ENGSTER: Miles enjoyed impressive debut

The LSU triumph over Arizona State to start the 2005 campaign is the most impressive opening act by an LSU football coach since Mike Archer's crew scored a 17-3 victory at Texas A&M in 1987. The Tigers that year posted a 10-1-1 mark, and the Aggies finished at 10-2, including a 35-10 pounding of Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.

Eighteen years have passed since Archer succeeded Bill Arnsparger on the sidelines at Tiger Stadium. Arnsparger, like Nick Saban, departed Bayou Country for the Sunshine State, becoming the Florida athletic director. Archer's four-year tenure at TigerTown was slightly better than Les Miles four-year record at Oklahoma State. The Bengals went 27-18-1 under Archer from 1987-1990. Miles logged a 28-21 mark in his stint at Stillwater.

Other notes:

When Dan Marino was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame this summer, he reigned as the most prolific passer in NFL history. The Dolphins legend was the fifth quarterback taken in the 1983 draft. Marino was chosen on pick 27 behind John Elway (1), Jim Kelly (14), Tony Eason (15) and Ken O'Brien (24). Notably, none of the first round quarterbacking class of 1983 was in the same league with LSU's Alan Risher as a collegian in the 1982 season. Risher was the second-ranked passer in the land that year. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,834 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading LSU to the Orange Bowl.

The quarterback coach for Risher in '82 was University of Texas boss Mack Brown. The nomadic Brown survived 1-10 seasons three times in his career and at age 55 has posted 159 career wins. Brown was 4-0 against Les Miles as his Longhorns outscored the Cowboys 173-83.

This week's LSU foe, Tennessee, provided a crucial turning point in the '82 campaign. LSU opened with three resounding wins and was coming off a 24-13 victory at third-ranked Florida when Jerry Stovall's unit hosted the Volunteers in game four at Tiger Stadium. The Vols and Tigers fought to a 24-24 tie, highlighted by a Willie Gault touchdown gallop on a kick-off return. As Gault galloped past Stovall on the sidelines, the LSU boss said the Tennessee speedster said, "Beep, beep."

LSU has not had a touchdown return on a kickoff since Eric Martin went the distance on Oct. 17, 1981 vs. Kentucky.

Tennessee has played spoiler in other LSU seasons. The Vols snapped LSU's 18-game winning streak in 1959 in a 14-13 decision at Knoxville. In 1964, LSU was 4-0 and settled for a 3-3 tie with Tennessee in Baton Rouge.

Nick Saban will return to Death Valley as a very rich man on Oct. 30, one day before his 54th birthday. His Dolphins face the Saints at Tiger Stadium. Saban should take Joe Dean to dinner. It was Dean who made Saban a millionaire by taking a chance on a coach with a spotty record at Michigan State. Saban received a $6 million deal to move to Baton Rouge despite a four-year record of porous defenses at East Lansing.

Here are some Saban defeats that Dean and LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert overlooked when they paid him the big bucks in 2000.

1995

Nebraska 50 Michigan State 10

Wisconsin 45 Michigan State 14

LSU 45 Michigan State 26

1996

Nebraska 55 Michigan State 14

Michigan 45 Michigan State 29

Stanford 38 Michigan State 0

1997

Washington 51 Michigan State 23

1998

Oregon 48 Michigan State 14

Penn State 51 Michigan State 28

1999

Purdue 52 Michigan State 28

Wisconsin 40 Michigan State 10

Saban has made all the right moves in his career, and his LSU record of 45-9 will be recalled when his college past is assessed. The man can coach, but the fact that Dean and Emmert bet the house on him when his teams surrendered 45 or more points nine times in five years at Michigan State, shows how desperate LSU was at the time to find a name coach.

LSU allowed only Florida in 1996 to score 45 or more points during the same time offenses were running wild against Saban's Spartans. In 18 years as LSU coach, Charles McClendon never had a team give up 40 points in a game. His most humiliating defeat came in 1975 when Texas A&M pummeled the Tigers 39-8.

Paul Dietzel is an example of a mentor who made all the wrong moves in his career. His last four years at LSU featured a 36-7-1 record, a national title, two Top Three finishes, a pair of SEC titles and a Heisman Trophy winner in Billy Cannon. Dietzel opted to move to Army in 1962 just as the Vietnam War was cranking up.

The reality is that Dietzel rebuilt the program at West Point in four years. Tom Cahill went 16-4 in the two years after Dietzel's departure at Army. Tall Paul took over a putrid program at South Carolina, going 1-9 in his debut in '66. By the time he left Columbia, the Gamecocks enjoyed back to back winning seasons under his successor, Jim Carlen.

Steve Spurrier is learning at age 60 how difficult it is to win at South Carolina. If he had waited a few weeks longer to return to the college game, Spurrier might be coaching at LSU, the school that snubbed him in December of 1986. Instead, Les Miles has inherited an impressive stable of athletes from Saban and has a chance to make folks forget about his predecessor if LSU wins Saturday night.

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Jim Engster is the station manager for WRKF-FM in Baton Rouge and the host of "The Jim Engster Show." Contact him by e-mail at jim@wrkf.org.

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