Postmortem: Miles reflects on BCS loss

LSU coach had remained mum since the title game, but broke that silence on Tuesday afternoon during a meeting with the local media.

It took eight days, but LSU coach Les Miles took a shot at clearing the air Tuesday.

With a room full of media, Miles addressed the Tigers' 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9, ending with his view of the current state of the program, a necessary address considering the aftermath that defined the last week.

"I have to tell you that beyond the last game there's been a lot of heartache on our team," were the first words out of Miles' mouth.

After fans spent a week demanding answers through radio and internet outlets, Miles – in a way the seventh-year head coach has become so well known, and widely respected, for – stepped up to the podium and took a bullet.

There was nobody thrown under the bus; no player or coach singled out for poor performance.

Instead, after falling flat on his face in arguably the biggest game since taking the Tigers to the 2007 BCS crown, Miles, speaking on behalf of his staff, stepped up and shouldered blame for mismanaging the offense – from the game plan to the quarterback.

"I don't think there's a way to separate the coaches on this team and the players," Miles said. "We are painted by the same brush, and certainly the coaching staff takes every discredit for our play on that Monday night."

Miles debunked rumors of a pre-game or post-game scuffle inside the LSU locker room – which shot to the top of the rumor mill chart shortly after game's end.

"There's never been any issues prior to any games," Miles said. "If I'm a player that didn't play in that game, I'd be sick, because you had the feel and the want to make a difference.

"But I have to be very honest with you; there has never been any player-coach interaction that was negative, in my mind, really before or after the game."

He also shot down the notion that that backup quarterback Jarrett Lee was academically ineligible, or that Lee's failure to graduate cost the Tigers a scholarship that could have gone to an early-enrollee.

Miles said Lee graduated after completing a course during the intersession period in between the fall and spring semester. An LSU spokesman later adjusted the information, saying Lee finished his coursework before the game on Jan. 9.

Even though he confirmed that Lee was eligible and available, Miles – just as he had stuck with starter Jordan Jefferson that Monday night in the Superdome – stood firm in his reasoning to leave Lee on the sidelines for all four quarters.

"The way the pass rush was going in that game, we just felt like we needed a mobile quarterback to make a play like that," Miles said. "Understand, that if you finish one drive – just one drive – and you score seven, it's a completely different game, right from the start to the finish."

Of course, Jefferson didn't finish any drives for points, wrapping up his career as a Tiger with an 11-of-17 night passing night for 53 yards and an interception.

Eight restless nights later, Miles, like most Tiger fans, is still putting thought to what would have been had he turned to Lee before water rushed in and sunk the ship.

"I can tell you that I do think about our ability to change quarterbacks," Miles said. "That was a question that I had, and I brought it to my staff.

"I can tell you that Jarrett Lee did come to mind. We do have confidence in Jarrett, we just felt like we needed that guy who might be able to get loose with his feet."

Lee, who had been phased out of the offense completely after a two-interception performance against Alabama on Nov. 7, may not have won the Tigers a third crystal ball.

It's possible he might have even put the Tigers in a worse position.

Regardless, if Miles could channel his inner Marty McFly, he'd do things differently.

"If I could snap my finger and be back in that position, and I knew how it was going to go – without question," Miles said when asked if he would have played Lee. "I made the call that we felt as a staff was the best for us to win.

"It has nothing to do with personal slight. I'd have to be very honest with you to say that I admired how (Lee) handled his career here, and I wish him the very best as he goes forward."

Perhaps the biggest concern, yes, bigger than the quarterback debate, was the offensive game plan – a lack of creativity put to paper that proved ineffective for four quarters.

Miles didn't blame offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa for a poorly managed game, though armchair offensive coordinators at home will say even the untrained eye could tell there was something off about a philosophy that equated to 92 yards of production and an offensive unit that crossed midfield only once.

Instead, Miles credited Alabama for keeping the Tigers from executing.

"Had we executed, I think we were in position to win that game, but when you play a very quality defense, it became very hard to execute," he said. "When you couple that with a mistake here or there, again, it put them in a position where they had some advantages.

"There were a number of uncharacteristic mistakes by our guys. We ended up in some 1st-and-15s that we didn't need to. There were some snaps that hit the ground. Some guys that have made big plays throughout the year made some mistakes."

Miles then shouldered the blame for the poor play calls, particularly when the Tigers were forced to move away from the game plan after being backed up behind the chains.

"I'm really good at making all the first-and-10 calls," he said. "Those third down-and-long calls – those are a little bit more dicey."

With the game in the rearview mirror, Miles isn't asking his players, or fans for that matter, to look beyond the letdown that was billed as the Rematch of the Century.

Like most Tiger fans, Miles isn't satisfied.

"There are a lot of teams in this country that would say ‘We'll take 13-1 right now, we'll win our conference and our division' – except me," he said. "We want to win the last game, it's something we've always wanted to do here, really whatever last game we were in."

By the same token, Miles is smiling about the future.

From the confidence in his tone when speaking about sophomore quarterback Zach Mettenberger – "I think there will be a fun approach, there will be a different view of our quarterback position now" – to Miles' view of the 2012 team as a whole – "We return a team in my mind that will have just as much talent and be just as capable as any that we've had" – there is a sense that brighter days are ahead.

The sun, each morning, will keep shining on Tiger Stadium.

"I have to be very honest to tell you that I cannot bemoan this team's success, and by any measure, this is a great year," Miles said.

"We hang two banners in this building. The fundamentals of this program are to win championships, and this team is a championship team. The opportunity to come in here and play for championships, get your degree and, in my mind, enjoy very much that endeavor here at LSU, that's never changed."

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