As Bo Wallace’s last angry, desperate heave into the endzone fell into the arms of LSU safety Ronald Martin’s arms, LSU Coach Les Miles calmly looked skyward with a last acknowledgement to his mother Martha who passed away friday night just before the biggest game of the year so far in the SEC West.
This wild, instant classic 10-7 win, in front of the largest crowd in LSU history looks to be his commencement. A nostalgic flashback of the way life was in college football before the spread offenses and no huddle teams and coaches entered the SEC.
Les Miles has notched 102 wins as the LSU head coach and only losing 26 games since 2005. Early on, he was bolstered from the recruiting prowess of Nick Saban who left LSU in great shape for the next man and Miles kept LSU playing at the high level Saban had built in the program.
LSU was always a top program but they haven’t won a national championship in 45 years before Nick Saban came to town and won it all in 2003. It’s always hard to be the man to follow “the man,” but Miles kept winning and won his own national title in 2007.
It hasn’t been easy to satisfy a rabid fanbase like LSU’s but Miles has kept one step ahead of the firing squad. He followed up his 2007 national title with a eight win season in 2008 but won nine the next year, 11 in 2010 and was back in the national title game in 2011.
The last two years he has had double digit wins but in 2014 he is sitting at 7-2 and 3-2 in the SEC and Alabama still looming on the schedule. His only two losses, and they were big losses, were to the read option offenses of Mississippi State and Auburn.
The emotion displayed by his players on Saturday in response to his mothers passing allowed him one last reprive on his own programs demise which has been caused because of his recruiting prowess.
Les Miles has recruited too well. So well in fact that the last two years he lost 18 juniors to the NFL draft, add to that 57 seniors that moved on and this team’s roster has been decimated.
The 2014 roster has 14 seniors total, they are starting a true freshman at running back, wide receiver and a sophomore at QB. Granted they are all still very talented but this is a team game and the entire team of LSU is a shadow of what they once were.
In the two losses to MSU and Auburn, Miles’ Tigers looked lost and confused. The defensive line was porus, giving up over 500 yards total offense in each game, and an average of over 300 of those were rushing yards in each game.
The writing is on the wall for Les Miles but never count “The Hat” out. The coach known for making incredible ridiculous calls that go his way (for the most part) was the calm and calculated one saturday night.
Last friday night, Coach Miles was actually at the hospital with his son Ben who had broken his ankle during his high school game when he got the call that his mother Martha had passed away at the age of 91.
Faced with the mortal realities of life and death, it is easy to put football in its proper perspective, even when facing the no. 3 team in the nation and hosting ESPN’s College Gameday.
Miles was quoted, “I spent time today thinking about the way that I need to tell them that when they see me on the sideline, it has not to do with who’s passed and what’s going on,” Miles said. “It has only to do that I’m looking for every opportunity and advantage for us to win, and they need to see me as an aggressive man.”
A focused young LSU defense held Ole Miss to 313 yards and only 7 points, a team that normally averages nearly 450 yards and they cut the potent Ole Miss passing attack in half, only allowing 176 yards the one early score.
Tight end Logan Stokes added, “We played for him tonight. We absolutely played for him. For a guy that cares about us like that — I mean, your mother just passed away. I know if my mother passed away, I know how I would be feeling, so I can only imagine how he feels. But for us to go out there and get that win for him tonight, there’s no greater feeling. Yeah, I scored the game-winning touchdown. That’s a great feeling. But the fact that we won for Coach Les Miles is unreal.”
The team won for Les Miles. They played beyond their abilities and maturity, for one game, for their leader, in what may be the last major win for Les Miles as a dying breed of SEC coaches.