Running game won’t hide QB dilemma

Published 8:41 am Wednesday, October 15, 2014

So LSU gets the long-awaited breakout game from Leonard Fournette, the offensive line starts looking a little more like the preseason mags predicted, and even the defense stumbled onto a few key stops here and there.

That was the Florida game, and it was a strategy that any died-in-the-wool Michigan Man would truly love and cherish.

Was it pretty?

Shoot no.

But the Tigers were physical up front, ran the ball with impressive authority, could at least halfway trust their defense, even got three turnovers out of it, passed only when totally out of other options, were turnover free themselves and …

Omigosh, it’s your worst nightmare come to life.

Les Miles went ultra-conservative and danged if it didn’t work for his first SEC win of the season. Or at least end up in the win column.

Uh-oh.

Now you just know he’ll not only never take the handcuffs off offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, now he’s got a mandate to be stubborn and likely will bind and gag poor Cam in a closet somewhere in the bowels of Tiger Stadium.

Quarterback?

Anthony Jennings got rave reviews. He locked down the starting job by throwing for a whopping 110 yards, completing dang near 50 percent of his passes, something like 10 of 22. But he didn’t step in anything along the way and LSU won, so Brandon Harris, who everybody knows has the bigger upside and is the anointed “Future,” will now rot on the bench until he transfers and no doubt comes back to haunt the Tigers.

But, honestly, what does it really matter now that the Tigers have likely thrown their last pass of the season, at least for anything trickier than third-and-25? Get ready for a lot of “bunch” formation, the macho stuff that fits an entire offensive line in a phone booth. Say good-bye to any bells and whistles now.

Ride, Leonard, ride.

Really, even in the afterglow of dramatic victory, that’s your worst fear, isn’t it? That’s the downside of Miles pulling another one out of his Mad Hat.

Oh, don’t get him started.

Kentucky, which isn’t the cuddly Kentucky that LSU fans were always longing for when Alabama was annually getting the better of the cross-divisional SEC schedule, comes to Tiger Stadium Saturday, and already head coach Mike Stoops is laying the groundwork.

“I think he’s fun to watch,” Stoops said of his counterpart (and it’s doubtful the coaching film includes much study and chuckling over Miles grazing on stadium turf). “You gotta give him credit. Boy, he wins a lot of close games.”

There was a wistfulness in Stoops voice, as if, like many of us down here, he seemed somewhat dumbfounded by both the rhyme and the reason.

I say let Les be Les.

Which isn’t as stubborn as you might think.

Quirky, yes. Unconventional at times, surely.

“My kind of game is any game where the Tigers win,” Miles said in one of his more eloquent brushes with plain English. “(Just) so you know, I’ll take it sliced and diced and salad on the side. Doesn’t make any difference to me.”

The Florida victory — Miles’ 100th at LSU — was the 23rd that was begged, borrowed or stolen after trailing in the fourth quarter. That’s a 23-23 record when trailing in the last period, a mark no other coach or team over these last 10 years comes anywhere close to.

So he’s doing something right.

In truth, as much as he’s accused of stubbornly sticking to a power-I running game, what he really prefers is a balanced attack. Always has — when he has the quarterback to pull it off.

Not sure he does (or ever will) this year, although there’s a talented flock of young receivers who need the work.

This is never going to be an aesthetically pleasing offense, certainly no three-ring circus. The plan, best anybody can decipher, appears to be to try to piecemeal victories around an unsettled quarterback situation.

Miles said he’d like to “see if we can move the football around a little bit more in the air. Certainly, it would be our want to throw the football just a little bit more efficiently and better.”

He hasn’t forgotten about Harris.

He had planned to play the freshman in The Swamp, but the game got in the way.

“Anthony Jennings kind of handled the situation, understood the game,” Miles said, which was high praise in a “game manager” sort of way.

“You get in those tight games, the win and the necessary momentum doesn’t present itself and so what you say is, ‘Let’s go with Anthony.’ Certainly that proved to be the right thing.”

Or at least it worked.

Miles said he was “certain that we would choose for this week to play both.”

Stay tuned. Just a guess, but this quarterback jockeying figures to flip back and forth the rest of an up-and-down season.

I doubt it’s going to get much prettier.

But it should be interesting.

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.com(Associated Press)

John Raoux