FILE – In this Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, file photo, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers signals to players during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech, in Syracuse, N.Y. Syracuse is back on track after a big home win, and the fourth game of the Orange’s second season under coach Dino Babers is at hand. This is when his system is supposed to be ready for takeoff and Babers is anxious to see if it is. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU coach Ed Orgeron has been apologizing for seemingly an entire week.
On the heels of 37-7 loss to Mississippi State, Orgeron has been taking the blame and emphasizing to fellow Louisiana natives that he feels their disappointment. He’s also pledged to turn things around against Syracuse in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
“I definitely get it. I understand the expectations at LSU. That was a bad performance. I totally take the blame. I’m going to get this team right,” said Orgeron, who is in his first full season on the job. “This is not LSU football. That’s not what we came here for, but we’re going to get it fixed.”
There were few obvious signs of last weekend’s collapse by LSU (2-1), the lowlights of which included a pair of ejections for targeting, drive-stalling dropped passes, offensive penalties that twice negated touchdowns, and periodic defensive busts that led to big plays for the Bulldogs. The Tigers said the result served as an embarrassing wake-up call for a team that cruised through a pair of dominant victories over BYU and Chattanooga to start the season.
The Tigers had envisioned cracking the top 10 in the AP Poll after last weekend. Instead, they nearly dropped out entirely, falling from 12th to 25th.
“Let’s get the sick feeling out of our stomach this week, go back out there and play ball,” LSU senior defensive end Christian LaCouture said. “We know how we can play. We need to play ball like we did the first two games.”
Syracuse (2-1) can relate.
In its second game this season, the Orange was stunned by Middle Tennessee, but responded by coming right back the next week and pounding Central Michigan , 41-17.
“Nobody wants to lose two games in a row,” Orange linebacker Zaire Franklin said, referring to LSU’s situation this week. “They’ll come out fired-up.”
LSU remains heavily favored — by about three touchdowns — but this game has no shortage of story lines.
Here are some of the other things to watch:
PERSONAL HISTORY: Orgeron was the defensive line coach at Syracuse from 1995-97 and speaks fondly of his time there under then-coach Paul Pasqualoni. “It was a great time in my career,” Orgeron said. “I learned a lot of football from Paul, became a better football coach.”
The burly Cajun said he loved the Italian food in upstate New York but struggled to adjust to the cold and snow. Still, when the Syracuse head coaching job came open a couple years ago, Orgeron said in a radio interview that he would be interested. However, he said this week that Syracuse never officially told him he was being considered. Now he’s coaching against the Orange in Death Valley.
FAMILIAR SCHEME: New LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada held the same job at Pittsburgh last season, when the Panthers beat Syracuse 76-61. So Syracuse coach Dino Babers is familiar with Canada. Whether that helps him remains to be seen.
“I don’t really believe it helps,” Babers said. “What we saw, we couldn’t stop when he was at Pitt and now he’s got even better athletes to do it. In a sense, he’s more dangerous than he’s ever been and he probably can simplify it and still have as much success based off of the athletes that LSU has.”
UP-TEMPO: Syracuse is running an up-tempo offense with quarterback Eric Dungey, who has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 787 yards and five TDs while rushing for 209 yards and four scores. Orgeron said he has specifically addressed Syracuse’s style of play in practice this week by having plays run against his defense in rapid succession.
“They have a great scheme,” Orgeron said, calling it “very hard to defend.”
Orgeron added that Babers “has the right quarterback” to run it.
MISSING: The status of LSU leading rusher Derrius Guice, who is averaging 100 yards per game, remains muddled after Orgeron indicated as recently as Wednesday that Guice would not be able to play because of an undisclosed injury from the previous game. Then on Thursday afternoon, Orgeron said Guice was able to practice and was expected to play. Two players Syracuse can be certain they won’t see in the first half are linebacker Donnie Alexander and defensive lineman Neil Ferrell, who must sit out the first half following second-half ejections for targeting at Mississippi State.