BATON Rouge, La. – Among Ed Orgeron and LSU football’s many critics this season has been the man who wields college football’s loudest megaphone.
Twice this season, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit has eviscerated LSU on “College GameDay” while questioning the Tigers’ heart and effort.
“I see guys that quit,” Herbstreit said of LSU earlier this month. “I see guys that don’t want to play for the LSU brand.”
There was no quit in the Tigers on Saturday. There was a spirited effort, a 49-42 upset of No. 17 Florida and a performance that silenced Herbstreit.
“Glad you shut me up,” Herbstreit tweeted after LSU’s victory, while admitting he didn’t see this upset coming.
Congratulations @LSUfootball and especially Coach O!
Did NOT see this one coming. I’ve been very tough on this team and their passion to play for the LSU brand-glad you shut me up. That’s LSU football-congratulations!
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) October 16, 2021
LSU quarterback Max Johnson said the Tigers’ performance reflects what you should expect from this team the rest of the way.
“I just think that’s just kind of our motto now: Just fight. Fight, fight, fight,” Johnson said. “I think that’s what our guys have done this week. We’ve kept silent. We’ve kept our heads down and worked throughout the week, and it showed Saturday.”
Effort alone won’t save Orgeron’s job or this LSU season, but it’s a helpful start.
LSU (4-3, 2-2 SEC) looked like a rejuvenated bunch, evidenced in part by 321 rushing yards. Tyrion Davis-Price broke the school record with 287 behind an offensive line that, in a week’s time, went from a weakness to a wrecking crew.
But effort doesn’t solve the fact that LSU’s defense is riddled with injuries or that top offensive weapon Kayshon Boutte is out for the year with an ankle injury.
It doesn’t erase losses to UCLA, Auburn and Kentucky, and it doesn’t make the remaining schedule any easier.
LSU can play just as hard as it did Saturday and still finish with a .500 record. And that would spell doom for Orgeron’s coaching tenure.
Of course, if LSU’s offensive line performs as well as it did Saturday, the Tigers at least have a chance in every game remaining, a five-game stretch that includes matchups against ranked foes Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
Winning two from that four-pack of games probably won’t be enough to save Orgeron’s job. More likely, he needs to win three of the four SEC games remaining.
“We’re going to fight,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to fight the rest of the season.”
Credit LSU’s coaching staff for outwitting Florida’s Dan Mullen.
In response to Boutte’s injury, LSU committed more intensely to its running game and, at times, deployed six offensive linemen, with Garrett Dellinger joining the mix as an extra offensive tackle.
“It really helped us out,” Orgeron said. “We got more physical during the game, and it helped our run game out.”
Orgeron trusted his offensive coordinator, Jake Peetz, in a crucial situation.
Facing fourth-and-1 at Florida’s 1 in the fourth quarter, Peetz asked Orgeron whether he wanted a run play.
Orgeron told Peetz to call what he wanted.
Peetz dialed up a play-action pass.
Max Johnson hits Jaray Jenkins for the 1 yard TD on 4th down to give LSU the late lead! pic.twitter.com/uyaurORfAH
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTBVids_YT) October 16, 2021
Johnson remained calm under pressure and made a difficult throw across his body to an open Jaray Jenkins for the decisive touchdown with 3:30 remaining.
“Max did a great job avoiding the pressure,” Orgeron said. “It could have went the other way, but Max made a great play.”
Johnson made a play that helped quiet LSU’s critics, for the moment, at least.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: LSU beats Florida, shuts up Kirk Herbstreit with new motto