Since Les Miles landed at LSU, we have been impressed.
In his first year, Miles navigated the Tigers to a ten-win regular season amidst a tragic post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana, and put such a thumping on Miami in the Peach Bowl, it sent the perennial champion into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover.
He has won a National Championship, every bowl game he's played in purple & gold, recruited top ten signing classes each year, sent many of those to the NFL, hired and retained quality coaches, and represented his school with grace.
However, his in-game time management skills have been, at best, puzzling.
These gaffes have been much chronicled. Going back to his first season, first game (ASU Sun Devils in Tempe, Arizona), The Hat has displayed a propensity for baffling end of half/game strategies. Usually, his talented players bail him out, as JaMarcus Russell did that hot desert night on a fourth down TD pass to Early Doucet. Or Matt Flynn on the TD pass to Demetrius Byrd against Auburn in the "One Second Catch" game.
But those are just two of the many curious plays, many of which have flown either under the radar, or again, Miles was saved by the considerable athletic ability of his players.
This Saturday night in Oxford, that luck came to a crashing end.
Usually, it's impossible to blame a single player, play or coach for a loss. For example, prior to his late game heroics Saturday, LSU's WR Brandon LaFell – himself bound for the NFL – dropped more than five passes, several for first downs and one for a TD.
Yet some exceptionally poor coaching in the final 25 seconds cost LSU its rivalry game against the Rebels.
If you're reading this, you likely already know the details. Needing a FG to win the game, LSU found itself with third and 19 on the Ole Miss 41 yard line, with only 32 seconds remaining. Ole Miss sniffed out a screen pass and tackled LSU's Stevan Ridley for a seven yard loss, forcing a fourth down and New Orleans to go.
LSU had one time out remaining, yet for some reason its coaches inexplicably allowed 16 seconds to slip off the clock before calling it. Leaving the Tigers with just nine seconds, facing fourth and 22.
Even IF LSU was fortunate enough to get the first down, it might not have enough time to run another play. Yet get the first down LSU would, on a Hail Mary pass caught by LSU's Terrance Tolliver at the Ole Miss six yard line.
With one second remaining.
Fortunately for LSU, following the time out and thus with ample time to prepare, its FG unit was standing ready on the sideline, and raced onto the field to win the game.
However, that was not to be. The Tigers, looking terribly disjointed, instead found its sophomore QB Jordan Jefferson looking back frantically at the sideline for instructions, snapping and then spiking the ball. As time expired.
Ole Miss 25. LSU 23.
It's immaterial whether one chooses to blame the coaching staff for (i) not calling the last time out sooner, (ii) not having the Field Goal team ready, or (iii) not having coached Jefferson to throw for the end zone were there just a second remaining. All three mistakes fall on the shoulders of the LSU coaching staff, and there the buck stops with Les Miles.
To whom this loss squarely belongs.
Mitchell Blog: Hang this L on The Hat
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