Les Miles taking heat after shutout title loss

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Perhaps the most surprising aspect of last night’s 21-0 shutout by Alabama over then-top-ranked LSU in the BCS championship game was the fact that Les Miles, the Mad Hatter himself, was even more conservative than during the 9-6 win by the Tigers over the Tide back on Nov. 5.

Alabama’s defense, of course, was stellar and deserves every bit of credit for taking away all possible schemes LSU might have come up with and rattling Jordan Jefferson. The short story is that Bama’s D had an answer for everything and stopped plays before they developed.

But LSU was noticeably flat last night too. Even the Tigers’ sideline wasn’t into the game. There were no risks, no fake punts, no trick plays, nothing.

It was very uncharacteristic of a Miles-coached team.

That’s Miles’ M.O.: coaching with near negligence for the consequences, good or bad. That’s why his players love him. If nothing else, it’s the BCS freaking championship game. Besides the obvious answer, what does LSU really have to lose down 6… 9… 12… 15… 21 points by trying something a little crazy?

You knew LSU was in a shell when Nick Saban attempted a fake field goal — in obvious fake field goal territory given the history of the Tide’s kick woes — before Miles.

The often-unpredictable Miles was unbelievably run-of-the-mill last night and those who did tune in noticed. Former LSU receiver Terrence Toliver took to his Twitter account to express his frustration over  what he was seeing.

“Don’t deserve a share of the championship wit[h] this piss [poor] performance #coaches”

“Why are we running the ball wit 9 min left in the game?”

“I feel bad for [Jarrett] Lee.”

To be fair, Miles isn’t a bad coach, but Saban clearly out-coached him last night.

Miles had to answer to that, as he should, after the game. Broadcaster and father of LSU O-lineman T-Bob HebertBobby Hebert, began grilling Miles in his post game press conference as soon as the floor was open to questions. From the New York Times:

Hebert started, according to the transcript: “Coach, did you ever consider bringing in Jarrett Lee, considering that you weren’t taking any chances on the field? Now, I know Alabama’s defense is dominant. But, come on, that’s ridiculous, five first downs. I mean, so it’s almost an approach, I’ll tell you from the fans’ standpoint, that how can you not maybe push the ball down the field and bring in Jarrett Lee?”

He continued with his “question,” later, again according to the transcript, adding, “I know the pass rush of Alabama, but there’s no reason why in five first downs … you have a great defense, L.S.U. is a great defense, but that’s ridiculous.”

At that point, the moderator interrupted, asking, “Do you have a question?”

Hebert responded: “That’s the question. Do you think you should have pushed the football more down field?”

Miles answered: “I think if you watch our calls that we did throw the football down the field. We didn’t necessarily get the football down the field.”

The questions surrounding Miles’ game plan won’t be swept away with the confetti littering the Superdome turf, either. This is a team that cruised through tough environments all season with relative ease; last night, LSU couldn’t even cross midfield until the game was already decided.

Indeed, the “Mad” in Mad Hatter stood for disgruntlement more than Miles’ carefree nature.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.