Well, this was quite the weekend for LSU football. That awful game on Saturday night came first—I won’t share my thoughts on any of that, because it’s unprintable—and then on Sunday, Coach Miles was fired. I kind of thought he was going to lose his job Saturday night after the game was over, but I thought he would last the season. I didn’t realize that the shambles that was Saturday night would mean an immediate change—or that with a 2-2 record, the administration would pretty much decide that the season was over and changing coaches at this point didn’t matter. I’d kind of hoped that he’d be given the rest of the season, and give his players a chance to play for him, if you know what I mean?
Instead, the Miles era is over, and the future is uncertain.
He was the most successful coach in LSU history, and while there have been some major disappointments under his tenure, LSU was never boring, and he was always entertaining. I will miss Coach Miles, and decided to make a list of my favorite LSU moments during his tenure; this is in no particular order.
1. 2007, Auburn game. LSU had been ranked Number One in the country for an entire week, before a horrifying quadruple overtime loss to Kentucky the week before. The SEC and National championships were still within grasp though, but LSU had to win out. This night, in Tiger Stadium, LSU was trailing 24-23, had the ball, no time outs, and the clock was winding down. A field goal was all we needed. And out of nowhere, Matt Flynn threw a pass to the end zone that was caught with one second left on the clock to make the score 29-24 and win the game. (The extra point was good.) Paul and I literally leapt to our feet screaming.
2. 2015, Florida game. We were actually at this game. LSU jumped out to a 28-14 half-time lead in this battle of the unbeaten, only to allow Florida back into the game in the second half. With the score tied 28-28 and fourth down, LSU lined up for a field goal to take the lead—but it was a fake! Kicker Trent Domingue caught a pass from the holder and took off for the end zone for the winning touchdown.
3. 2011, Alabama. The Game of the Century. The top two ranked teams in the country, and clearly head-and-shoulders above everyone else, LSU and Alabama simply were at a different level that year. Played in Tuscaloosa, this game was a nail-biter from start to finish: missed field goals, incredible defense, an amazing interception of an Alabama pass at the one yard line, another missed field goal in overtime by Alabama that enabled LSU to kick one to win it all—it lived up to the hype and then some. Alas, the rematch in the national title game was anti-climactic, as rematches always tend to be, with Alabama winning and LSU being outplayed from start to finish. In fairness, had Alabama made just one of the multiple field goals they missed in regulation, they would have won the Game of the Century.
4. 2010, Ole Miss. This was the first time Paul and I had ever gotten to go to a game at Tiger Stadium, and we were rewarded with an amazing experience. We got there early, wandered through campus, watched the band come down Victory Hill, and even entered the stadium about an hour before kick-off so we could watch the teams warm up and see the stadium fill with people. The game went back and forth until finally, in the closing minute of the game, trailing 36-35, LSU scored a touchdown and made the two-point conversation to go up 43-36 to win. It took about three days for my voice to come back and my throat to stop hurting.
5. 2007, Florida. LSU was ranked #2 in the country behind USC going into this game, and alas, the Tigers fell behind early against the once beaten defending national champions. But about midway through the third quarter the news came that Stanford had knocked off USC. Paul and I were watching at home and we both cheered…and when they announced it in Tiger Stadium the entire place went crazy. The team got fired up and rallied from a 24-14 deficit to win with a touchdown with less than a minute to go, 28-24, converting on four fourth down situations to do so.
6. 2014, Ole Miss. The 2014 Ole Miss team came out of nowhere, upsetting Alabama and going on a tear. They rolled into Tiger Stadium undefeated and ranked #3 in the country, with a shot at not only winning the SEC for the first time since the 1960’s, but making the national championship play-offs. LSU was not a good team that year, and had already lost twice, to Mississippi State and Auburn, with Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M yet to go. The Tigers fell behind early, 7-3, but played their butts off, managing an amazing drive against one of the top defenses in the country to go ahead 10-7 with about nine minutes left in the game. Ole Miss was driving in the closing minutes in LSU territory, only needing a field goal to send it to overtime when LSU iced the game with an interception to knock off Ole Miss and dash their title hopes.
7. 2010, Tennessee. On paper, LSU should have won this game 45-0, and on the very first play of the game that looked like what was going to happen as Jordan Jefferson took off for a seventy-five yard touchdown run to put the Tigers up 7-0. But sloppy play and a fired-up Tennessee team managed to give the Volunteers a 14-10 lead, with the Tigers driving as time ran down. Poor clock management and rushing the final play resulted in the snap going over the quarterback’s head and it was game over, a win by Tennessee. But a flag had been thrown—Tennessee had too many players on the field when the ball was snapped. The penalty gave LSU one more play, with no time left, and the ball was moved half-the distance to the goal line, where LSU punched it in for a 16-14 win in what was one of the most insane finishes to a football game ever.
8. 2010, Florida. In the Swamp, Urban Meyer’s last season as the Florida coach. LSU blew an early 20-7 lead to find themselves trailing in the closing seconds of the game, 29-26 and needing a field goal for overtime. On a 4th down, LSU lined up for the field goal—only it was a fake and the Tigers got a first down. However, when the holder flipped the ball over his head to the kicker, the ball hit the ground and bounced up to him. Was it a lateral, making it a legal play, or had the ball landed slightly ahead of where the holder was line up, making it a forward pass, incomplete, and Florida taking over on downs? The officials on the field ruled it a lateral, and a very lengthy review in the booth let the call stand. On the very next play, LSU drove to the four yard line, and two plays later completed a pass to the end zone to pull out the win, 33-29.
9. Alabama, 2007. Nick Saban, LSU’s former coach, had returned to the SEC at Alabama, and this was the first time he’d be facing his former team and the man who replaced him. The game was insane, and the Tigers, ranked Number 1 again after the earlier loss to Kentucky, were intercepted three times and Alabama was rolling. But LSU kept coming back. They managed to tie it up at 27-27, only for Alabama to score again to go ahead 34-27 with only a few minutes left in the game. The Tigers scored again to make it 34-34; and then some magic happened. Alabama, trying to get close enough for a tying field goal, started throwing passes. A quarterback sack, and a fumble…the ball bounced away and towards the LSU goal line, where it was recovered at the three by LSU. Two plays later, LSU was ahead 41-34. A strong defensive stand and the Tigers had beaten their old coach—many of whom he had recruited.
10. Ohio State, National Championship game for 2007. There were a lot of other exciting games under Coach Miles’ direction at LSU, but I couldn’t not list this game. The Tigers, the only two loss team to ever play for the national title, had clawed their way back up to #2 in the rankings for the right to play once beaten #1 Ohio State. The Tigers quickly fell behind in the first quarter, 10-3, before going on a tear in the second quarter and leading, 24-10, at half-time and never looking back before winning their third national title and their second BCS title, 38-24. In doing so, the Tigers became the first school to win two BCS titles, the first to win two titles under two different coaches, the only two-loss team to win the national title, and set off celebrations throughout the state.
Thank you, Coach Miles, for an amazing run and a lot of great memories. I knew once the game ended Saturday with the officials deciding Auburn had won after time ran out, that you were going to probably be fired. I thought they would let you have the season…I am kind of shocked at how they played out, frankly—and I admit, I was furious Saturday night. But the firing still came as a shock.
Last year when there was talk about firing you, I was a defender—after all, no one expected LSU to be 7-0, and the three losses came to the best three teams on the schedule—and thought you deserved another chance, another year. I questioned that after the Wisconsin loss, and I wasn’t happy on Saturday night. There’s no telling how this season will go now, and whether LSU will wind up bowl eligible or not, or what the future will hold for the Tigers.
But this Tiger fan will never forget the years of the Mad Hatter. It’s been a great ride.