BATON ROUGE --- Former Ole Miss headman Ed Orgeron was one of the first coaches to go after Stevan Ridley. A junior at Trinity Episcopal High in Natchez, Ridley had grown up in a Mississippi River town with its fair share of Rebel faithful.
When the chance to join on with an SEC program presented itself, he jumped on board.
“Ole Miss offered me as a linebacker, and I talked to my mom about it and we just thought I should go ahead and commit,” he said. “I really didn’t think of things beyond that, because it was a big offer for me.”
Less than two months later, Les Miles came calling.
Without much hesitation, Ridley made the switch from one SEC West team to another.
“LSU really was my dream school all along, but there was a point where I wasn’t sure if they would come around and give me that scholarship,” he said. “Then coach Miles told me he wanted me to come on as a running back, and I couldn’t turn it down.”
When Ridley got to Baton Rouge, he waited. He took a redshirt in 2007, and in 2008 he touched the ball only 12 times. Last year as a sophomore it took injuries to seniors Charles Scott and Keiland Williams to get him on the field. Both were lost for the season, which gave Ridley the first two starts of his career.
“I’ve been patient, but I worked hard knowing that my time would come and the team would need me,” he said. “This year I felt like I’ve stepped up for them when they have called on me.”
Closing in on 1,000 yards, Ridley has carried the ball 208 times to backup Michael Ford’s 38 touches.
“He has gone through this season as our hammer,” said head coach Les Miles. “He has taken a toll.”
In the two years that Ridley had been on the field, he had never beaten the team that he once pledged to play for.
On Saturday night, behind the first three-touchdown game of his career, that changed. The junior carried the ball 18 times for 89 yards for his third multi-touchdown game in his last five starts, the final score coming with 37 seconds left to give LSU the victory.
“I get the last laugh this time,” he said. “I go home and a lot of my closest friends have been Ole Miss fans their whole life. Now I get to go home with my head held high, because we pulled this one out.
“Ole Miss is one school you don’t want to lose to.”
For an Ohio-born coach with Michigan in his blood, Miles has a unique appreciation for the intensity that Ridley brought to the table on a weekend where something more than 10 wins was on the line.
“It’s much more personal to him,” Miles said. “He crosses that state boundary to go home and he wants to have bragging rights. He gets it this year.”
On the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry…
“They came in here and played their hearts out. They gave us everything we wanted. It’s no secret those guys wanted to win as bad as we did.”
On playing in tight quarters…
“One thing about this team is that we are all huge competitors. We play a game in the locker room with a trashcan and a taped up ball, and they are shooting it in there. You would be surprised how competitive that game has gotten. People are betting money in there on that. We have competitors. When it comes to a big game, it’s huge for us. At the end of the day we will find a way to win, if you put us in the right situation. Our coaches did an excellent job of coaching us and making the right calls.”
On the offense playing their first complete game of the season…
“I would have to say so. It came together. Look at all the people who made big plays in this game. This offense has been trying to get it together, and I think we got it together tonight.”
On Baton Rouge native Brandon Bolden, who scored twice for Ole Miss…
“Brandon came in here and played an exceptional game. He ran the ball hard. They wanted to win that game.”