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‘This has nothing to do with me’: LSU’s Ed Orgeron returns to Ole Miss as teams try to keep focus on field

This won’t be Ed Orgeron’s first time back at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium since the disaster.

There was the 2009 trip with Tennessee as the Volunteers’ defensive line coach. Two years ago, Orgeron returned with LSU in the same capacity.

But Saturday will be his first time back at his old stomping grounds as an opposing head coach when he leads No. 24 LSU against Ole Miss in the teams’ 106th meeting (6:15 p.m., ESPN). It’s the same stadium in which he suffered most of his 25 losses and experienced just three SEC wins as the Rebels’ coach from 2005-07 before being fired.

The sting of Orgeron’s failures is still fresh for Ole Miss fans a decade later, and Orgeron has played his part in further escalating the tension. In an ESPN interview earlier this week, Orgeron said he wanted to be coaching LSU, a place he’s long considered his dream job, the whole time he was at Ole Miss.

Despite any animosity that divides the only two head coaching jobs he’s ever had, Orgeron said this year’s trip to Oxford shouldn’t be about him.

“I had a tremendous opportunity at Ole Miss, and I didn’t get it done,” said Orgeron, who got the permanent job at LSU after serving as the interim the final eight games of last season. “But the past is the past. It’s behind me.”

Maybe so, but there are still some ties at Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 SEC) to his past.

Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke spent a year on Orgeron’s Ole Miss staff as a recruiting coordinator. As the third member of his family to play for the Rebels, Luke didn’t need to learn passion for his job, but there were certain aspects of Orgeron’s approach that have stuck with the Rebels’ interim coach.

“I was very impressed with his attack in the recruiting aspect of it,” Luke said. “I was impressed with that and liked his energy. It’s easy to see why players rally around him and play for him.”

It’s why Luke wants to keep the focus of this year’s game on the field.

After snapping a three-game losing streak against Vanderbilt last week, the Rebels will try to start just their second winning streak this season against an LSU team that’s showed just as much resolve. The Tigers (5-2, 2-1) were embarrassed with a home loss to Troy on Sept. 30 but have bounced back with two SEC wins since, including a 27-23 win over Auburn their last time out that saw LSU rally from a 20-0 deficit in the first half.

“I’ve been very impressed at how he’s rallied his team,” Luke said.

Ole Miss’ 117th-ranked run defense is preparing to face LSU’s next big-bodied running back in Derrius Guice while Ole Miss’ offensive line is gearing up for an LSU defense that leads the SEC in sacks. Ole Miss’ top-ranked passing offense in the SEC should test the Tigers if the Rebels can keep quarterback Shea Patterson upright.

There’s plenty for each side to worry about now without dredging up the past.

“This has nothing to do with me,” Orgeron said.