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New twist in rivalry between USC's Ed Orgeron and UCLA's Noel Mazzone

Ed Orgeron and Noel Mazzone have coached together and against each other. This week when the Trojans and Bruins meet, Orgeron will be the head coach.

November 26, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • USC Iterim Coach Ed Orgeron has lead the Trojans to a 6-1 record since taking over for Lane Kiffin, on Saturday he'll face UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, a man he hired and fired while he was the head coach at Mississippi.
USC Iterim Coach Ed Orgeron has lead the Trojans to a 6-1 record since taking… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Ed Orgeron coached as an assistant against Noel Mazzone several times during their long careers, including last season's game between USC and UCLA .

But the 83rd game in the crosstown rivalry on Saturday presents a slightly different scenario.

Orgeron is a head coach for the first time since his three-year stint at Mississippi, where he hired and then fired Mazzone as offensive coordinator after one season.

Since replacing Lane Kiffin as USC's coach in late September, Orgeron has been making a push to prompt Athletic Director Pat Haden to remove the interim label. A victory over the Bruins would extend the Trojans' winning streak to six games and provide Orgeron with an exclamation point on his short tenure.

Standing in his way is a UCLA team with an offense directed by the coach he fired.

"He's done a fantastic job," Orgeron said.

There is no special significance to coaching against Mazzone, Orgeron said, citing the turnover and itinerant nature of the profession.

"You've got somebody across there every week," he said.

Asked what happened at Mississippi, Mazzone said, "Ah, I'm not going to talk about that."

Orgeron became coach at Ole Miss in 2005 after serving as a USC assistant for seven years and helping the Trojans win national titles in 2003 and 2004.

Orgeron said he had known Mazzone since the late 1980s and that they were friends. Mazzone had coached previously on Mississippi's staff under Tommy Tuberville and had been offensive coordinator at North Carolina State when Orgeron hired him and told him he wanted to install USC's offense.

Ole Miss went 3-8 in 2005 and ranked 111th among 117 major-college teams in offense, and 115th in scoring. Rebels quarterbacks threw 10 touchdown passes, but had as many interceptions.

"I wanted to run USC's offense and he had never run it before," Orgeron said. "That's kind of hard. So he tried his best as he could, but we really weren't very good, and he didn't have a lot of talent to work with. He had a lot of coaches that didn't know USC's offense, so really it was unfair to him."

Asked about the circumstances of Mazzone's dismissal, Orgeron said, "I don't want to talk about that. I really don't. Things happened, but we have remained friends professionally and I have a lot of respect for him."

Orgeron lasted only three seasons as Mississippi's head coach, going 4-8 in 2006 and 3-9 the following season.

Orgeron said he still sees Mazzone on the recruiting trail — "We don't call each other," he said. "But we'll always be cordial."

Mazzone coached for the New York Jets and Arizona State before joining UCLA's staff last season. So far, his record is 1-0 in the rivalry. The Bruins defeated the Trojans, 38-28, with a spread offense directed by quarterback Brett Hundley.

Did Mazzone want to run a similar offense at Ole Miss?

"That's what he was good at," Orgeron said. "And really, maybe that's what we should have done. I was not familiar with that."

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

Staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this article.

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