If you listen to most reports today coming out of Baton Rouge, you will hear that the LSU team played their hearts out, but their bozo coach Les Miles gambled the game away. We’re told that bad decision making and unnecessary risks sunk the LSU team.
I disagree. Les Miles deserves praise, not criticism, for his performance Saturday night.
The fake field goal in the first half on 4th and 12 was a bonehead call. It was too early in the game, Alabama is too disciplined and gaining 12 yards for the first down is quite difficult against the speedy Alabama defense. Les would like that one back.
The onside kick attempt. Going for it on 4th down late in the game and deep in Alabama territory. Neither worked out, but they were great calls. First, the onside kick was very well timed. Had the ball not kicked back on a weird hop, LSU would likely have recovered it. Second, while many criticize putting Spencer Ware in under center on the 4th down attempt with 3:10 remaining, this too was a good call. The LSU defense was dominating the second half, and Miles went for it to put the game out of reach. While he could have had the three points on a potential field goal (no guarantee they would have made the field goal), the failed attempt didn’t hurt them as Alabama subsequently went three-and-out.
The important thing here isn’t to dissect every play. You can do that in any game. Certainly in a high profile game that goes down to the wire, there are plays that were not the correct call. If you’re willing to be objective, Alabama also made plenty of bad calls. The zone blitzing on defense was terribly ineffective against LSU’s offense, and the Alabama offense getting away from the run game in the second half resulted in too many three-and-outs.
The risky play calls by Les Miles were risky, yes, but they were evidence of a larger game plan. That game plan was to throw everything at Alabama. It almost worked. In one sense, it did work. AJ McCarron thwarted that success by driving 70+ yards with a minute and a half left at night at Tiger Stadium.
While LSU won the game against Alabama in November of 2011, Alabama outplayed the LSU Tigers in both the regular season game and the BCS Championship. The LSU offense was abysmal in both games. 17 pass attempts in each game. Terrible third down conversion percentages. Les Miles knew going into this game, to win it, they would need a different game plan.
The attitude of Miles to throw everything at Alabama was evident from the beginning. LSU was playing loose. They were going no huddle on offense. Amazingly, Zach Mettenberger was playing loose and confident. It seems that the confidence that the LSU coaching staff had in Mett to throw on first downs early in the game helped lead to the best game of his career on a night when the entire country was watching. This was not the same Mett we’ve seen in 2012. Against inferior teams, Mett looked shaky at best as the LSU quarterback. Mett deserves credit for his outstanding play against Alabama, but his coaches deserve just as much credit for the quarterback play.
Going into the game, the reason cited most frequently for an Alabama win was their edge at quarterback. LSU ended up having the edge at quarterback, and this doesn’t just happen. Les Miles, the coaching staff and their approach to this game should be given credit.
Les Miles is very different than Nick Saban. He makes calls that Saban wouldn’t, but his style works for LSU. His team knew going into the game that they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. They would play loose and aggressively. They were going to throw the ball on first down. They were going to go for the big plays whether it was an onside kick or a 4th down conversion. They would trust their defense and the home crowd to bail them out when it backfired. Regardless, they were going to leave nothing on the table.
Can you criticize the call such as going for the fake field goal? Of course. But you can’t have it both ways. He’s called The Hat for a reason. We know his style of coaching. You can’t call him ballsy when it works and idiotic when it doesn’t. He’s just Les, and Les is a huge reason for why LSU is one of the elite programs in the country every year. He’s the main reason why LSU had the most impressive regular seasons I can remember in 2011. He’s the main reason why LSU almost knocked off the best team in the country last night on national television.
Coaching is far more than just play calling. More than anything, in a game like this, it is getting your team mentally prepared to play the game.
This team takes its cue from their head coach. Last night, their coach made it clear that they were going to try to win the game. Not just try not to lose. It was the right strategy. As Paul Finebaum tweeted during the game, my hat is off to The Hat.
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE