BATON ROUGE – As many delusional and flat strange comments LSU coach Les Miles made at halftime and in the days that followed his team’s 16-14, upset loss to Wisconsin last week, he nailed one answer. To a poorly placed question on the Southeastern Conference teleconference Wednesday about winning stylishly to impress the playoff selection committee, Miles said, “Frankly, we’ll have an opportunity to impress committees later.”
In other words, the No. 22 Tigers (0-1) need to just win a game after their first season opening loss since 2002 last week. LSU hosts Jacksonville State (0-1, No. 5 in the second tier FCS poll) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium on ESPNU.
“What we need to do is just execute the play that’s called and do so in a manner that we’re used to,” he said. “First of all, let’s secure victory and get a win and enjoy our day.”
Miles, firmly on the hot seat again after narrowly escaping a firing last November, has likely not enjoyed a single day this week. Outside of his radio show, he said he has not heard much from fans because he has been going into work earlier and staying later. But he does know what has been happening “on the perimeter,” as he calls it.
“There’s a lot that can be said about a lot of things, and there are a lot of observations,” he said. “And I’m certainly aware of what’s going on and what’s being said, etcetera.”
Miles has been the laughingstock of the college football world, particularly after saying at halftime of the Wisconsin game while trailing 6-0 with quarterback Brandon Harris 2-of-6 passing for 26 yards with an interception that LSU was “throwing the ball well.”
Then he took up for right guard Josh Boutte despite an obvious flagrant personal foul penalty at the end of the game that got Boutte suspended for Saturday’s game. On Wednesday, Miles was asked on his weekly radio show about changing his offense for the umpteenth time and made an amazing statement:
“We’d like to see more spread sets, but we’re awfully productive in traditional sets.”
LSU finished 105th in the nation in pass offense last season and 11th in the SEC with 180 yards a game. They were worse than that in 2014. So far this season, LSU is No. 113 in the nation in total offense with 257 yards a game. That’s not “awfully productive.” It’s just awful.
LSU’s players were able to put the opening loss and the discussion of it out of their system much quicker than Miles, who had media duties.
“Once we stepped on the practice field Monday, we were done with it,” center Ethan Pocic said. “We want to get on the field now and try to play for a win because it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you lose. We feel like we’re a championship team. We have the players to do it. We just need to do it. We just need to play like it.”
LSU’s offensive line, for one, needs to gain clarity on its blocking assignments and block better. Sophomore Maea Teuhema, the starting left guard last season, is expected to replace Boutte at right guard.
“We all just need to get on the same page. I hate to keep saying it, but we’ve got to execute better,” Pocic said.
“We’ve got to move on,” defensive end Arden Key said. “We’re going to prove each and every day by taking these games day by day and taking each practice day by day and get better day by day.”
Fullback John David Moore said the Tigers made progress on the Monday after the game.
“After a great practice and a series of meetings where we owned the mistakes that we made and acknowledged the fact that we didn’t play to our potential, we’re ready to rally,” he said. “We’re ready to play the rest of this season with an intensity and a sense of urgency that maybe we didn’t have this past week. Maybe it took that loss for us to sort of wake up.”
Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux quickly grew tired of talking about last week as did his coach.
“We’ve just got to win a game,” he said. “All the talk don’t mean nothing. We know what we’ve got to do. We know we’ve got to start Saturday against Jacksonville State. We’ve got to come out firing on offense and stopping them on defense.”
If Harris does not play better, Miles reluctantly said there may be a chance that he will play backup quarterback Danny Etling.
“Hopefully, it’ll not have to be done for the necessity of victory,” he said.
Wide receiver Travin Dural said he and the other receivers need to help Harris, who did throw accurately twice to wide receiver Malachi Dupre, who dropped both.
“We have to get more open for him,” Dural said. “It’s not all on him. We need to fix the things we need to fix and showcase it on Saturday. Last week is something we can’t control any more. We need to start our season now.”
(© 2016 WWL)