This is a transcript of LSU football coach Ed Orgeron’s appearance on the “Off the Bench” show Tuesday morning on WNXX-FM 104.5 with Jordy Culotta and T-Bob Hebert talking about the Tigers’ 74-72 seven overtime loss Saturday at Texas A&M:
From your point of view, now that you’re about 72 hours from the game, what do you feel now that you’re looking back at that game?
I’m really proud of the way our team fought. I’m really proud of their resolve and character. That game was taken away from them. That second should have never been put on the clock (at the end of regulation).
I went back and reviewed the film. We teach our quarterback to look at the white hat (head referee). As soon as the white hat drops his hand the ball needs to be snapped. The ball was not snapped with three seconds left. In fact, the ball was snapped with under two seconds left according to the clock we had on the TV. That one second should have never been put back on the clock.
It was the wrong call. I’m sticking by that. It was a mistake.
There was a shot of (defensive end) Rashard Lawrence coming off the field and he just looks spent. Physically (what was) the tool it took on your group?
They gave everything they had. There was disgust in the locker room. I was disgusted for them.
(Orgeron then unprompted went back to the officiating)
In 35 years of coaching I have never used officiating as an excuse. There were some bad calls. They missed some calls. Four times the game should have been won for LSU. Those calls should have went in our favor. They didn’t. There’s nothing I can do about that. I felt bad about it. Our guys fought. We should have won the game.
What was the message inside the locker room. What are y’all telling the team going forward?
I told them the truth. We had ‘Tell the Truth Monday’ yesterday. I told them exactly what I told y’all. On the other hand, we have to make the plays. First of all, we have to coach better. We could have put them in better positions. We could have made better calls. And then we need to execute the calls. We have to look at ourselves. There are a lot of opportunities we could have (taken) to win the football game.
But I’m going to say something to you: When you win the game, and it’s taken away from you, and our guys went out and played those guys in seven overtimes, what a fantastic show of grit and character our football team had.
In retrospect, are there any moments you wish had done something different?
Oh, no question. There’s a lot of times. We could have made a first down (before Texas A&M’s last possession of regulation) and the game is over. There’s better calls that could have been made. Better execution. With 29 seconds left and they’ve got no time outs, we need to stop them. Obviously you look at the things we did, we could have done some things better. We could have made some better calls. We could have executed better. But that’s hindsight. We gave it the best shot we possibly can. Going in I thought we had a great gameplan. We ran Joe Burrow. What true grit he showed. I thought Steve Ensminger called one of his best games.
The fumbled punt (by Jonathan Giles) really hurt us. The missed field goal (in the first half by Cole Tracy) really hurt us. So we had some opportunities to win the football game and we didn’t.
But again, I’ll say this to you: That one second should never have been put on the clock.
There were questions after the game regarding Steve Kragthorpe and what happened to him on the field, some questions about his account (Kragthorpe said he was punched by A&M staffer Cole Fisher while video evidence suggests he was only pushed). What can you share about coach Krags?
We’re not getting into details. Coach Kragthorpe is a very good man. He has Parkinson’s disease. He is very dedicated to our university. He has great character. What happened to him shouldn’t have happened. There were some very unprofessional acts on that football field. I hope the SEC does the right thing about it and I’m sure they will.
This seems to have lit the wick to another rivalry for you guys. Does this put more emphasis on the last playing date of the regular season?
I wish we played them tomorrow.
Does safety JaCoby Stevens demand more playing time now even with a fully healthy roster? Are you going to try to fit him in more?
No question. We got him closer to the ball where he was rushing, he played on the line of scrimmage. In man coverage. (Safeties coach) Bill Busch has done a tremendous job coaching JaCoby. You look at his vertical jump and power and JaCoby Stevens is off the charts. He was one of the number one players in the country coming out of high school, but he had to develop. We had to find a position where he played he best. I have to give credit to (defensive coordinator Dave) Aranda and coach Busch and obviously JaCoby for sticking with it. Now that we’ve found him a spot he can be a force on the football field.
What did you see out of your quarterback Joe Burrow?
We wanted to run him more during the season, but there were times when Myles (Brennan, backup quarterback) was not completely healthy. We were really going through the season with one quarterback. We couldn’t take the chance on quarterback runs and get Joe hurt because we didn’t have Myles healthy. We went into the last game saying we were going to run him, along with throwing the football. It was obvious he was a force running the football. We going to do more with him.
We just knew Joe had tremendous leadership. He wanted to win that game. He was cramping up after that game, IVs, he gave us everything he had.
We know you have a commitment who’s going to go public Wednesday. What’s been the feedback on the recruiting trail (since the game)?
Its been fantastic. The guys saw the game. Everybody was pulling for the Tigers. Everybody saw what happened, felt we should have won the game, that we fought for seven overtimes after the game was won. Most teams would have laid down and said it was unfair. Our guys fought. I’m on my sixth home visit right now at 8 o’clock (Tuesday morning). We’ve been rolling. Our staff has been rolling. We’re very well prepared. Our reception is great. I feel we have a fantastic recruiting class.
When do you start recruiting the guys for next year who are on the roster currently (not to turn pro early)?
We are talking to some of the guys. Obviously a lot of the guys, juniors, a few are going to be top draft choices and are going to leave. We understand that. I’ve been recruiting the guys who are not going to project to be top draft choices for about three weeks now. I feel we have a good handle on it, but you never know until the end of the season.
Did the referee say why there was no review of an incomplete pass to Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger that appeared may have been a fumble forced by Grant Delpit?
(Orgeron chuckles) Here’s the deal: I was going to call timeout and challenge it. But it was ruled an incomplete pass. You can not challenge an incomplete pass. They were reviewing it. They were looking at it to see if there was conclusive evidence. I could have called a time out but the referee told me, ‘Coach, you can call a time out (but) you’re wasting it. There’s not conclusive evidence. We’ve reviewed it. You’d be wasting a time out, but if you want to call one, you can.’ So I didn’t call a time out.
I talked to the head of SEC officials on Sunday morning. He said, ‘Coach, I reviewed it with the head official. He did the right thing. They were not going to overturn it.’
Now, if the call on the field had been a catch, which we all know it was, and it had been a fumble, then it could have been reviewed and it would not have been turned over. So it could have gone either way. That was the call on the field. It was the wrong call. They made a mistake.
Will you look at some other people at punt returner before the bowl?
Yes. No question. We’ve been trying Jontre (Kirklin). Jontre can do it, but obviously we didn’t want to put him back there in a pressurized situation. Kary Vincent has come to me and he has done it. I have a couple of recruits who are committed to us who are very good punt returners. I can’t wait until they get on the roster.
We need to get better in that area. No question about that.
Getting a bowl win, a 10th win, would be great momentum for next year. What’s the plan to kind of refocus the team and get them bought back in after a little time off?
We had ‘Tell the Truth Monday’ yesterday and it was a tough one. It’s my job to bring the team back up. After I told them exactly how I saw it, the things we did well and the things we will improve, those guys were in the weight room at 7 o’clock (Tuesday morning) with Devin White leading a big-time group.
We have an accelerated plan for the guys who didn’t play a lot. It’s going to be like a season for them the next three weeks along with academics. We have some guys who have to get some rest. We have some specific skills we have listed for each player to get better at. Me and (strength coach) Tommy Moffitt had a meeting two weeks ago so we are very well prepared to get our team better. The next two weeks are going to be academics, weight room and recruiting with the coaches.
We’re going to find out what bowl we’re going to go to. We’re going to have some great practices. We’re going to get this team better. I cant wait until the next game, because we have this bad taste in our mouths and we want to get it out of us and get 10 wins. I think it’s been an excellent season for the LSU Tigers.