Ed Orgeron can motivate players.

Players have said it, recruits have said it and employers have said it.

That’s an important skill for any head coach, and it’s one of the primary reasons that Orgeron overcame the odds to become full-time head coach of LSU after last season. He was a long shot, even after leading the Tigers to a 5-2 record as interim head coach, because there were understandable questions about his ability to handle all the other aspects of the lead role.

In Orgeron’s only previous full-time gig as a head coach, he flopped at Ole Miss. In his three seasons, the Rebels went 3-8, 4-8 and 3-9, going 3-21 in the SEC, including an 0-8 record in his final season.

Orgeron’s ability to handle his current job already has been questioned, first after the Tigers were humiliated by Mississippi State 37-7 in their SEC opener, then again and more intensely two weeks later after a 24-21 loss to Troy.

Even after a 17-16 win at then-No. 21 Florida on Oct. 7, the vultures were mapping out a circling pattern when No. 10 Auburn rolled to a 20-0 second-quarter lead against the Tigers on Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

LSU look outmanned and ill-prepared as it seemed headed for a 4-3 record and 1-2 SEC mark. It was looking questionable whether the Tigers were capable of even competing in the SEC West and whether a bowl-eligible record of 6-6 was realistically attainable.

But LSU kept playing against one of the hottest teams in the country. It scored two second-quarter touchdowns and forced Auburn to kick field goals at the end of two scoring threats to get within 23-14 at halftime.

The Tigers played much better defense in the second half, the whole team’s confidence grew noticeably, and eventually the passion and physicality that were trademarks of previous LSU teams emerged in a 27-23 victory.

Orgeron showed confidence in individual players, and they responded individually and collectively.

D.J. Chark kept his job as the punt returner despite several poor decisions in recent weeks. His 75-yarder for touchdown early in the fourth quarter pulled the Tigers within 23-21 and seemed to convince practically everyone in the stadium that the comeback would be completed.

Orgeron’s faith was rewarded.

Connor Culp, who has shared the place-kicking with Jack Gonsoulin during both players’ struggles this season, was sent in by Orgeron to try a 42-yard field goal with 2:36 left in the game. It had to be tempting for Orgeron to go for fourth-and-1 rather than essentially putting the game in Culp’s control, but his faith was rewarded as Culp drilled the kick for the go-ahead score.

After Auburn turned the ball over on downs and LSU failed to gain a first, Culp hit a 36-yarder for a small cushion with 38 seconds left.

Auburn had a last gasp, but it turned the ball over on downs again when Arden Key sacked Jarrett Stidham on fourth down with 2 seconds left. Key set an LSU record with 12 sacks last season, but left the team in the spring for personal reasons, underwent shoulder surgery and missed the first two games.

Key had minimal impact in his first four games back, but Orgeron kept talking him up, saying he was losing weight, regaining his conditioning and getting close to having an impact.

In addition to his first full sack, Key had six tackles and assisted on another tackle for loss.

Orgeron’s faith was rewarded.

LSU’s non-conference wins came against BYU, Chattanooga and Syracuse. The victory at Florida mostly just stopped the bleeding from the loss to Troy.

But against Auburn, LSU gradually put together its second consecutive win against a ranked team and the most attention-getting performance of Orgeron’s brief tenure.

After the game, quarterback Danny Etling tossed the game ball to Orgeron, who returned it, saying he didn’t want it.

“It ain’t about me,” Orgeron said. “It’s about them.”