LSU's Les Miles: The Mad Hatter

LSU's Les Miles is crazy like a fox (or Tiger)

jclay@herald-leader.comSeptember 29, 2011 

There is "The Quotable Les Miles," the Web site devoted to "inspirational words of wisdom from LSU's head football coach," which displays 579 examples of oratorical brilliance.

A random pair:

"It's not within my understanding how somebody could not see that as a mistake."

"I just didn't think there was any reason at that point and time to think that was going to be any other day but ours."

Why just this week, when asked why his team has been such a good road team, already winning three games away from Baton Rouge this season, Miles said, "We are a damn good football team."

Indeed, when Kentucky travels to LSU on Saturday it will again face one of the more mysterious, unorthodox and on-his-way-to-being legendary coaches in all of college football.

He eats grass. Seriously. The TV cameras have caught Leslie Edwin Miles reaching down and pulling up a handful, then chewing on the green stuff as a game progresses.

He wears that hat, that white baseball cap with the purple L-S-U, the one that seems to sit high on his head, the one that partially helped give Miles the nickname "The Mad Hatter."

The "Mad" part comes mostly from Miles doing things in games that some would find outrageous or dumb, yet somehow manage to get the job done, usually at the end of games.

Examples:

■ In 2006, against Tennessee, LSU converts a fourth-and-eight on the final drive which ended with nine seconds left when JaMarcus Russell threw a touchdown pass to Early Doucet, who was not the intended receiver on the play. The Tigers win 28-24.

■ In 2007, against Florida, Miles goes for it five times on fourth down. The Tigers convert all five and win 28-24.

■ In 2007, Miles won a national championship despite losing two games, one of them a three-overtime affair at Kentucky. The other was to Arkansas. The Cats and Hogs combined for a 7-9 conference mark that season.

■ Last year, against Tennessee in Baton Rouge, the Tigers appeared to have lost the game in the final seconds when, down 14-10, a shotgun snap whizzed past quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was looking at the bench when the snap arrived.

But Tennessee was called for having too many men on the field, giving LSU another play with no time left on the clock. On the extra play, Stevan Ridley scored from a yard out to give LSU the 16-14 win.

"I don't know that we could play any sloppier," Miles said afterward. "I don't know that we could have planned it any more poorly."

And yet LSU won, prompting the Web site LSU Freek to come up with an animated GIF that shows Miles about to be hit by an orange-checkerboard bus as he is crossing the street only somehow amazingly avoiding the vehicle all together.

■ The following week, at Florida, LSU executed a crucial fake field goal from 52 yards out when holder Derek Helton threw a no-look pitch over his head to kicker Josh Jasper, who scooped up the pitch on a bounce and ran for a first down. Later in the same drive, LSU scored with six seconds left to beat the Gators 33-29.

"How about that one, huh?" Miles said afterward. "These games are becoming more routine."

They are routine for the Mad Hatter, who is 66-17 in his seven seasons as the Tigers head coach. The knock that his 34-6 record over his first three years was thanks to players recruited by his predecessor, Nick Saban, has flown by the wayside.

After going 8-5 in 2008 and 9-4 in 2009, the Tigers are 15-2 in their last 17 games.

This year, the Tigers are now No. 1 in the polls thanks to a win over national runner-up Oregon in Dallas, a win over a ranked Mississippi State in Starkville and the win last Saturday over West Virginia in Morgantown.

This week, though, Miles is at home to face Kentucky. And as the coach is fond of saying, "The grass at Tiger Stadium tastes best."

Notes

■ Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips said Wednesday that Josh Clemons practiced and should be ready to play on Saturday. The freshman running back has been bothered by a hamstring strain.

■ Phillips used crowd noise coming through speakers on Wednesday to help his team prepare for Saturday's atmosphere at Tigers Stadium.

■ The coach said he had a message for his team: "Treat Yourself Like A Man." He said it meant that players should be embarrassed by mistakes and missed assignments.

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