• LSUBEAT.com • Schedules • Depth Chart • Recruits • LSU in NFL • LSU Gear

Monday, September 14, 2009

Miles Never Really Was a Gambler

BATON ROUGE - LSU coach Les Miles faced a pair of fourth and ones in the Tigers 23-9 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday, and each time he opted for short field goals. On a first-and-goal from the Vandy 5-yard line with six seconds to go, he elected to go for the field goal and not try a quick play for the touchdown and still kick the field goal.

Miles has had the reputation of a swashbuckling, riverboat gambler coach since he went for it on fourth down five times and made it five times for a 28-24 victory over defending national champion Florida in one of the greatest games in LSU history back in 2007.

Miles' already blossoming coaching reputation soared nationally after that game that was nationally televised on CBS. Just two weeks before, Miles beat South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier at his own game when he faked a field goal and scored a touchdown late in the second quarter for a 21-7 lead. He basically decided to win the game right there and did, as the Tigers held on for a 28-16 victory. Miles' legend grew taller with the last-second win on a touchdown pass over Auburn when a field goal would have been enough, but that was more clock mismanagement than game boldness. Most coaches in that situation try the end zone once, then kick the field goal. Miles' process was way off as he crazily let too much clock run out and was fortunate that the result went in his favor.

But the fourth downs against Florida were the stuff of legend. Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux kept it on fourth and goal from the 1 and scored.

Trailing 17-7 in the third quarter, Miles went for it on fourth-and-5 from the Gators' 25, and starting quarterback Matt Flynn rushed for 8 yards. LSU later scored to get within 17-14.
Down 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, Miles faced a fourth-and-3 from the Florida 19. He opted for a field goal, but Colt David missed it. There would be no more kicking.

On fourth-and-3 from the Florida 4, Flynn found Demetrius Byrd for a touchdown to cut the Gators' lead to 24-21 with 10:15 to go. Then on fourth-and-1 from the LSU 49 and on fourth-and-1 from the Florida 7, a pair of two-yard runs by Jacob Hester kept the drive alive. LSU scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:09 to for a 28-24 lead and held on.

Miles showed a lot of guts, but people did not realize at the time that what he really showed was more brains than brawn. Miles went into the game figuring he would go for it on fourth-and-very short plays, which is what he did three times, because Florida had a weak defense and LSU had one of its best offensive lines. The Gators finished seventh in the SEC and 41st nationally in total defense that season. LSU finished second in the SEC in rushing and 11th nationally.

On the fourth-and-5 and fourth-and-5 conversions via the pass, Miles was facing 10-point deficits and feared Florida's lead would get out of hand. Also, the Gators finished last in the SEC in 2007 in pass defense and 98th nationally.

Miles took calculated risks. In virtually every fourth-and-short situation since that game Miles has NOT gone for it. The Vanderbilt game was just another example. Miles is really not a gambler.

"They say he's a gambler and all that stuff," fifth-year senior offensive tackle Ciron Black said before this season when asked what is the greatest misconceptions about his coach. "I don't think so. I don't think so, because we work on everything. He just doesn't take crazy risks. Everything we do in games, we work at it in practice every single day. And every time before the game, he tells us, 'Everything we worked on, we're going to do them. We're not going to practice them and not do them.' People say he gambles a lot, but I don't think so."

What Miles does a lot is make smart decisions. When you play a team like Florida and you are behind, you may have to take a calculated risk here and there. When you play Vanderbilt and you're never behind and never really close to losing, you don't.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right - they are calculated risks. My favorites, besides the 4th down conversions against FL in '07, were the very first 4th down Miles had at LSU -- on their own 10 yard line at ASU in '05, when Chris Jackson completed a pass to Ronnie Prude. And another is the TD run by Colt David after a flip over the shoulder by Matt Flynn in FG formation. I loved the look on Spurrier's face!!

4:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home