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LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE


September 29, 2014


Les Miles


COACH MILES:  Always nice to come over here after a victory, and certainly Saturday night in Tiger Stadium was great fun.  I kind of feel like our team improved, offensively certainly we got off to a slow start, turned the ball over four times in the first quarter.  Can't do that against good teams.  Certainly we understand that.
Again, able to overcome our mistakes.  We rushed the ball for 360 and threw for 200.  Brandon Harris came in and gave us a great spark and the team played well around him.  They scored touchdowns on seven possessions and he was 7 for 7 there.
A very nice job, threw the ball well, made good decisions.  It stands to reason that he would get first snaps in the next game.  But we're going to need both quarterbacks.  Anthony Jennings is a fine young man and busting his behind to prove himself and certainly is going to continue to compete.
I think what has to happen, too, is you have to realize that these are young guys and they're not perfect and there is an opportunity for him to improve, and I would say to those guys in Tiger Stadium, to express displeasure, hopefully it would be with the coach, not necessarily with the player.  Again, I feel like offensively we improved.
We had four tail backs play very well.  Leonard Fournette rushed for 122 yards, two touchdowns.  Three other backs went for 50 yards; Magee 62 and a touchdown.  Williams, 59 and Kenny Hilliard, 53.
Line played well.¬† Dominated the game. ¬†Eight players caught passes at the wide receiver spot, defense allowed 274 yards, 172 yards rushing and 102 passing.¬† One assignment missed that cost us a 79‑yard run and score, but we forced four turnovers; we scored ourselves on defense.¬† Kendell Beckwith made a heads‑up reaction to a ball that was tipped and scores.¬† Second straight time.
Special teams I think is continuing to play well.  I like our kickoff, both Cameron Gamble and Trent Domingue, both of which give us different attributes, but both strong legs and can kick it out of the back of the end zone.  And Jamie Keehn is the No. 2 punter in our conference, a 46.6 average and continues to give us advantages when we're punting the ball.
Auburn 4‑0, No. 5 team in the country, certainly a very good team.¬† Coach Malzahn has done a great job preparing his team.¬† They have all of the attributes of a very quality, top‑10, top‑5 opponent, so offensively they're averaging 42 points, 480 yards, 260 yards rushing and 219 yards passing.¬† Nick Marshall is doing a great job of running their offense.¬† He is just under 100 yards rushing the ball and throwing it for about 160, so really operating the offense well.
Kamryn Pettway is rushing for 117 yards as a running back.  A quality group of receivers, D'haquille Williams, 23 receptions, 357 yards and 3 touchdowns leads their receiving core, and, again, they're big and fast and can go get it.
Defensively they're giving up 15 points, 313 yards total.  They're averaging 2.6 yards a rush.  No. 2 in the SEC and seven interceptions this year, and special teams they're talented there.  They have the No. 1 punt return team in the country, their punt returner, Quan Bray is a dangerous returner and we're going to have to make sure that we get down under those punts and handle that return challenge.
Anytime that you line up against a top‑5 opponent and you're looking forward to playing your best, this will be great competition.¬† I don't think there is a person in our building that's not excited about the opportunity to go down and play very well at Auburn.¬† Questions?

Q.  Coach, when did you talk to Brandon and Anthony about making a change and what did you say?  Two, why did you feel it was best to come out today and name the starter to the media?
COACH MILES:¬† I felt like there's a point in time ‑‑ the conversation between my players and myself are not necessarily fair game.¬† I can tell you that I felt like Brandon Harris needed to know it, and I felt like Anthony Jennings needed to know it.¬† That's the reason it was made.¬† I can also tell you that we, as we always do, will go into the game week with the idea that we have exactly what we need.¬† We'll take stock of what we're doing and make sure that the offense is being run, doing the right things.¬† It's an ongoing evolution, if you will.

Q.  Les, when you looked at the game film, what jumped out at you about Brandon to reaffirm what you saw during the game?
COACH MILES:¬† Really he just did the things that we asked him to do, and that's honestly all he needs to do, make quality decisions with the ball, function the offense.¬† He took a missnap, a bad snap, and scored.¬† There is some "ad‑lib" to his game that's very, very positive, and he's a guy that is really fast and a guy that can really throw the ball.¬† You put him in a quality position to extend a play, some good things can happen.

Q.  Coach, two questions about your quarterbacks.  With Harris, preparing him for this game on the road, what do you do to keep him emotionally in check and lead that offense, and you said we will see still Jennings, likely.  What are the types of situations where he can help your team?
COACH MILES:  Well, we will always kind of view the game and see how that's going.  Sometimes there's an opportunity for another player to give a player that's currently got the burden of starting and all of the game plan on his plate a series or a situation off.  I'm not saying we will do that, but we're very capable to see how the week goes and we have a lot of confidence in both guys.  We certainly have a lot of confidence in Harris, and we will have to take it as it goes.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH MILES:  I don't know that you ever can really just prevent it.  The scheduling of plays and making sure that you format a script and that everybody understands what's expected.  Again, that's what he did last Saturday.  He just took the plays that we gave him and did just what we asked him to do, and if he just handles it that way, I think he will be fine.

Q.¬† You only gave up one touchdown against New Mexico State, but it was an 80‑yarder, right up the middle, the kind of plays that can worry people about Auburn and what they can do.¬† What did you see on that play that happened?
COACH MILES:¬† The linebacker should have fallen back in that seam and made that tackle.¬† It was a pretty effective play call.¬† Just, again, a mistake, based on not getting the call or based on the player not understanding the call, but we felt like we made improvement in that on the week.¬† They were an up‑tempo team and a team that would put pressure on you in terms of not huddling, and we felt like we improved but not necessarily on that play.

Q.  Auburn runs the spread, but they run the ball as much as pass.  Talk about it from your standpoint, balance and what type of balance you're seeking on offense between run/pass.
COACH MILES:¬† We're looking always at an opportunity to have balance.¬† That would be a situation where you would take the down and distance and make the defense have to defend the pass.¬† I think teams that have strong tendencies have had big games, and those tendencies to‑‑ give you an example in the back half of this last game, we would just as soon get off the field and extend the clock.¬† In other words, we wanted to use time.¬† So we did that in the back half of that game.
If we're in a game where it's important that we score, being in a tie or a close game, you will find that we will be balanced in our run/pass ratio.

Q.  With the amount of true freshmen that contribute to your team and this being their first true road game, is there anything else you tell them preparing them for this hostile environment and what do you expect from these young guys?
COACH MILES:  I think our guys understand how to play in big games.  I think it will be exciting for them.  I think they'll look around and enjoy the fact that this is a real great college venue but they will realize they need to play big and this is a quality opponent.  There will be a challenge with it.  I think it brings a really intriguing component to this game.  I think our young guys will look to playing big and play like Tigers on the road.

Q.¬† This is the first game, I believe, that you will be the underdog.¬† Do you relish that position or does it make that much difference?¬† Also, I would like to ask about your son.¬† I keep seeing he's not going to play, but it never said what his injury is.¬† I wonder what it is.¬† I don't want to discuss it, if it's not necessary, by‑pass it.¬† I just wondered about it.
COACH MILES.  Gotcha.  Underdog piece, I've never felt the underdog role is something we embraced.  I think there is an enjoyment with playing as LSU, and I think that's what we will play with.  We will look forward to competing and wearing our uniform proudly.
My son played in the last game.¬† He played six plays, had a pretty productive day.¬† I think his team is undefeated, and the reason that they are is because they have a lot of character that they play with in very difficult circumstances, at times without some of their better players, not just my son but some other guys, and I think that that U‑High club and that coach has done a great job being in the position that they're in currently.

Q.  Do you have any injury update on Dwayne Thomas and Connor Neighbors?
COACH MILES:  Connor Neighbors will not miss practice today; Dwayne Thomas is being looked at right now.

Q.¬† Harris, when he's in the game, you guys seem to be a little more up‑tempo.¬† Is that correct?¬† Is that accurate?
COACH MILES:¬† I don't think so.¬† If you kind of look at it we got to the line of scrimmage quick and what we did in the second half was‑‑ our goal was to snap the ball with 5 seconds or less on the clock.¬† Even though we were at the line of scrimmage, we were not necessarily an up‑tempo team.

Q.  How about in the shotgun?  You seemed to use Harris more in the shotgun.  Do you think he's comfortable there?
COACH MILES:  I think he's more comfortable under center, more now than he's ever been, and I think he's got equal confidence in the shotgun.  I think you will find that we will kind of be balanced some there as well.

Q.¬† You're one‑third through your regular season, going in.¬† With all the planning that you do in anticipation, where are you at compared to what you expected, ahead, behind, even?¬† On the same line of questioning with regard to the quarterbacks.
COACH MILES:¬† It's interesting.¬† I think in some circumstances we're ahead, and in the quarterback spot I think that we're making‑‑ we're evolving.¬† The key is that you play like you would like to play.¬† Certainly as a coach, I think every coach you asked that to would like to say we would like to play better.¬† I think our team feels that and I think the opportunity to play best against a very quality opponent could easily be this Saturday.

Q.  You could get your 100th win as the head coach at LSU with the win this weekend.  How significant, important is that to you and what would that milestone mean to you?
COACH MILES:  I have given virtually not a second's thought on that piece.  I think there have been lots of wonderful opportunities for me to have success here at LSU based on the quality of players and the assistant coaches so I've given little thought to that.  I really don't want to talk about it any further.

Q.  Maybe something you thought about further, your run defense, what has to be done against Auburn that did not happen against both Mississippi State and Wisconsin?
COACH MILES:  We have to play like LSU's defense and I think Coach Chavis and that group of young men are doing the things they need to do to improve, and I think we will have another great week of practice, and I think we will play even better this Saturday.

Q.  If Dwayne is out for a while, how does that shuffle the secondary in terms of who will play the extra spots that he's played so well?
COACH MILES:  I think there are a number of candidates there.  I don't know that I'm ready to be forth coming, but I think there is always an opportunity to get Jamal Adams on the field for more snaps.  I think Ed Paris is another guy that you can get on the field for more snaps.  And how that will all factor in, I'm not certain.

Q.¬† What do you and Cam tell Brandon‑‑ hostile environment, he's 18 years old.¬† Do you treat him differently than you might another older quarterback heading into a hostile environment?
COACH MILES:¬† One, one thing about our guys is they have been in those kind of arenas, really, since they were, you know, seven, eight years old playing youth ball and I don't think there is ever‑‑ my first hostile environment that I remember was a baseball diamond in what would be southern Ohio, okay?¬† That was a very hostile environment.¬† I can tell you as a sophomore in wrestling, we went to Mentor, and they had to walk us out of the gym into the bus, on to the buses.¬† My point to you is our guys have been through hostile environments before.
The noise is, in my opinion, a distraction and the game is certainly that piece that needs to be focused on.  I think our guys will get that.

Q.  Saturday after the game you said the quarterback position was a lightning rod in college and in the NFL.  Can you explain what you meant by that?
COACH MILES:  It's that spot where criticism is easy to give, and to recognize what's exactly gone on, you don't need to be the most avid sports fan.  You could really repeat a lot of what's been said and be pretty close.
I think that position, if you will, you have to have a little thicker skin, you have to recognize that that's the position that you play and it's reality.

Q.  Your assessment of Kendell Beckwith's play on Saturday night and the expectation for him Saturday versus Auburn?
COACH MILES:  I certainly enjoyed his play Saturday night, and I would expect that he would play even a further role at Auburn.  I think the good news is that both Welter and he are playing better, and that is a quality environment for the Tigers to be able to put two quality guys on the field.

Q.  Will Quentin Thomas and Frank Herron be back at practice this week?
COACH MILES:  Quentin Thomas, I'm not certain; Frank Herron, more likely.

Q.  What does Gus Malzahn's offense do well schematically that makes them difficult to prepare for?
COACH MILES:¬† They throw the ball in a position to keep you spread and off the formation, and they run the football with the zone read or a gifted hand‑off where they have things blocked.¬† That, frankly, challenges the defense to play the run and the pass at the same time.¬† I think it will be a match‑up that certainly will be challenging but one that we will look forward to.

Q.  Coach, curious, you're not usually forthcoming with us when we speculate about players playing in a game.  Why Harris today?
COACH MILES:  Only that he needs to know and it's not going to be something that I'm going to hide from him, so I don't want him to have to field the questions.

Q.  When did you make up your mind?  Right after the game or did you have to give it a lot of thought?  Did you consult with Cam?
COACH MILES:¬† I wanted to watch the film and communicate with my staff, and I think it was one of those‑‑ I didn't think it was‑‑ I think he deserved the opportunity to take snaps.¬† I don't think it was a difficult decision.

Q.  Going back to the criticism that quarterbacks may receive, have you talked to Jennings about the crowd's reaction in Saturday's game?
COACH MILES:  I've described people that have no say in the game really are trying to get into the game with their reaction.  I told him that he need not concern himself with that.  In fact, there is a likelihood that many of the people that made that protest did not play a lot of football and did not know what he was going through and frankly gave little thought to their momentary, negative reaction.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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