October 26, 2011
Les Miles and his wife Kathy joined Gov. Bobby Jindal at his re-election party Saturday night after the Auburn game.
Don’t know if Miles harbors any political aspirations after his football coaching days, but if Jindal ever fulfills his burning ambition to be president he should make Miles his head of FEMA.
From a football perspective, there have been few better at managing potential disasters and overcoming seemingly long odds.
As Miles’ first season at LSU began, Louisiana was slammed by twin sisters of destruction, Katrina and Rita. Miles had players from both ends of south Louisiana and southeast Texas unable to get in touch with family, or had family members stuffed into their off-campus apartments after the storms. That season, LSU would play in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, wind up 11-2 and ranked No. 5.
This season, LSU has dealt with stormy weather of its own making. Three offensive starters (two suspended, one out with a knee injury) missed the season opener against No. 3-ranked Oregon. Three key players (two starters, one top reserve) missed Saturday’s game against reigning BCS champion Auburn.
Miles’ Tigers didn’t survive in both instances, they thrived. Jarrett Lee and a lean, lithe defense neutralized Oregon’s speed and took advantage of its mistakes in a 40-27 victory. Against Auburn, Kenny Hillard played the role of Spencer Ware, Ron Brooks did his best Tyrann Mathieu with a pick six and LSU demolished Auburn 45-10.
Tuesday came Miles’ announcement that three key players — All-American candidate Mathieu at cornerback, leading rusher Ware and backup corner Tharold Simon — are all back off their one-game suspension … or whatever it was.
Miles refused to call it a suspension, saying the three were held out. He also held back from saying officially, finally, absolutely that all three have completely come in from the disciplinary cold and face no further hurdles.
But it’s all semantics. Miles wouldn’t say he anticipates the three will play in No. 1-ranked LSU’s showdown with No. 2 Alabama if he weren’t 100 percent certain they would. Here’s something else you can be sure about: Miles knew he could beat Auburn without Messrs. Mathieu, Ware and Simon, but he knows just as well he needs every able-bodied man to slay the red elephant.
I don’t want to say Miles manipulated the entire episode, but it couldn’t have worked out better for him and his Tigers if he had. Three prominent players are made an example of — “a real lifetime lesson” as Miles called it — yet LSU carries on without a blip.
Now if center P.J. Lonergan and defensive end Ken Adams (both held out of the Auburn game for injuries) can be as healthy as Miles indicated they will be, LSU probably couldn’t hope to be at more of a physical peak than it will be going into the Alabama game.
Once again, Miles finds a way to mitigate the damage.
FEMA should do it so well.