 attempts. He was sacked eight times — as someone put it on Twitter, he took more hits Saturday than Ronda Rousey did Friday night — and his team converted just 2 of 17 third downs, this after starting the game 0 for 13 in that category.
Aranda spoke more than once since the Texas A&M game about how troubled he was by the way the Tigers stumbled to the finish of their 54-39, season-ending victory in College Station. If he couldn’t sleep, apparently he channeled some of his insomnia time into scheming against Louisville.
“He was always one step ahead,” Orgeron said.
“When you give Dave three weeks to prepare, he’s going to prepare. I remember we had off on Christmas break. We practiced Thursday morning; the coaches got off around noon. And when we came back to work at 11 a.m. Monday, he had a notebook full on Louisville. I could tell just by the way he was talking he had a good feel for Louisville’s offense over the Christmas holidays.”
Aranda’s scheme, with more blitzes and stunts than the Cardinals ever saw on LSU’s game video, probably left Louisville feeling like someone had hacked their credit card and bought a bunch of Dutch ovens with the money. For a team that scores points the way this town collects cash from tourists, it had to be a sobering reality.
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“When you’re going backwards and are behind the sticks, it’s really hard to make first downs against them,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said.
For Petrino's team, the end of the season was like a funeral dirge with three straight losses.
For LSU, the party may just be getting started.