Miles: "We're all miserable"
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
By William Kalec
BATON ROUGE --- Warning to parents: the verbal onslaught from a growing number of frothing armchair Sabans might not be suitable for young audiences, please keep them away from sports bars, Internet chat rooms and every diner from here to Opelousas.
Go ahead and cringe -- but with one eye open. This could get real ugly, real soon and it’s going to be hard to turn away.
As if talk around town wasn’t already prickly enough, thanks to a passive defensive showing out West, Les Miles tossed a figurative thick T-bone in the middle of this ravenous pack.
Leave it to Miles the Magician, who pulled a miraculous win from his awkwardly-adjusted hat for an opening act, to make a 21-point advantage vanish into the soupy Monday night air. POOF! Gone. Check the sleeves. Nothing. No smoke. No mirrors. Quite a trick.
No coach in LSU history has ever pulled off such an impossible stunt --- surrendering a three-touchdown advantage in the normally friendly confines of Tiger Stadium. Not Gerry DiNardo. Not Curley Hallman. Not Gus Tinsley. Certainly, not Nick Saban. Nobody.
“For all intents and purposes, it’s Tuesday and we’ll prepare for Mississippi State,” Miles said, after the scoreboard seesawed the other direction, 30-27. “As much as we’d like to mull it over and recoach and get it fixed, we have to prepare to play the next game.’’
Wishful thinking, Les. But much like that forgotten leftover pushed back, out of sight, to the rear of the fridge, the stinging memory of this loss isn’t getting tossed anytime soon. LSU could post triple digits in Starkville, Miss., this weekend and all it would get is a sarcastic roll of the eyes from those drooling to dissect the Tennessee debacle.
Where to begin?
Well, since the public apparently can’t get enough Bo Pelini criticism, lets start by breaking down the defense.
It was like someone broke open a 2003 time capsule for the entire first half, then LSU’s defense proved to be nothing more than a desert mirage. Safety Travis Daniels set the tone early, blindsiding Erik Ainge and stripping the ball free for Kenneth Hollis to fall on and for Joseph Addai to convert into six points a play later. Using 11 defensive backs throughout the evening, Pelini dared Ainge to throw deep, letting fresh legs run with Tennessee’s receivers regardless of their depth chart residence.
But, for whatever reason, once Rick Clausen replaced Ainge, LSU reverted to its previous cautious scheme, allowing the Vols adequate-armed senior to dink his way into Tennessee lore. Evidenced in the final play of overtime when Gerald Riggs bulled through Cameron Vaughn’s attempted tackle, the Tigers defense was completely spent, partially because of a 10-minute differential in time of possession.
Still, Pelini’s group forced four turnovers, sacked Ainge/Clausen four times and held Riggs to 3.7 yards per carry. They weren’t dominant, but the popular punching bag shouldn’t receive all the blows this abbreviated week.
Expect several fingers to be pointed at Miles for questionable in-game decisions. Perhaps most embarrassing, ESPN replays captured Miles frantically signaling to use his final timeout following a fourth-quarter interception by LaRon Landry that put the Tigers near field goal/Hail Mary range with less than 20 seconds left. Of course, the clock stops after a change of possession, but officials still could have granted Miles’ unnecessary timeout had an LSU assistant coach not pushed him put of the ref’s view, preserving the Tigers final stoppage.
Clock management issues also arose in the dying seconds of the first half. LSU tossed away a field-goal chance when JaMarcus Russell failed to get out of bounds on a 2nd-down scramble. Instead, of having the offense try to spike the ball, Miles hurried on the special teams unit but not before time expired.
When those topics grow old, fans could reach for a bevy of fresh topics --- Jimbo Fisher’s conservative play-calling in the second-half, Russell’s key fourth-quarter interception, the late-game love affair with getting Jacob Hester touches, Miles original decision sit on the ball and settle for overtime, crucial penalties on Skyler Green kick returns.
For nine months, Miles waited for his inaugural run beneath Tiger Stadium’s split goal posts.
But maybe someone should have informed him he needed to meet a recently established standard.
“We’re all disappointed about it,” Miles said. “We’re all miserable.”