Kelly Orgeron knew.
Standing on the sideline in — of all places — Starkville, Mississippi, she could just feel it: Her husband would be fired from his job as the Ole Miss head coach.
“You could tell on the field,” she said in an interview last year. “We knew were gone.”
The Orgerons return to that place — Starkville — this weekend as the leaders of another football program.
Coach Ed Orgeron and No. 12 LSU (2-0) meet Mississippi State (2-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday in their Southeastern Conference opener. Orgeron is familiar with that place, Davis-Wade Stadium at Scott Field. He’ll stalk the same sideline as he did while making that infamous decision almost a decade ago as coach at Ole Miss.
He went for it. He regrets it, too.
Leading the rival Bulldogs 14-0 in the season-ending Egg Bowl, Orgeron’s Rebels team faced fourth-and-1 at the 49-yard line with just 10 minutes left in the game. The attempt – a run – was stuffed.
State roared back to score 17 unanswered points and win.
“I should have punted the ball. It was an emotional decision,” Orgeron said Monday during his weekly news conference. “That's why I have mentors nowadays, 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. So those are the things I've grown in that area.”
Danny Etling’s experience with cowbells is singular — a cowbell.
It was a 25th and final loss in Orgeron's 35th game at the helm of the program.
The Orgerons do not hide their feelings on their three-year stint at Ole Miss. It’s a place that Kelly and Ed, in a way, would like to forget, especially that decision on Nov. 23, 2007.
“I don't have many memories of that place that I want to remember,” Orgeron said last October.
He was asked Monday how his life might be different if his Ole Miss team would have converted that fourth down.
“I thank the good Lord every day,” he said with a sweeping smile, as reporters laughed.
Many believe he would not have gotten fired.
In an interview last year, Pete Boone, then the Ole Miss athletic director who hired Orgeron, said that university leaders entered that game planning to give the coach and his staff another season.
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"We still may all be there if we converted," said John Thompson, the defensive coordinator on that Ole Miss team.
For then-State coach Sylvester Croom, the failed fourth-down attempt was a lifeline to a seventh victory. Asked about Orgeron’s decision after the game, Croom told a columnist at The Clarion-Ledger, “I thought Christmas had come early.”
Orgeron brings a much different team into Starkville than his 2007 Rebels. The Tigers have already won nearly as many games this season (2) as that Ole Miss team won overall (3).
They’re a touchdown favorite over the Bulldogs. The Rebels were a 4½-point underdog.
So what happens Saturday night if LSU is leading big in the fourth quarter with a similar decision in a similar spot in the same stadium?
“I'm punting,” Orgeron said. “I want to keep this job.”
LSU is getting back Arden Key, but coach Ed Orgeron is unsure on another defensive starter.