Thursday, November 11, 2010

Miles Hushes Critics

The more I watch him coach and the more I see the public react to his every move, the more I realize that Les Miles is more scrutinized than any coach in the country.

Sure others have lots of pressure on them as well, but no one seems to be ridiculed quite like Les Miles when things do not go according to plan. I understand how some of his press conferences are hard to understand and how his play calling at times can be unconventional to say the least, but that still does not excuse the reality that more so than anyone else in the country Les Miles's every move is watched, studied, analyzed and dissected.

And this is all for a guy who has a career record of 59-16.

I have seen it all year. One week LSU plays sloppy, the media tears Miles apart. The next week LSU prevails, the media kneels before Miles. It remains the same. A couple times this year Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has made some questionable calls, in particular during the waning moments of the Tulsa game. Down 28-27 late in the game, Kelly opted for his quarterback to throw one in the end zone despite the Irish already being in great position to kick a winning a field goal.

The pass was thrown, the ball was intercepted. Game over. Kelly came under some scrutiny, but I could not help from laughing. Heck, if Miles pulled that same stunt the media would be trying to publicly execute him.

There is not another coach out there like Miles. He is one of a kind. He does not abide by the rules most coaches go by. I guess that's why with all the hate he seems to constantly get, it makes it that much more satisfying to watch his LSU Tigers beat Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide 24-21 in Tiger Stadium.

I have heard it a million times. Saban will always be better than Miles. Miles is dumber than Saban. Saban will always outsmart Miles. Miles only beat Saban in the past because he had Saban's players.

Yet at the conclusion of the game everyone could see that not only did LSU win, Les Miles and his staff had out coached Nick Saban and his staff. The very thing I, as an LSU fan, was told could never happen happened.

Could it be that Les Miles is smarter than we all give him credit for? Could it be that, much like Keyser Soze from Usual Suspects, the greatest trick Les Miles ever pulled was convincing the world that he was an idiot?

This game was bigger than an SEC showdown, it was bigger than LSU vs. Alabama, it was bigger than Alabama trying to continue it's run for a second straight national championship. This game was beyond all that.

For some this was the moment when the wheels really started to come off the Les Miles's wagon, for others this was the moment when Miles showed he was and could always hang with the best of coaches. This game symbolized the moment when the nation and some of the doubting LSU fans finally saw the reality: LSU has a pretty damn good coach.

Did you realize that Les Miles has won nearly 80% of his games at LSU, which plays in the toughest conference in college football? And that against Nick Saban and Urban Meyer (arguably two of the best coaches in college football), Miles has record of 5-5?

I have often wondered how much different the public perception of Les Miles would have been had Terrence Toliver dropped that 4th and 26 pass against Ole Miss last year. If Toliver drops that pass, there is no clock management fiasco that ensued in the closing moments of that game.

Les Miles is an emotional coach, which means he has an emotional team. In recent years his teams have been motivated in big games, but at the same time they have made mental errors because of their high emotions. We, as fans, have grown use to that. The Tigers will be pumped to play, but do not be surprised if they get a few false starts or silly turnovers. On Saturday that notion that LSU could not play four quarters of good football was buried. (Okay, I understand it was really the 3rd and 4th quarter. Just bare with me.)

Overall, the thing that recedes more than anything after LSU's win over Alabama is the uniqueness behind Les Miles and his style of coaching. This element of him was lost in the shuffle the past two seasons. In 2007 Miles's gambling tendencies were at center stage. Prior to this season I had hoped Miles would go back to his gambling ways because it was what made 2007 so special, it was what made Miles, Miles. As this season has shown the Mad Hatter is back.

Some coaches are known for their defense, others are known for their offense, Les Miles is known for his close-game, unconventional play calling. I have come to realize that this is what makes Les Miles so extraordinary and so dangerous. Unlike any coach out there the "normal" call never appeals to him. On 4th and 1 against Alabama (much like the fake field goal against Florida) we were all convinced we knew what Miles was going to do. LSU was going to give it to their running back Stevan Ridley and hopefully number 34 could muster one yard.

But that is the problem. Once you think you have Miles figured out, once you feel like you have his team on the ropes and you know what they are going to run, he pulls a rabbit out of the hat. He does what he does best and runs the unconventional.

Jordan Jefferson hiked the ball and pitched it to Stevan Ridley who then pitched it to DeAngelo Peterson on a reverse. And poof! once again he had done it. Fans were stunned. The Alabama defense was stunned and best of all Nick Saban was stunned. There was still lots of time left in the game (I was not satisfied until the clock read :00), but that play was very symbolic for the game and for Les Miles.

Here was LSU going against Alabama and Nick Saban. It was midway through the 4th quarter and LSU trailed 14-13. On 4th and 1, like he has done countless times before, Les Miles fooled his opposition as DeAngelo Peterson blew by the Alabama defenders and Les Miles's doubters.

Geaux Tigers!

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