LSU head football coach Les Miles. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 09, 2012 7:26 PM
The last time Les Miles had his weekly LSU news luncheon after a loss, the villain in the whole sordid affair was Auburn’s Cam Newton, who is currently battling the NFL’s dreaded sophomore jinx.
Seeings as how that was almost two full years ago, it’s a pretty impressive streak.
But the change in the interrogation was predictable nonetheless. LSU isn’t supposed to ever lose, so there was a certain tension in the air on Monday.
This affair was to preview this week’s game.
The Tigers will be tangled up in a second consecutive battle of top-10 teams Saturday when South Carolina visits. It will, in fact, be the first time in recorded world history that LSU has played back-to-back regular-season games with both teams ranked in the top 10. And did anybody care to notice that Old Nemisis/Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier will be in Tiger Stadium with his mojo on again, probably cackling and sneering as blatantly as he ever did in his taunting Florida days?
Nobody cared to hear about it.
In that regard, the media isn’t much different than the general fan base when they come to the collective conclusion that their grandmother sits in the top row and can figure out what predictable play is coming next.
All it takes is that annual LSU loss and the whole mood changes.
The entire tone of questioning switches gears, with a steady stream of …
“Have you ever thought about … ?”
“Are you concerned that … ?”
“Has there been any talk about … ?”
“How much input do you have with the … ?”
“Do you sometimes think that maybe … ?”
“Has there been any discussion about possibly shifting … ?”
“The mobile quarterback you have, what are the chances … ?”
You get the drift. This is what happens when suggestions are clumsily disguised as questions with an underlying tone of helpful hint-hints.
All the usual suspects were there — who’s REALLY calling the plays?; the possibility mobile quarterback Rob Bolden, the Penn State transfer, getting a look-see; lack of leadership; spreading out (or tightening up) the offense; too many running backs; not enough linemen; new drills for pass catchers; juggling the staff responsibilities.
Even his sleep habits drew the microscope.
It was a waste of time, gracious as the media was with their myriad of solutions for a 5-1 LSU team that is admittedly producing less than the sum of its talented parts.
Miles has a natural defense mechanism for these moments in that, even in the best of times, he often speaks in some odd-ball form of curious pig Latin, and he can really turn on the gibberish when the questions turn pointed.
Keep in mind, even if Miles and LSU has decided to install the wishbone offense this week, it’s doubtful he would want to warn Spurrier too far in advance about it.
Surely, he was taking all the suggestions under advisement, perhaps even the one that questioned the mist-spraying oscillating fan on the sidelines for the humid Florida game.
Best I could decipher from his responses, it comes down to this: he’s aware that LSU hasn’t reached its potential yet.
The Tigers need to run and throw the ball better.
It’s not for lack of effort, which he “enjoys.”
They need to play “smarter and with a wisdom.”
They are predictable — “we’re going to run it or we’re going to pass.”
They still think Zach Mettenberger is “that guy” at quarterback — ”We’re not so prone to discard him for a mobile quarterback.”
He and the coaches are on the case.
They see no need for wholesale changes, just better execution of the tried and true.
And on and on.
One thing about Miles, though, is that he’s not as stubborn as one would think, at least when Jordan Jefferson isn’t involved.
It’s anybody’s guess why it would take a loss to Florida to shake the Tigers up rather than a felt-like-a-loss to Towson.
But a best guess is that, while Miles publicly preaches “efficiency, better execution, doing the right things,” in the secret they are having to rethink some of it.
He’s often at his best when really second-guessed and downright deadly when written off.
He’s got a knack for it, which is all fine and good.
But the needed improvement is not real complicated, certainly not as mind-numbing as Monday’s questions made it out to be.
I think it’s actually pretty simple.
If they don’t figure out a way to block somebody, it doesn’t matter who calls the plays or what the play is or who the quarterback is or who does or does not catch it or fumble it.
It’s going to be a long October until some defenders start getting knocked down.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org