Miles talks Arizona, affects of rule changes

LSU coach Les Miles met with the media Monday in his weekly media luncheon. Two days after the Tigers opened the 2006 season with 45-3 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, the Tigers focus shifts to the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats (1-0) opened the regular season with a 16-13 win over the BYU Cougars Saturday night in Tucson.

Kicker Nick Folk booted a 48-yard field goal with four seconds left giving coach Mike Stoops' team the three-point victory.


The Tigers (1-0) will play a team from the Pac-10 for the fourth time in as many years. LSU played these same Wildcats in 2003 and won in a rout 59-13. LSU opened the 2004 season winning a 22-21 squeaker over Oregon State. A year ago, the Tigers traveled to Arizona State a week after Hurricane Katrina and defeated the Sun Devils 35-31 on a last-minute pass from JaMarcus Russell to early Doucet.


Miles said while the Wildcats are unlike any team the Tigers will play this season and will require extra preparation, the second-year head coach is happy to be playing Arizona.


"You look at Arizona, and they do have talent," Miles said. "There are a quality group of athletes at Arizona. Offensively, they are capable. Defensively, Coach (Mike) Stoops has always been a tremendous defensive coach. He's got that team playing extremely well. They have a great scheme and can bring pressure from anywhere they need to give an offense fits. They change pretty regularly in gameplan."


Arizona went 3-8 last season, but registered a 55-14 win over nationally-ranked UCLA late in the season. Miles said he isn't quite sure what to expect from the Wildcats.


"You're really not going to know exactly what you are going to get until Saturday," Miles said. "We expect that they will be geared up and play their best. They are very talented, and I look forward to seeing Coach Stoops and the Arizona team come into our stadium."


The Wildcats are led by quarterback Willie Tuitama, who completed 19 of 39 passes for 186 yards in the win over Brigham Young. Tuitama is surrounded by a quality group of wideouts as Arizona possesses a formidable passing attack.


"Offensively, their quarterback was 19-for-39 with 186 yards, Willie Tuitama," Miles said. "He is very capable of making all of the throws. He can function their offense and does a really good job. I think their tailback is a quality guy. His longest gain was on a broken play where he reverses field and gets 54 yards. It was a 63-yard outing for him but very capable and very talented.


"Their offensive line is tall, lean and very athletic group. Just like our first game, it was their first game. I think they can improve and can see where they can get a lot better. They had two wide receivers that had six catches. This (Syndric) Steptoe is a very fast guy, a big-play receiver. His longest catch was for 48 (yards), which led to one of their scores."


Miles said he and his staff gathered Sunday night and evaluated the film from the ULL game. The staff tabbed JaMarcus Russell as the offensive player of the games. Russell completed 13 of 17 passes for 253 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Jonathan Zenon, who had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, brought home defensive honors while Harry Coleman was recognized as the top special teams player.


"Every Sunday, the coaching staff meets as a group and reviews the game film," Miles said. "We come up with those award winners. JaMarcus Russell was the offensive award winner. He really showed poise and came to play. First game or not, he led his team in good things that we needed to have done and came up with some spectacular plays -- the first touchdown pass on a roll.


"Jonathan Zenon had two interceptions and one for a touchdown. He certainly spearheaded a defense with two big plays. On the defensive side, he is our MVP. Special teams, there were a lot of guys who performed very well.


"It's nice to see some of our young guys go down on kicks or go out and play on our punt team and have success. Harry Coleman was part of two kickoff tackles and four kickoff points. We named Harry Coleman our special teams MVP. I feel like he is a guy who will end up playing a lot of football for us, not only on special teams but defense. It's nice to get him up and running."


Miles also pointed out the strong play of true freshmen Danny McCray and Jacob Cutrera.


"There were some other guys that played well in the opening game," Miles said. "You look at Danny McCray, who is a true freshman, he was the fastest guy down on the kickoffs and had tackle points himself. Jacob Cutrera from Acadiana had four tackle points as well -- all assists -- but he just really played well. He showed what you are supposed to see from those young guys."


From an injury standpoint, the Tigers came out the game unscathed, other than bumps and bruises. Miles also commented that Alley Broussard remains healthy, but did say he intends to stick with Justin Vincent as the Tigers' starter at tailback.


"Alley Broussard came out of the game without any further injury and really was looking to build on that experience that he had at tailback," Miles said. "I really feel like we are in a very similar position as we were in the opener. Justin Vincent and Jacob Hester will certainly be the guys we turn to but would not hesitate to look at Alley Broussard or Charles Scott for that matter. Our tailback spot is maturing and coming."


Miles commented at length about the new rule changes and it affected the flow of the game. He said he went back and looked at the box score of the 2002 clash between the Tigers and the Cajuns. LSU ran 70 plays that game while ULL had 60 snaps. Miles said this season, LSU ran approximately 59 plays while ULL ran 52.


"That is almost 20 snaps, which is a little less than an entire quarter of football," he said. "Those are 20 snaps that we could use to play freshmen. I didn't get a chance to play everyone that I wanted to play in the game because there wasn't enough time."


Miles actually had to use two timeouts in the final minute of the game to ensure that freshman quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and rookie running back Keiland Williams could get at least four snaps.


"I told (ULL) coach (Rickey) Bustle after the game that I hoped he understood that we weren't trying to score again," Miles said. "We were just trying to get them some plays in."


Miles added that with the fewer amount of snaps, game will be lower scoring.


"The defenses will definitely allow fewer points because there are not as many plays," Miles said. "There will be record defensive numbers this season. Good defenses will be made even better with the rule changes."


Miles even joked that he found himself home much earlier on Saturday night than he has in the past. Saturday's game lasted on 2:57.


"I was home almost a full hour earlier than in the past," Miles laughed. "I'll take getting home early every time if they will guarantee me a win each week."

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