MULE': Are the lines of communication open?

If phone lines between Michigan and Louisiana were buzzing last week after the Wolverines were humbled by Appalachian State – and LSU coach Les Miles admitted they were, as some of his embarrassed old buddies and teammates called to commiserate – what must they be now, after Lloyd Carr's team was upset for a second straight time at home?

As the refrain from the broadcast crew from ESPN (the Big Ten's mouthpiece network) went during Saturday night's telecast, if Michigan wants Miles after this season he's a gone pecan at LSU.


Tiger athletic director Skip Bertman isn't so certain. He notes Miles likes it in Louisiana, and he's riding the crest of unparalleled success in Tigertown – 24-4 (84.7 percent) in the beginning stages of his third year, with realistic aspirations of a national title game this season, and more success looming on the horizon, given his extraordinary recruiting success.


Sometimes things like that are hard to walk away from, even for an alum of an attractive courting school.


And there's also the matter of a $1.25 million buyout.


That would seem to be a pittance to a rich program like Michigan, which plays in a 100,000-seat stadium and whose signage on sportswear and paraphernalia – one of the five most popular in all of sports – brings in many more millions. Bertman isn't so sure.


"That's a sum everybody who has to balance the books at a big-time athletic department has to consider," Bertman said. "It's not just a snap of the fingers and then blithely agreeing to pay up."


Still, if things came to that and Bertman had to go hunting for a new coach in December or January, he says he has a plan in place and some interesting names to contact, ranging from the college game to the NFL.


"Remember, I did this just a couple of years ago, and I think I learned a lot about what's out there. I hope I don't have to because Les Miles has been a terrific hire, but I have an idea of what we would do. LSU football will be in good hands no matter what happens."     



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LEFTOVERS: As good as things went for LSU against Virginia Tech – and as bad as they did for the Hokies – that 48-7 score could easily have mounted.


If the Tigers had been able to play on a short field, which many pundits thought was necessary for LSU to pull away, the Tigers might have tacked on another score or two.


As it was, the Tigers had drives of 87, 86, 76, 87 and 94 yards. No one in the press box could remember a game with so many long-distance LSU drives. … Three generations of Finneys covered the Virginia Tech game for three outlets. Famed columnist Peter Finney was at his usual post for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and his son, Peter Finney Jr., covered for the New York Daily News. His son, Jonathan Finney, is a sophomore who covered the game for the Daily Reveille, LSU's student newspaper. … Speaking of the media, Scooter Hobbs of the Lake Charles American-Press extended a personal and on-going streak at the Virginia Tech game. It was the 328th consecutive LSU game he has covered, going back to his days as a student reporter.



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FANNING THE FLAMES: Bud Johnson, who was a young assistant sports information director at LSU almost a half-century ago when the Tigers won the 1958 national championship, chuckles at the criticism of the Tigers' game a week ago at Mississippi State, a 45-0 victory.


"This place is tough on coaches," Johnson reflected Saturday night at the Virginia Tech game of the Tigers' seeming inability to ever please all segments of their fan base, no matter what.


Johnson said he got an early dose of reality when those long-ago Tigers were ranked No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time after beating Ole Miss and then had to play a solid Duke team that outweighed LSU 14 pounds to-the-man in the line. Duke outgained the Tigers 353 yards to 285 and out-first downed the Tigers 24-11.


Still, LSU was able to beat the Blue Devils with defense and a kicking game. Taking advantage of five lost fumbles, a blocked punt, and a positive field position battle, LSU won 50-18 – its highest point total of 1958, and the most lopsided Duke defeat since the legendary Army tandem of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis beat the Devils 48-13 in 1945.


Leaving the stadium press box that night, Johnson said he walked past a lingering couple just as the wife was saying, "That was really a great game."


"Huh?" said the startled husband. "They didn't run Billy Cannon enough."

Johnson added, "That's about the time I stopped worrying about trying to please the LSU fans."




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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