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September 15, 2014

Les Miles

COACH MILES:  We open conference play, very, very talented, Mississippi State team coming off a game where in Tiger Stadium we contributed to one of the 400 wins in Tiger Stadium, and I think our guys really kind of enjoyed that piece.  Apparently this is the "gold" game, so I would expect to see a brightly clad group of LSU Tiger fans.  I can say this:  We have had great attendance, and the enjoyment of the games and the feeling in the crowd and the atmosphere was great!  But this weekend will be the first weekend that you will really be able to see it, because there will be more energy because it's an SEC team, more energy because it's two undefeated teams, and so we're excited as we can be.
We think in many ways this will be like walking in the first time, because I think the excitement will be very unique.
Now, ULM, we played a lot of young guys, 17 true freshmen.  I felt like the effort on all three phases was very good.  We're improving, you know, not necessarily without error but we're playing dominant football at times in all three phases.
As an example, the defense allowed just six first downs and 93 total yards on the day.  In the last 30 possessions, they've not allowed a point.  In nine straight quarters, the same.
Offensively since falling behind to Wisconsin 24‑7, we have outscored opponents 108 to 0.  There is some positive directions there, and, again, I think our team is improving.  Offensively we continue to manage the game well.  I think, again, Anthony Jennings is doing a good job handling the responsibilities of snap and cadence and movement and stem and motion and giving us some advantages.  I think he threw the ball well, I think of course he can throw it better and certainly the throw‑away that led to a turnover is something we cannot do, but we had, I want to say, four backs have about ten carries and that's‑‑ anytime that you can do that with four quality tailbacks, you can maintain your freshness and physicality, those backs run hard, that's an advantage.
We look forward to Elliott Porter getting his second start this year.  Felt like in his first start he was less than he is normally, and he will be fine, getting the cobwebs off.  Ethan Pocic will return and, again, I think we're really just getting better on offense and it's gotta continue.  I think the great thing about it is everybody understands we will use all three full backs, at times; it will be something that we need to improve on.
Now, defensively we did not play Kwon Alexander and Lamar Louis, and both those guys could certainly have played in that game.  We wanted to give them another day off.  Deion Jones and Duke Riley did very well.  Just to let you know there is depth and freshness there that if we turn to other guys at linebacker, we're going to play with advantages, but, again, no play over 12 yards.
The defense is developing depth in the defensive line, ends, linebackers and in the secondary.  I like the path we're on there.  Special teams, Jamie Keehn averaged 47.8 yards per punt, he downed two inside the 20.  We have great speed on our kick‑offs and punts in terms of coverage.  We're pinning them in.
Again, I think our special teams has the potential to play dominant football, really, from this point forward.  And of course now we'll have to because it's a talented, Mississippi State team.  They're 3‑0.  Dan Mullen has done a great job there.  Should easily be a ranked team; I can't imagine that they're not.  They have all of the abilities, offense, defense, and special teams, that you would see in a ranked team.  They have wins over Southern Mississippi, UAB, and South Alabama, and, again, just continue to improve.  Dak Prescott, their quarterback, again, as good of a player as there is in his position in our conference.  He's running for about 100 yards and throwing for a little over 200 yards a game.  He's accounted for nine passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns.
They have a running back, Josh Robinson who is 100 yards per game running back and they can run it, throw it, and offensively they are a big, strong physical group and we will have to play well and tackle well.
Defensively they're allowing 80 yards per game.  They're opportunistic, they have five interceptions and three fumbles.  Defensive line, Preston Smith among others are big, strong, mobile guys and will be a great challenge for us.  We look forward to playing quality teams.  This is a very quality football team.  We will play them in our stadium.  Look forward to it.  As we start SEC play, these count.  These are tremendously important games, and frankly we will have to play best and play better.  Looking forward to seeing Mississippi State.  Questions?

Q.  Coach, can you elaborate more on the challenges that Dak brings as a scrambler?  What did you guys learn from last year's game?  He even caught a pass last week.
COACH MILES:  He's strong, a guy that stands back in the pocket, knows what he's looking at, makes the throws and has the ability to pull it down.  He runs with strength.  I don't know exactly how fast he is, but, you know, he carves through the ground very quickly and when you go to tackle him, you better hit him hard.  You better take him off his feet because he's just a big, physical kid.

Q.  Coach, with the roll your defense is on, how important is it for them to improve and show improvement but to build confidence and younger players building that overall depth and gaining confidence?
COACH MILES:  It's playing time for those guys.  They just need reps.  The good news it in the last three games they've seen a lot of reps and we feel like we're much deeper than we've been and certainly with an opportunity to be fresh, not only in a defensive line but the secondary and linebackers as well.  So when you get into these games that will be decided in the fourth quarter, you better want to have a very quality, fresh, equal starter in the game when you're giving a starter a break.

Q.  Coach, if it doesn't go well for Jennings, now that you're in SEC play, do you turn to Harris or let him ride it through?  Basically is he your guy?
COACH MILES:  We're not going to suppose if things don't go well.  We would anticipate that we have two quality quarterbacks and guys that can handle their business, whatever we suggest they play and what role they need to take.
Again, I would think that we would play Brandon Harris in a like fashion as we have in the last three.

Q.  Les, as a former NFL coach with a lot of former players in that league, and guys from your current roster will probably end up there, what are your thoughts about what occurred off the field in the NFL, and do you address domestic violence specifically with your LSU team?
COACH MILES:  It's kinda been a position where we've talked to the team a variety of times about respecting women and doing the things that would represent your family and making sure that you're somebody that recognizes the strengths that you must demonstrate as an LSU athlete.
We've gone through that really a number of times in the year.

Q.  Do you shake your head sometimes?  And when the polls came out yesterday and five of the teams in the west are in the top‑10 in the country, have you ever seen such a group of teams in one division so good?
COACH MILES:  Yeah, I have to be honest with you, it doesn't surprise me in any way.  I've been fortunate to be here for a number of years and recognize that in our division year after year you play the best and it's just‑‑ you go to the next game with the opportunity to win and hopefully take that and do that for as long as you can.  This league, the west, you will play the best.  Honestly, if you came to LSU, that's why you came here, because you wanted to play the best and have opportunities in those games, to have advantages.

Q.  Mississippi State has rotated their quarterbacks for the past couple of years.  Have you seen their offense change any or excel now that they've settled in on one guy?
COACH MILES:  I think they know exactly what they want to do.  I think they're focused.  There is, again, a talented team there.  It's not just a quarterback, guys that can catch it, offensive line that can block it, running backs that can run.  It's a talented team.

Q.  Heard an interview with Steve Ensminger the other day before the ULM game the other day about how certain players that didn't end up signing with you, might be motivated to play a LSU team in Tiger Stadium.  Do you expect the same thing with a guy like Dak andJosh Robinson in this game, and do you address that with your team?
COACH MILES:  I think every time a LSU team lines up there is a number of reasons that an opponent plays their best, and I think our guys understand that and there are a variety of reasons.  There are some guys there that we recruited that did not come, too.
We recognize that when we lineup we get our opponent's best performance.

Q.  Coach, through three games so far you're about 3‑1 run‑to pass place.  Is that out of choice or necessity?  Do you see a more balanced attack going forward?
COACH MILES:  It's probably being called being ahead 2 and not necessarily wanting to throw the ball down after down and let the clock expire.  I think we're fortunate to have the ability to do both, and we will certainly in games that that's necessary.  We choose to be balanced when we can and when we should, and should we take the lead or should the run become more important, then we will certainly press that advantage.

Q.  Coach, I noticed in your postgame interview, radio, you mentioned the back‑to‑back shutouts, first time since 1941.  That was my freshman year here!  We tied Mississippi State.  Mississippi State, you are playing this week, scoreless tie then shut out Rice 7‑0.  That team was a better team than the record indicated.  Lost a lot of close games, but prior to the Mississippi State game they lost to a fine Texas team 34‑0 over there.  That team should have won the National Championship, but they had a little dissent, and they got it back together and beat the Aggies 23‑0 at the end of the season.  The previous year A&M was undefeated and they went to Austin, Texas, upset them 7‑0, and they played ‑‑ I think, Dan La Bible was the coach, 11, two‑way starters and three‑way subs, which is unheard of these days.  When you were at Michigan when you played, I suppose it was already two platoon?  Was that the case?
COACH MILES:  Yeah, when we played, it was offense and defense and specialists and it was more the view of substitution that we have now.  Rarely would a guy play both ways.  Really it's the same style of a both‑way player, that rare, special guy that has an advantage on offense and defense equally.  As long as you play and as physical as this game is, you know, that one‑way players, really, are the way of the future.
I can tell you, the point that you make, Mississippi State is a dangerous team and I agree with you.

Q.  You never lost to Mississippi State.  There have been some competitive games in recent memory in this series.  Do you have to tell your guys anything about guarding against, hey, this is State, we beat them every year?
COACH MILES:  17 true freshmen, a team that prides itself on improving, recognizing the need to by seeing opponents' film, you look at Mississippi State, they call to you play best.  I have no problem standing in front of my team, that is not an issue in any way, unrealistic expectations.  We're going to have to earn the victory, and we recognize that.

Q.  Two things about Anthony Jennings.  Last week you said that you wished he would look to other receivers besides Travin Dural.  Did he do that successfully?  Were you happy with that?  Did he struggle a little bit because of his confidence after some early drops on Saturday?
COACH MILES:  Anytime drops occur, the offense struggles a little bit.  There were three drops early in the game.  The good news is that dissipated immediately and we got back on track.  I don't think his confidence was down at all.  I think he understood that's just the way it is.  Sometimes that happens.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH MILES:  He's making better decisions, he's hitting the open receiver now and really then.  It was only a couple of times where the choice could easily having to the other side, and he just chose to go to Dural, which in hindsight, there are some reasons for that as well.

Q.  After the game we talked about the defense, talked to the defensive players and the accountability I guess seemed to be a big theme.  Is that group almost to the point where they're coaching themselves now and are you impressed with how mature those young guys are?
COACH MILES:  I think there's‑‑ I think it's a cohesive team.  I think that the team takes coaching well.  With every new week there is a different challenge, and really this being the fourth, it is true.  Does this team lineup and run in the spread?  Sure, they do, but it's a completely different scheme and their play action is different and their quick game is different.  So what happens is when you come into a game week, it's a thirst for getting the game plan mastered.
That is happening.  Our guys are taking coaching, they go to the field with the idea that they need to learn it and they need to show it.  It's improvement that's really taken place daily, and I think the defense‑‑ I think the offense is do get same thing, to be honest.  And for that matter, the whole room.  It's a group of guys that recognize that they're talented and should they apply their every skill, they might play themselves into a game.  This game certainly, Saturday, is that game.

Q.  You talked earlier about Duke Riley's performance.  What kind of role has he earned because of his performance last week?  What kind of role did you expect him to play moving forward with Louis returning to the lineup?
COACH MILES:  The good news is we will look to sub him often.  He knows what he's doing, he's comfortable in the position, and he's talented.  I think you could see him taking more snaps.

Q.  What did Riley and Deion Jones do well the other night being thrown into the situation?
COACH MILES:  Just exactly what they were asked to do.  They did the things that, you know, each call specifically required them to do.  Coverage, press the point, you know, hold the point at the point of attack.  Just really both played very well.

Q.  Where do you see Ethan Pocic fitting in this game?  Will he start at another spot?  You mentioned Porter will start at center.  Will Ethan start somewhere else?
COACH MILES:  We will see how his readiness is.  In other words, we expect him to be completely healthy, but getting him ready to play and start at another spot is really the issue.

Q.  You put your running backs at full back a few times.  Touch on what that brings to your offense.
COACH MILES:  Well, anytime that you have a guy that can play both positions, run it and catch it and block it from that spot, and he's a 230 tailback, there are some advantages, certainly the athleticism on the full back carry, the athleticism on blocking, getting on the perimeter and the getting the guy and the 230‑pounder can run into a linebacker and deliver a quality block.  I think we're lucky to have a couple of guys that can fit into that role.

Q.  Coach, you mentioned holding out Kwon and Lamar.  Are they both healthy enough to play this week and available and ready to go?
COACH MILES:  Absolutely.  We expect both guys to play and start.

Q.  Going back to the question about the five teams being in the top‑10 in the polls in the SEC West, what does that mean for the necessity of great recruiting in your division and great preparation no matter who it is that you lineup against in the west?
COACH MILES:  If you enjoy competition, you enjoy this division, because week in and week out you're going to play a team that, you know, is nationally ranked, a team that can play for the championship, and frankly, if you're LSU you enjoy that.  This is why you come to the SEC.  This is why you compete in the western division.  Competition is great!

Q.  With Coach Bertman here, I guess it's almost been a decade since he hired you that day.  Can you reflect back on that?  I think Coach said, "This move is going to define me, if this works out or not," and a decade later it seems like it's worked out pretty well.  Can you talk about that and the interaction with Coach Bertman?
COACH MILES:  You know what's interesting?  I worked for him and recognized his strengths.  I was fortunate for him‑‑ for me that he would make a mistake and hire this guy from Oklahoma, and I can tell you that I owe him a phone call.  I saw that he called recently, and I was going to get back to him and didn't, and I was going to run up and say hello to you before I left here anyway, but fortunate to be here as the head coach at LSU and fortunate to have a gentleman like Skip Bertman show confidence in me and say "You're the guy!"
I have enjoyed it greatly!  Hopefully, Skip, at some point in time, this thing, you will look back on it and say, "Hey, it worked out."
THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, Coach. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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