By Scott rabalais
October 30, 2012
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — When the LSU Tigers went to the locker room at halftime Saturday, Les Miles is lucky someone didn’t arrest him for stealing.
His team got pushed all around Kyle Field by the Aggies, and their state- of-the-art offense struggled to mount an offense of its own — and led 14-12 at the break en route to a 24-19 victory.
All part of the grand plan. Just another day in the life of The Hat.
Miles seems to have nine lives, all of them geared at confounding the millions of “experts” that surround him — in the stands, in the media, on every message board and blog that gives a hoot about Southeastern Conference football.
There at times seems to be no rhyme or reason for what he does or what his recipe for success is.
The guy just wins.
Late LSU Athletic Director Bob Brodhead was nicknamed “Bottom Line Bob.” There is something he would have loved about Les Miles. Late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, too.
Just do it. Don’t worry about how it looks. Don’t sweat style points. Just win, baby.
LSU fans jumped over the wall fronting the grandstands — for some reason Texas A&M still lets fans mill about on their turf after every game — filled with a mix of exasperation and delight at their Tigers’ win over what one day may their most hated rival (this will be the day after Nick Saban retires from Alabama).
For Wendell York, it was all good.
First of all, York lives in Houston, elbow-to-elbow with Aggies fans, so any win over the maroon and white had him collecting bets this week.
But mostly as a former LSU deep snapper, he knows how hard it is to win on the road in the SEC.
“You find a way,” York said. “A win is a win. You take them however you can get them.”
Especially if you’re LSU these days.
This time last season, LSU had just spent the first two months of the season blowing the doors off just about everyone in sight.
This year has been a struggle. The Tigers have been shedding players since the offseason like they were on a crash diet. Three starters were missing from the offensive line alone again Saturday. True freshman Lamar Louis is the fourth player projected to start or to actually start for the Tigers at strongside linebacker. The body count on projected or in-season starters to miss the season or sit out games is now at eight.
The passing game looks like it needs a new transmission. Even last year’s uber-dependable kickers, Brad Wing and Drew Alleman, have sputtered at times. Penalties (a season-high 13 for 102 yards in this one) have threatened to capsize the Tigers yet and again.
And yet they find a way.
Some of that has to be credited to Miles.
You can criticize the man’s game management skills, and you can bemoan his 19th-century offensive philosophy, especially displayed alongside Texas A&M’s 21st-century attack. The Aggies move so fast, they tried to run a play in the first half before the chains were even set.
But look who won. Again. Miles and the Tigers played rope-a-dope with the Aggies for four quarters and now go home to heal up and prepare for their meeting with Alabama two weeks from now, perhaps as a top-five team.
It looks haphazard at times, but it can’t be entirely by accident. Miles is now 82-19 at LSU, one percentage point back of Urban Meyer for the second-best career winning percentage in SEC history. His team will go into November with one or fewer losses for the sixth time in eight seasons.
Whatever you have to say about Miles that is negative — and he deserves criticism like anyone — you have to admit the man is a master of crisis management. From hurricanes to off-the-field distractions to on-field attrition, Miles’ teams pick a path through the landmines and usually come out unscathed on the other side.
There are those, plenty in fact, who continue to wait for The Hat’s other shoe to drop. I ran into a former LSU player last week who shook his head and said he simply doesn’t know how Miles does it.
Well, he’s been doing it pretty successfully for going on eight years now.
How long are you willing to wait?