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Sunday, 07 November 2010 18:28

LSU Tigers Les Miles Outshine Alabama, Nick Saban

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sportseditorLes Miles outcoached Nick Saban in the second half in a battle of two of the SEC's most successful programs as LSU came to life and all but buried Alabama's Western Division hopes, 24-21, on Saturday in Tiger Stadium. It was one of the biggest wins in Death Valley history.

With 433 yards of total offense and enough big plays in the second half to match the highlight reel from its first eight games, LSU improved to 8-1 over-all and 5-1 in the “Gauntlet” that is the SEC West -- and Tiger Stadium came alive in the process.

The win was the Tigers' fourth over a ranked opponent and kept the Bengals alive in the division -- though LSU will need wins over Ole Miss and Arkansas, and help from two Auburn opponents to make the SEC Championship game.

Ironically, the victory was Miles' fourth over Alabama, tying his predecessor at LSU and Saban for the most in school history.

"I'm very thankful that I live in country and have a job that allows me to experience some of the really positive things in our lifetime -- college football," said Miles. "College football was celebrated today. That was two quality football teams slugging, start to finish, clean, violent, competitive football, and how wonderful it was it? I have to say this: Tiger Stadium was never any better than it was today, never any better,"

Time and time again, Miles pulled something unusual out of his hat, and Saban was left holding the bag.

There was the LSU fake punt. And the LSU reverse to the the tight end on fourth and short. Not to mention the long touchdown pass and the two-point pass and the long LSU third-down conversion pass. They all worked like a charm.

Most days, Saban is considered the best coach in college football, and Miles is considered a novelty act. So when Miles makes one gutsy call after another, and Saban has no response, when Miles' team gets stronger the longer the game goes and Saban's doesn't, the earth moves in mysterious ways.

Before the game, Miles told his players, "This is going to by a physical game and I want you to give it everything you have from the first play to the last. Save your energy in the warmups. Use it in the game." The players obeyed.

With 92,969 watching in Tiger Stadium and millions watching in CBS, in a critical moment of a season-making game, Miles made three calls that few of his colleagues would have had the guts to make.

No. 1: Behind 7-3 early in the second half, Miles calls a fake punt on 4th-and-1 from his own 40-yard line. Punter Josh Jasper grabbed the snap and raced 29 yards.

No. 2: Down 14-13 with 9:51 remaining in the game, LSU faced 4th-and-1 from the Alabama 26, The Tigers huddled. A 12th player tried to run in from the sideline, but tight end Tyler Edwards shooed him away. LSU called timeout. On the sideline, Miles told tight end Deangelo Peterson "This is you play." Sprung by Jordan Jefferson's wipeout block of Tide safety Mark Barron, Peterson raced 23 yards to the Tide 3 yard-line.

No. 3: Late in the game, Jefferson went out with an injury. Jarrett Lee entered and faced a 3rd-and-13 from LSU's 20 yard-line. The Tigers led by three with 2:40 remaining, Most coaches would have run up the middle, punted and prayed their defense would hold. Not Miles. He called a pass and Lee hit Rueben Randle for a 47-yard gain.  Game over.

Miles was presented the game ball after the game by linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who had seven tackles and will be in the NFL next season.

"We get great leadership from our guys," said Miles. "Kelvin Sheppard is a great leader as well as Drake Nevis, It's just  the way it's supposed to be. It's a great experience, and I'm very thankful to have had it. I will cherish this for a lifetime."

A 75-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson to wide receiver Randle midway through the third quarter started the momentum. Trailing 14-10, the Tigers scored 13 unanswered points including a field  goal off a forced fumble that gave the Tigers a  24-14 lead.

Jefferson started and continued to share series with Lee. Jefferson finished 10-of-13 for 141 yards with a touchdown, his first since opening game. Lee was 4-of-7 passing for 67 yards. Jefferson also ran for 27 yards on 7 carries and wasn't sacked.

Randle had a career-best 125 yards receiving on 3 catches, while receiver Terrence Toliver added 32 yards on 3 catches.

Running back Stevan Ridley ran 24 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. while Russell Shepard added 47 yards including an end around for 41 yards.

Linebacker Ryan Baker had a team-high 10 tackles unloading 1.5 sacks. Cornerback Patrick Peterson had eight tackles and three pass breakups while facing Julio Jones for most of the game. Sheppard and Nevis had seven tackles each. Nevis had a sack and a quarterback hurry.

Alabama Heisman Trophy running back Mark Ingram had a game-high 97 yards with two touchdowns Trent Richardson was used sparingly after catching a 1-yard touchdown pass and coming up with a limp. He had 28 yards on 6 carries.

Bama quarterback Greg McEloy was 21-of-24 passing for 223 yards with two touchdowns. However, his interception and fumble came in Tide territory and led to LSU's first and final scores.

"Miles is is a brilliant guy," said Tigers defensive coordinator John Chavis. "It's not just pulling things out of his hat. He knows what he's doing."

As the moon was rising over Tiger Stadium, a veteran pressboxer was heard to say, "I will never utter or write another critical word about Les Miles. Ever. He's my favorite SEC coach. And he should be yours, too."

How the media saw the game:

Andy Staples,
"He had called a fourth-down play that required the quarterback to pitch back to the tailback, who in turn pitched to the tight end blazing around the corner. Three plays later, that tailback crashed into the end zone to give his team the lead in a game no one believed he could win. Naturally, we was about to go for two.
"We're all better off because Les Miles is part of the game. They call the man 'The Mad Hatter.' On the contrary, Miles needs to be celebrated. He made calls in Saturday's 24-21 win against Alabama that few of his colleagues would have made."

Mark McCarter, The Huntsville Times: "This was an exorcism, not a game. Demons, begone.
This was the all-time party pooper, like your parents coming home earlier than expected. So much for the Mother of All Iron Bowls on Nov. 16
After its 24-21 victory over Alabama, LSU fans can now sleep well. The demon has been cast away. The boogey-man is out from under their beds. No longer do they need to loathe or fear Nick Saban.

Nick Saban Quotes
"This whole year everyone around us has been very concerned about the results that the team gets in comparison to what we accomplished last year. That hasn't been the best thing for the development of this team. They have become very result oriented. We've never really ever developed to be as good as we are capable of.

"You don't look at the scoreboard. You don't do the emotional things that fans do and enjoy doing. You have to focus on what you're doing to do your job with effort and toughness."

by Ed Staton

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