John Clay

John Clay: Never count out LSU as long as Les Miles is coaching

Is Les Miles maddening?

Or is he magical?

Is LSU's head coach crazy?

Or is he crazy like a fox?

Ten years into Miles' Baton Rouge stay, with Kentucky visiting Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, few in the SEC can say with any degree of certainty.

Last Saturday, Miles did what he does — coaching the Tigers to yet another fourth-quarter comeback win, this time 30-27 at Florida.

It was the Mad Hatter's 23rd come-from-behind fourth quarter win at LSU, more than any other coach since 2005.

It was the 13th time a Miles-coached LSU team fell behind by double digits on the road to a conference opponent. It was the sixth time the Tigers had pulled out the victory.

Part of it was luck: Florida tight end Tevin Westbrook, wide open in the end zone, flat-out dropped a sure touchdown pass that would have given the Gators a 31-27 lead with 1:49 remaining. Florida kicked a field goal.

Part of it was skill: After LSU punted the ball back to the Gators, Tigers linebacker Kwon Alexander hit wide-out Latroy Pittman just as Jeff Driskel's pass arrived. The ball popped into the air, then down into the hands of safety Richard Jefferson.

Two plays later, Colby Delahoussaye, who had missed a PAT earlier in the game, kicked a 50-yard field goal with three seconds left to give LSU the victory.

"The last six minutes, certainly, our football team needed to figure out exactly how to win that one," said Miles at his weekly news conference on Monday. "And it did."

It has figured out how to win 100 games during Miles' tenure, compared to just 26 losses. The 60-year-old Ohio native is 53-22 in the SEC.

He won a national championship in 2007 when LSU lost two games (one to Kentucky) and still ended up in the title game — more Miles luck? — and beat Ohio State. He nearly won a second in 2011, only to see his undefeated Tigers lay an egg and lose 21-0 to Alabama.

The one inarguable Miles trait is quirkiness. He likes to chew on grass. He claps his hands in an odd manner. He wears that trademark white LSU baseball cap high upon his head. He rarely resorts to sound bites.

Asked Monday what constitutes his favorite game, Miles said, "My kind of game is any game where the Tigers win. So, you know, I'll take it sliced and diced and salad on the side."

His 2014 Tigers are sliced young. Of their 31 touchdowns, 23 have been scored by either freshmen or sophomores. Sixteen have been scored by true freshmen.

"It's kind of how we're built right now," Miles said Monday, "with the early leaving to the NFL and the absolute requirement that that freshman class come in with the ability athletically and emotionally to step onto the field and do those things."

LSU lost at home to Mississippi State 34-29 before being smacked at Auburn 41-7. Its game at Florida was similar to Kentucky's September game in The Swamp, but where UK lost in three overtimes, LSU won near the buzzer.

"Mark Stoops is a very fine coach, comes from a family of coaches," said Miles, who grew up in Elyria, while Stoops is from Youngstown. "I have competed against his family and enjoyed that."

Mark Stoops was brother Mike's defensive coordinator at Arizona when the brothers visited Tiger Stadium in 2005. It wasn't a pleasure trip. LSU won 45-3.

Truth be told, Miles made much of his pre-LSU reputation at Oklahoma State by beating Bob Stoops. OSU upset Oklahoma 16-13 in 2001 in Norman and 38-28 in 2002 in Stillwater. Each season, it was just the second loss for the Sooners.

In 2004, the season Oklahoma lost to USC in the national championship game, Miles nearly did it again, losing to Bob Stoops 38-35 in Stillwater. Soon after, Miles was named to replace the departing Nick Saban at LSU.

"I really like him," said Mark Stoops on Monday. "I think he's fun to watch. You gotta give him credit. Boy, he wins a lot of close games. ... They're never out of it."

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