BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Football coaches say they never forget losses, as much as they might like to.
The most unlikely and upsetting defeats become teaching points, and that is case as LSU coach Ed Orgeron prepares the fourth-ranked Tigers (2-0) for Saturday night’s home date with a Northwestern State squad that has looked recently like it has no business stepping foot in Death Valley.
LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry, who wears the No. 18 jersey bestowed upon LSU’s most respected team leaders, has gotten the message.
“Two years ago we lost to a Troy team that no one expected us to lose to,” Cushenberry said. “We all remember that and we definitely don’t want that to happen again. We’ve been hearing about Troy a lot this week.”
Orgeron has been showing nothing but respect for Northwestern State (0-2), as one might expect; it’s his alma mater.
Orgeron grew up a rabid LSU fan in south Louisiana , in a house where one could look out the window and see shrimp boats on Bayou Lafourche. But after enrolling at LSU, he got homesick and dropped out before ultimately realizing he needed to go back to school. That led him to the FCS (then I-AA) program in Natchitoches, Louisiana, a town known among movie buffs as the setting of the star-studded drama “Steel Magnolias.”
After his playing career ended with the Demons, Orgeron began a long, winding coaching career that has led him from coast to coast and culminated with his dream job in Baton Rouge, where he now presides over a team with College Football Playoff aspirations.
“Every time another team from Louisiana plays LSU, it’s going to be their red-letter game,” Orgeron said. “I’ve seen a lot of upsets this year, and we’ve already had one team come in here and do that to us” when Troy did so in 2017.
But while the 2017 Troy team wound up in a bowl game, Northwestern State began the season with a 22-point loss to UT-Martin and followed that up by losing at home to Division II Midwestern State, 33-7, last weekend.
“Our last game was a big letdown, and that’s 100 percent my fault,” Northwestern State coach Brad Laird said. “I didn’t have this team prepared to play, and that’s frustrating.
“I know we’ve got a lot of guys who grew up wanting to play in Tiger Stadium,” Laird continued. “We’re not just going in there like it’s going to be a scrimmage for them. We’re going to play for four dadgum quarters and try to make them do the same thing.”
Some other things to know about Northwestern State’s visit to LSU:
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is beginning to pop up in Heisman Trophy conversations after starting the season 54 of 66 for 749 yards and nine TDs through two games. Yet it sounds like Burrow is trying not to let his heady start go to his head.
“We can’t feed into what everybody is saying, good or bad,” Burrow said. “I knew I was good enough to do this, but it’s just (through) Week 2 and we’re not in SEC play yet.”
After hosting Northwestern State, the Tigers will begin SEC play when they visit Vanderbilt. So after a physical victory at Texas last week , Orgeron indicated that a number of key players are getting extra rest this week. Those include pass-rushing outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, along with defensive linemen Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan. Orgeron did not rule them out for the game, but said they’d miss some practice time and might not play.
If LSU has a big lead by halftime, expect most starters to sit the second half. Orgeron said he’ll start the game with healthy first-team players, but also plans on “playing guys we normally don’t play — if we can.”
One of the bright spots for the Demons has been quarterback Shelton Eppler. With Northwestern State generally playing catch-up, Eppler has been forced to pass a lot and has shown a penchant for accuracy and the high-percentage throw. He has completed 71 of 104 passes (68.3 percent) for 564 yards and three TDs against two interceptions.
LSU has never lost to Northwestern State in 11 previous meetings. The last time they met in 2011, LSU won 49-3.