As I walked around the Mercedes-Benz Superdome an hour before the New Orleans Saints were defeated by the Atlanta Falcons, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Was Saturday night all a dream?”
Did Ed Orgeron really go from undesirable to undeniable overnight?
Did a former Ohio State backup quarterback not only etch his name on the Heisman Trophy but also extend his LSU legacy to “greatest ever?” By the way, after Drew Brees sailed an off-target pass over a receiver’s head, a fan sitting next to me said, “Joe Burrow wouldn’t have missed that.” Surely, we’ve entered a different dimension.
Did we all, and I mean all, get proven wrong about Clyde Edwards-Helaire on one of the biggest stages imaginable?
The more smiling faces I saw and chatter I heard about those “Tigahs,” my new reality was confirmed: LSU was the talk of college football because the Tigers are inarguably the No. 1 team in the country.
From unwanted to unbelievable, Orgeron, Burrow and Edwards-Helaire all had their moment Saturday.
First and foremost, Orgeron set this plan into motion by setting his ego aside to hiring the right staff before securing must-have recruits, including LSU’s most important signee of all time, Burrow. Much more on Louisiana’s new governor (if he wanted it) later.
The moment that sticks out above the rest for me Saturday was a cheap shot from Alabama. An offensive lineman drilled LSU defensive back Kary Vincent from behind (taking him out of the game). The dirty play followed a Patrick Queen interception with 11 seconds to go in the half, and the personal foul placed LSU’s offense on the 13-yard line. Orgeron stayed aggressive. Burrow dropped back and found Edwards-Helaire in the corner of the end zone on the ensuing play to put LSU up by 20 points. As Burrow headed back to the bench, a red-faced Orgeron let out a primal roar as he embraced his quarterback. Those who mocked LSU for hiring Orgeron never saw this coming. The man who waged war with subtitles on a weekly basis beat Nick Saban on the road and improved to 9-3 at LSU against Top 10 competition. How’s our friend Tom Herman doing again?
By the way, LSU’s 46 points are the most points Alabama has allowed in regulation since 1970. LSU’s 33 first-half points were also the most points allowed in a half by a Nick Saban Alabama team.
Of course, Orgeron wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without Burrow. With a 78.9 completion percentage for the season, Burrow remains on track for the most accurate season in college football history. And because he has the intangibles of a true leader, I don’t foresee a drop off from him or the Tigers.
Though Burrow is the rightful favorite to win the Heisman, Edwards-Helaire was the MVP Saturday. And this is where it comes full circle, like Edwards-Helaire’s perfectly timed spin move on his third touchdown of the game against Alabama. By the way, NFL running backs like Saquan Barkley and Mark Ingram had high praise for CEH on Twitter during the game. But where it comes full circle is Edwards-Helaire was never supposed to be the star of this game. Heck, I had him benched behind John Emery at this point in the season back in my LSU preview during the summer. I, like many, thought he would hold down the fort until these younger backs grow accustomed to the speed of the game. Orgeron never saw it that way. He saw value in Edwards-Helaire and stuck with him when everyone else in Louisiana asked for more playing time for Emery. And he was rewarded with three Edwards-Helaire rushing touchdowns, which is the most any Saban team has allowed in pro or college since 1995.
As for those Saints, well my streak of winless games in the Dome continue. I have never seen the Saints win live in person. For cursing this team and being the sole reason as to why the Saints lost to the previously 1-7 Falcons, I’d like to issue a formal apology.
I must now reflect on my future and whether or not I will attend another game in the Dome. Unlike the traditional powerhouses in Northeast Louisiana, the Dome just isn’t kind to me. As former Mangham head coach Tommy Tharp put it, “Never had much luck there myself...”