LSU / Ole Miss: The Judgment

If Les Miles could change the outcome of one play in LSU’s loss to Ole Miss, it might be his Tigers’ onside kick in the final minute. If Dexter McCluster grabs the ball instead of jumping away from it, Leslie would only be facing questions about his team’s performance from late in the second quarter to late in the fourth. Instead, he’s facing very real and justified questions about his competence and even his character.

Without the kick recovery, LSU would not have stood at the Ole Miss 32-yard line (after an excellent screen pass to and run by Brandon LaFell), within range of Josh Jasper with 56 seconds and two timeouts remaining.

Without the kick recovery, Miles and Gary Crowton would not have been able to call the first-down pass play that put LSU (No. 105 nationally in sacks allowed) in a position to be nearly sacked by Ole Miss (No. 25 nationally in sacks). Nor would Miles and Crowton have been able to call another pass play on second down, which did result in a sack, taking the team out of field goal range and forcing the use of its second timeout.

Without the kick recovery, Miles and Crowton would not have been able to put their team in a third and 19 situation with 32 seconds and one timeout left. Nor would Miles and Crowton have been able to call a slow-developing swing pass (to Stevan Ridley, the running back Miles and Crowton weren’t comfortable handing the ball off to) that lost another seven yards and six seconds.

Without the kick recovery, Miles could not have failed to call a timeout (or instruct his players during the previous timeout to do so) for 16 seconds after the third-down play ended, leaving only nine seconds remaining for LSU’s fourth-and-26 play.

Without the kick recovery, we would not know that Miles and his staff were completely unprepared for any outcome of a long pass other than a touchdown, incompletion or interception.

And, most significantly, without the kick recover we would not have seen Miles flat-out lie about his actions following the Hail Mary completion:

There is no other way to put it. Miles lied when he said he was not calling for a spike after the long completion. He lied, and he shifted blame to Jordan Jefferson. The game footage also clearly shows LaFell motioning for a spike after looking to the sideline. Jefferson looks confused but also seems to believe he’s being told to spike it. And he was. Those who blame Jefferson for any of this are very much misguided. He was given no plan, just orders from the sideline after the catch. There was no time to take a snap, anyway.

Update: There is a school of thought that Miles was signaling that Toliver was down after an Ole Miss player came up with the ball. That is a plausible explanation, but there are a couple of problems with that analysis. First, watching the YouTube clip in sync with the CBS telecast, you can see that Miles is still making that motion after the referee has indicated LSU possession. Second, LaFell clearly got the “spike” signal from the sideline and D.J. McCarthy is seen doing it as they get to the line. And finally, the first shot of Miles shows him going back to who I think is special teams coordinator Joe Robinson, saying something and making a kicking motion as the offense lines up for the spike. Clearly he wouldn’t think they would be able to get the kick team out before a spike play is run.

Miles lied about the spike call, and I strongly suspect he’s lying about trying to call a timeout when the previous play ended. Of the timeout situation, Miles said:

“I heard the timeouts being called verbally and I’m repeating it but not getting it to the officials apparently,” Miles said.

Only players and the head coach can call timeouts. So I guess Miles is saying his coaches were telling him to call a timeout; he was calling for a timeout … but the officials didn’t hear him?

If you recall from my award-eligible 2007 video “I’m The Head Coach”, Miles is both not shy about making sure the refs know he’s calling timeouts (even when he shouldn’t) and sometimes clueless about the game situation:

I would really love to see video of what was going on with Miles and the coaches after the third-down play. It’s inexcusable that his players were not instructed during the previous timeout to call another one if the play ends inbounds. It’s unbelievable that Miles would have been unsuccessfully asking for a timeout for 16 seconds. He seems to be claiming that he’s calling for a timeout, but not in a way where the officials can hear it. I can’t believe that’s what happened.

So, because of the kick recovery, we’re left with an ugly reality. Les Miles and his staff are incompetent when it comes to basic game management. Any sort of advanced game strategy (for instance, not trying two pass plays when you’re in range of a winning field goal, your team gives up a ton of sacks and you’re facing a team that gets a lot of sacks) seems way too much to ask from this group.

I’m not surprised by Miles’ incompetence. I’ve been pointing it out since his first game as LSU’s coach and have never been swayed from my opinion that he seems like kind of a dumb guy. But I’m surprised and more than a little concerned that he seems willing to lie about what takes place during his demonstrations of incompetence. That’s a really big deal – gets to a man’s character.

The “fire Les Miles” calls seem to have really come out in force after this debacle. I don’t think he should be fired because of his decisions in the last minute of yesterday’s game. I think it’s fair to question the direction of the program at the end of the season – and next week’s game against Arkansas will be important in that regard. And I think LSU has seen its best days under Les Miles. Because he Forest Gumped his way into a National Championship two years ago, he’s got a lot of padding to absorb questions about his current performance. And I don’t know that I would fire him this year if we lose to Arkansas, lose a bowl game and end up 8-5 again. Even if it’s the right call, it would still seem very reactionary. Unless LSU had a hugely solid guy in mind to succeed him, it probably isn’t the right time.

However, what I think is absolutely in order is an internal investigation of Miles’ statements and documented actions that seem to indicate he’s lying about what went down at the end of the game. Miles’ contract has a “Standards” clause that states the following:

COACH shall perform his duties and personally comport himself at all times in a manner consistent with good sportsmanship and in accordance with the high moral, ethical and academic standards of the Athletic Department and the UNIVERSITY.

And violation of those Standards are cause for termination. I would assume lying about your actions on the job would be a violation of the high moral and ethical standards of the Athletic Department and LSU. I’m not saying Miles should absolutely be fired if it’s determined that he lied about what happened in the Ole Miss game, but I think there’s clearly cause for the university to look into his statements and conflicting evidence of what happened. And if it’s determined that he lied, at least a suspension would be in order.

I’ll be interested to see how all this plays out. I don’t think it can just go away. Miles, I’m sure, will want everybody to focus on the super-awesome new uniforms Nike is putting his team in for the Arkansas game and “finishing strong”. But there’s a really dark cloud over Miles right now.

If only McCluster didn’t jump away from that ball.

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4 Responses to “LSU / Ole Miss: The Judgment”

  1. Nicole says:

    Well said… Any thoughts on Butch Davis as a replacement (whenever that may be)? He was the guy they wanted after Saban and is making some progress at North Carolina now.

    My question is how, as a head coach, can you not know what’s going on with your football team? So even if he isn’t lying, his complete incompetence should be a major issue!

  2. Charles says:

    NOW WE ALL KNOW WHAT WAS CLAIMED – Les Miles did get a national championship with the left over impetus and players of Nick Saban. We all now realize it as was said before. As an Alabama fan, I just hope you keep Les Miles. We like beating him regularly – like every year! For heaven sake don’t go to Boise State and offer Petersen the job. He needs to stay in Idaho and give it at least one claim to fame. After LSU won the national championship, the head of ESPN.com said he would give Les Miles three years – “he’s a bad coach, and folks will finally figure it out at LSU after he has lost some tight games.” Well, its happening. He’ll be gone after next year.

  3. [...] Why wasn’t anyone prepared to kick the field goal after the miracle pass on fourth down? Check out one fans reaction here. He’s laying the blame squarely at the feet of Les Miles. What do you [...]

  4. Texas Tiger #88 says:

    I agree with Capn’Ken and here are some other disturbing notes. This weekend’s game aside, Les is 0-7 in the past two years against the following key SEC foes….Bama 0-2; Fl 0-2; Ole Miss 0-2; and Ark 0-1.

    Heck I take .500 but .000 is not good folks. And it will probably be 0-8 as we focus on our new unis and incoherent explanations.

    And how the heck due you lost three in a row to Houston Nutt. Are kidding me, 0-3 in his last three games against Houston Nutt.

    Auburn 2007, Georgia, 2009 and Ole Miss 2009. Poor clock management, game management and player development (a subject for later discussion after the end of the season).

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