LSU’s personality as weird and wacky as its coach
Published 9:08 am Monday, October 13, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Well, it took seven games.
But LSU, we can now safely say, has its personality.
Save the drum roll.
Sorry if it’s not particularly attractive.
But it is what it is, whatever that means.
What? You were expecting a well-oiled machine to suddenly poke its head up this season?
It’s just not going to happen.
You didn’t fall for Les Miles’ “easily correctable mistakes” decrees did you?
That was all a smoke screen.
Saturday night is probably what you’re going to get with LSU the rest of the way.
Yeah, I know. It beats losing and all but …
Yet only the most cruel and judgmental of us would call it ugly.
So let’s be nice.
Let’s call it, shall we say, quirky.
And if that’s the way it’s going to be, who better to lead this eclectic bunch, the Young and & Erratic, than Miles.
Miles, now, he can do quirky on you. Contrary to rumor, he can play it straight and often has. But he can ever more play this strange game, the latest evidence being the Tigers’ 30-27 victory at Florida Saturday night.
It’s a unique approach where, twice in the final two minutes, Florida seemingly was trying to carefully weigh its options and script out how to most efficiently win the game, and yet somehow — the details are still unclear — there was LSU lining up and of course making a 50-yard field goal to escape with victory.
It can drive you nuts.
But if it’s not the most aesthetic football you ever saw, it’s about all the Tigers have at this point, and they’re just going to have to make it work as best they can.
It preaches the traditional pigskin values — ball control, running game, timely defense and, well, then Miles & Co. make up the rest of it as the game goes along.
When you don’t have an SEC-ready quarterback and you’re used to a more dependable defense, you do what you can do and dang the growing pains.
It ain’t always pretty.
But it’s also a world where, in this particular case, your missed extra point, just as you knew it would at the time, comes back to bless you, and your closest brush with an end-game clock bungle backfires and leaves you with almost too much time for the game-winner.
That’s Miles’ fingerprints all over the thing.
Perhaps he was aware that Florida was not a great team and, in particular, had a quarterback in Jeff Driskel who’s prone to passing out turnovers indiscriminately.
So Miles ordered his own quarterback, Anthony Jennings, to stay out of the way and not give the Gators anything cheap.
He told freshman Leonard Fournette it was OK to go ahead and start the Heisman campaign now, and — wow — suddenly we know what all the recruiting geeks were excited about, a beast of a night for 140 yards and two touchdowns against what really is a good Florida defense.
It allowed LSU to dominate time of possession — 36:37 to 23:23 — which was more than 13 minutes that LSU’s defense didn’t have to deal with another spread offense.
And that defense made some real strides, getting three turnovers even though the Gators broke the 21-point barrier for the first time in nine SEC games. After another loose start to fall behind 17-7, the Tiger defense kept Florida scoreless for 35 minutes while the offense patched together a comeback.
The complication was an unexpected meltdown from special teams, where two punt long Gator punt returns accounted for over half of Florida’s points — one for a touchdown, another to set one up from point-blank range.
But special teams evened out. The Tigers, as only they could, had their missed extra point to fall back on.
Don’t ask how they knew.
But the Gators settled for a game-tying field goal with 1:49 to play because they could — because the missed extra point let them tie the game.
Had LSU done the easy thing and made all its extra points, the Gators would have been trailing by four and forced to go for it on fourth down from inside the LSU 1 (Miles probably would have anyway).
But LSU will take it.
The key, as Miles has perfected, is to act like nothing is amiss when you pull out a game like this.
Florida coach Will Muschamp probably brought this one on himself when he won a game for no apparent reason last week at Tennessee using many of Miles’ tactics and more so.
In the afterglow he tempted the football gods, perhaps, by enjoying the Vols’ fans pain a little too much.
“It’s great to see all these people out here getting disappointed,” he said on Rocky Top at the time. “I love it.”
So there were his own home fans Saturday, having booed themselves into a tizzy most of the night, finally leaving Ben Hill Griffin Stadium scratching their heads, more puzzled, it seemed, than angry.
The quirkiest of Miles’ teams can do that to you.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU sports. Email him at email@example.com