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
“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 Hebert, Bobby 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.