But when a question popped up late Saturday night about Tigers punter Brad Wing after a 47-21 triumph at West Virginia, Miles just couldn’t seem to wrap his mind around the performance the redshirt freshman had just delivered.
“We ask him to punt it and he banged it,” Miles said with a smile. “He just kicked it.”
Yeah, Wing kicked it all right. To the point where you began to wonder if might kick the air right out of the ball.
The Australian-born Tiger got six chances to put his foot on the ball and uncorked six punts for a 48.7-yard average. More importantly all six of his kicks pinned the Mountaineers in the shadow of their end zone.
WVU’s drives after Wing punts began from the 3-yard-line, 4, 5, 11, 8, 10 – or an average starting field position of just inside the 7. The Mountaineers scored after only one of those drives.
None of Wing’s six punts were returned.
“Wing was amazing, man,” safety Brandon Taylor said. “He put us in great position all night long.”
Morris Claiborne’s night certainly ended well when he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a tide-turning touchdown in the third quarter.
At halftime, though, the junior cornerback wasn’t happy with himself.
A personal foul flag supplied WVU with a cheap first down, although the series ended with a fumble.
Then on the Mountaineers’ best drive of the opening 30 minutes, Claiborne struggled on a handful of open-field tackles and completely whiffed on one that allowed Stedman Bailey to wiggle free for a 20-yard touchdown.
“The first half, I mean, I knew I was stinking up the place,” Claiborne said.
Added Miles “Mo self-characterized his first half as terrible. But he said ‘I knew that I’d come back, and that’s maybe the mark of our team.”
Claiborne’s recovery was certainly a nice turnaround – “That return was right on time,” Miles said of the jolt that padded a precarious 27-21 lead to 34-21.
But the problems tackling the Mountaineers’ shifty receivers added up to 463 passing yards for Geno Smith, a large chunk of that on yards-after-catch.
“Our tackling wasn’t good at all (Saturday),” Claiborne said. “We have to go back to the drawing board and get that down.”
Missed chances, too many chances
It wasn’t just Claiborne who wrestled with missed tackles.
Taylor is one of LSU’s surest tacklers and he broke down a handful of times and also missed a few chances for interceptions, one of several potential game-changing turnovers the Tigers came up empty on.
Taylor did come down with a deflected pass and Tyrann Mathieu’s pick right before halftime was massive.
But as many times as WVU put the ball up, there were several other opportunities for thefts. As a result of LSU not forcing more takeaways, the Mountaineers were able to fuel their confidence.
Smith and his receivers – Bailey and Tavon Austin in particular – gouged the Tigers for four plays of 20 yards or longer. The most damaging were an inside reverse shovel pass to Austin on the Mountaineers’ first snap of the second half that gobbled up 38 yards and a 72-yard bomb on a simple post pattern to Austin that ignited a 90-yard touchdown drive that closed the gap to 27-21.
“We’ve got to learn to eliminate the big plays,” Taylor said. “We came out of halftime a little relaxed and gave up a big speed play and we can’t do that anymore.
“We were in spots to make plays. We left too many interceptions out there on the field and let them do too much with the ball after they caught it. We kept them in the game.”
Tricks gone bad
LSU flirted with a couple of trick plays, but neither one worked.
Tailback Spencer Ware was in position to throw a halfback pass on a first-down play late in the third quarter, but he pulled the ball down and ran instead for a 1-yard loss.
“I could’ve thrown it and probably completed it if I would’ve thrown it in there really tight,” said Ware, a high school quarterback at Princeton High in Cincinnati. “The corner peeped it out really late and got a read on it, so I just decided to run and get whatever I could.”
DeAngelo Peterson wasn’t as fortunate.
On the Tigers’ first possession of the fourth quarter, with a drive moving nicely, Peterson got a pitch on an end-around – the same play he ran against Alabama last season – and was stuffed for an 8-yard loss.
Another spate of offensive line injuries created more shuffling up front.
And just like the first three weeks of the season, the Tigers’ offense didn’t miss a beat.
Greg Shaw started at left tackle for Chris Faulk, who suffered an ankle injury at Mississippi State. Shaw finished the game at right tackle when Alex Hurst left with concussion symptoms, and Faulk took over on the left side.
“There’s some veteran guys there, some guys who understand what we’re doing,” Miles said.
“No one lost poise or the feel of the game.”
Kicking it deep
Freshman James Hairston made his debut impressively, handling all eight kickoffs.
Hairston averaged 66.4 yards per kick, sent two out of the end zone and dropped another one just inside the end zone that was returned.
“If he continues kicking it like that he’ll keep (the job),” Miles said matter-of-factly.
Moving the chains
The Mountaineers’ 533 total yards were the most by an opponent since Arizona State rolled up 560 in the 2005 season opener. ASU quarterback Sam Keller passed for 461 that night in the desert. … Ware’s 23 carries marked the third time in four games this season he has toted the ball 22 times or more this season. Michael Ford got the ball 12 times, his fourth game with at least that many attempts. … For has also scored two touchdowns in three of four games and leads LSU with six scores. … Despite missed tackles, the secondary again led the way in tackles as Eric Reid logged seven, Tharold Simon had six and Mathieu had six.