Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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28 JANUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY COREY BODDEN E d Orgeron's first official season at the helm in Baton Rouge, La. — after posting a 6-2 mark as the interim coach following Les Miles' dismissal in 2016 — got off to quite a rocky start. LSU cruised to easy wins over outmanned BYU and Chattanooga squads to open 2017 before suffering a 37-7 beatdown at Mississippi State Sept. 16. The Tigers then had to hold on for a 35-26 win the following week at home against a Syracuse team that finished the year with a 4-8 record. A matchup against Troy Sept. 30 was supposed to be a relatively easy game to get back on track before facing Florida and Auburn in back- to-back weeks, but the Trojans had other ideas. Troy jumped out to a 17-0 lead and eventually held on for a 24-21 win to become the first non- SEC team to take down LSU in Tiger Stadium since UAB in 2000. The stunning defeat created doubt about Orgeron's ability to lead a high-profile program, but the Tigers blocked out the noise and responded to the adversity. LSU took down Florida (17-16) and Auburn (27-23), notching the latter victory after rallying from a 20-point deficit. Outside of a 24-10 loss at then- No. 2 Alabama in early November, the Tigers cruised to four wins over their final five games with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's unit hold- ing teams to an average of 17.8 points and 306.6 total yards per game. "You look at them defensively in the offseason and you can see maybe where some guys are question marks personnel-wise at different positions," said Mike Scarborough, publisher of on the Rivals network. "But you've seen since Aranda's been there he comes up with combinations and ways to make the personnel work to keep LSU's defense elite." It was quite the turnaround over the final seven weeks after the Tigers sat 3-2. "Ed Orgeron talks about former linebacker Duke Riley coming in and speaking to the team," Scarborough said in regards to what changed after LSU's loss to Troy. "I think that's part of it. No doubt LSU players walk- ing on campus, reading social media [and] message boards, and [listening to] talk radio, that shook [them up] and got them refocused. "But at the same time, LSU started to get some players back from injury and suspension. It all started to come together for them." Junior running back Derrius Guice was a preseason Heisman candidate and expected to help carry the LSU offense. He put together a strong year, rushing for 1,153 yards and 11 touch- downs on 216 carries in 11 games. Guice, though, wasn't completely healthy for most of the season, which allowed senior Darrel Williams to pick up some extra carries. He rushed for 776 yards and nine touchdowns, and was the team's second-leading pass catcher with 22 receptions for 327 yards. "Guice is a high-energy guy and gets the team fired up," Scarborough stated. "When he's healthy, the com- mon statement about him since he's been at LSU is that he runs angry. He does. He loves contact. "He's a compact back with deceptive size and we know about his speed." Williams complements the speed and strength of Guice as more of a power back and pass-catching threat. "You're talking about a guy over 220 pounds … and a bruiser," Scar- borough said. "He's not a hit the cor- ner and run away from you type of guy. If you give him a head start he's going to do some damage. "If you mix him in with Guice late in the game and you have some worn out defensive players, he is going to hurt you." LSU's ground game, which ranked 30th nationally with an average of 210.8 yards per game, is used to set up its passing attack. Senior quarterback Danny Etling completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,234 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. He typically gets the "game man- ager" tag, but did pass for 347 yards GAME PREVIEW: LSU ROARING TIGERS After a 3-2 start, LSU won six of seven to finish the regular season 9-3 Facts & Figures NOTRE DAME VS. LSU Game Info Date: Jan. 1, 2018. Site: Camping World Stadium (65,000). Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET. Television: ABC. Radio: This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 129) and on Notre Dame's IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This will be the 12th meeting between Notre Dame and LSU, with the Irish holding a 6‑5 advantage. It's the fourth time the two programs have met in a bowl game, with LSU holding a 2‑1 advantage. Head Coaches: LSU — Ed Orgeron (15‑5, second season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (68‑34, eighth season). Noting LSU: The Tigers, who beat Louisville in last season's Citrus Bowl, will compete in a postseason bowl game for the 18th straight season and the 49th time in program history … LSU is 25‑22‑1 in bowl games, including a 2‑2 mark in the Citrus Bowl … The Tigers beat the Irish 27‑9 in the 1997 Indepen‑ dence Bowl in Shreveport, La., and 41‑14 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, while the Irish topped the Tigers 31‑28 in the 2014 Music City Bowl at Nashville, Tenn. … The Tigers are seeking the 14th 10‑win season in program history, while the Irish will be after their 18th. Senior running back Darrel Williams ranked sec- ond on the team in both rushing (776 yards and nine touchdowns) and receiving (22 catches for 327 yards). PHOTO BY CHRIS PARENT/LSU ATHLETICS

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