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November 10, 2014

Les Miles

COACH MILES:  Happy birthday Ted!  Ted is going to be old than I am as we go forward.  Tomorrow is Veteran's Day.  We all need to be thankful that we have people willing to sacrifice for our abilities to do the things we want to do.  Very thankful that they allow me to be a coach.
Now, last Saturday night, there was some very, very competitive game played, a very‑‑ two quality teams really playing physical, competitive, fast and violent football.
It was a game that anybody that enjoys the sport can enjoy, and I‑‑ but we ache today, because we realize that there are ways that we could have finished first in that game.
That's good.  A quality team, once they finish second, they don't feel very good about it.  We have quality people and we'll understand how top rate from there.
I went through the game meticulously, I saw every play.  I had the opportunity to sit down by telephone with Steve Shaw, who is the head of officials with the conference.  He did a great job explaining to me the mechanics and how they looked at things, you know, there seemed to be a way in which he viewed these calls that allowed his guys to do a better job and would allow his guys to do a better job.
I appreciate very much the candidness with which he described each call, and I'm very comfortable with how he saw it, and I think my team will enjoy that review.
Now, we're a team that needs to correct the things that we need to correct, and we have a couple third down drops that certainly moved the chains and extended the game and you look at that 50 seconds, how many third downs do you need to have happen to have that 50 seconds gone?  We talked about the opportunity to tackle a guy inside, in that two‑minute period.  We looked at kinda how we approached our containment, and there were a couple of plays that we could certainly do better.  We did have calls designed to tackle guys inbounds, the opponent made plays and got to the out‑of‑bounds and stopped the clock.
The kickoff that happened after we took the lead, certainly our kicker will do a better job.  He is a very quality person.  He will work at it, and he will understand, and we also have competition there so we will find‑‑ we will make sure that position is manned well and I think, again, Trent will do a great job.
And we can improve, certainly.  The defense, on the other hand, and offense for that matter, maintained the ball, we had time possession advantage.  We played well enough on offense to win the game.  Defensively definitely played well enough to win the game and on special teams, to be honest with you, you look at the punt that was down inside the 1 yard line and the possibility of two of those should that one ball that was carried from what happened to be the goal line back inbounds, those were spectacular plays on special teams.  They really didn't get a kick return on the night.  So there were some real quality play.  Alabama had only five plays in 18 seconds of possession time in the third quarter.  Certainly the defense has had‑‑ only allowed two touchdowns in regulation the last three SEC games, one at 'Ole Miss, one at Alabama.  Again, we hold Alabama to 315 yards total offense, you've accomplished a lot defensively.
A lot of field goals in the second half, five straight three and outs, forced a fumble and allowed just 40 yards in the second half prior to the final drive.
Again, some very, very positive pieces there in this game.
Right now we're going to operate in this 48‑hour rule.  This football team is made up of quality people and guys with character, and they will be fighters.
I will look forward to, as we prepare and get ready for Arkansas, a quality opponent, both sides of the ball.  Coach Bret Bielema has done a very good job.  They got their program going in the right direction.  They play everybody‑‑ everybody that they play they play extremely close and very competitive.  They have two quality running backs in Jonathan Williams, that really‑‑ 10 touchdowns apiece, 840 yards and 877 yards for two quality running backs.  They operate behind an enormous line, big tall guys, get their body on you, create a problem.  They're fourth in the conference in rushing at 248 yards per game.  The quarterback, Brandon Allen does a really good job running their offense, he's completing at about 47% and five touchdowns, five interceptions and just doing a really good job.  They got a great receiver in Keon Hatcher, 32 receptions, 410 yards, 3 touchdowns and Hunter Henry is also having a quality year for them.
Defensively they're allowing 24 points and 364 yards per game, a lot of playmakers on that side of the ball, a lot of very, very mobile down linemen and linebackers.  They're allowing 136 yards per game to the offenses that they play.  It's going to be a great opportunity.  The best thing about a time frame like this is our football team will certainly want to reconcile this game here in the next couple of hours and then they will want to turn their attention to what would be the next opponent, and that next opponent, very talented, very capable, and we'll very much look forward to preparing for them and it will be a great challenge.  Questions?

Q.  Les, even after speaking to Steve Shaw do you still think the unsportsmanlike conduct call was a poor call?
COACH MILES:  What has to happen in making those calls is the official must see the whole play, can't make a partial call, can't just, you know, think he saw‑‑ it's got to be the whole play.
I think that that call was a‑‑ I think that call certainly upon review of the conference could have been made in a different way.  I can tell you that there were some personal fouls that happened to happen there and not necessarily in that play, but we talked at length about what the responsibility is in safety.
I think there is a good, quality understanding that what's expected of the officials and certainly I'm going to get my guys to comply, but we'll‑‑ yeah, I think that‑‑ I'm very satisfied with how Mr.Shaw reviewed these each and every call.

Q.  Coach, there was some vulgarity directed at Coach Saben from the LSU student section on Saturday.  Are you aware of that?  What is your stance on that?
COACH MILES:  I was not aware of that, to be honest with you.  There are some things I get kind of zoned in on and I can tell you another thing I wasn't aware of, somebody made the announcement to make sure you stay in your seats as the game ends.  I would think we would not have to make that announcement.  I got to be honest with you, I am so doing things that I didn't get that but I was told it was a repeated announcement.  I would think that‑‑ we need to make sure we can make the announcement at the appropriate time, starting it in the third quarter might be premature, starting it late in the fourth quarter might be a little premature, but I did not hear any derogatory statements about Coach Saben made.  Explain.

Q.  Involved the "F" word directed at Coach Saben, a very loud chant from the student section.
COACH MILES:  I can tell you that certainly there is a responsibility and a deportment that we would follow with every opponent that arrives here and that we would be responsible to sportsmanship and respecting that opponent.

Q.  Coach, in your talks with Steve Shaw were there any other plays that you discussed with him?  Specifically the two plays where the flags were picked up?
COACH MILES:  We discussed all those plays and the specifics I'm going to try to avoid, but I think he sees it in a way that allows us both to be very comfortable in the how they're operating.  I will be more candid with my team than I am here, but, again, I think they will review that in their business internally, and I think we'll all be‑‑ enjoy how they've improved as officials and will continue to.

Q.  We would like you to be more candid, you might get fined, but we think you probably can afford it.  That's easy for me to say.
COACH MILES:  I want to say that I respect the officiating crew that works each and every game, including the one that just worked it, and I know that they are‑‑ they want in in making us the conference, each game the most represented game, the most fair, as straightforward as they can.  So I have to be honest with you, I am comfortably going to comply with what would be any good measure of sportsmanship as I review the officials.  I think they do generally a great job, and there is a process in place that will correct and amend, and I'm comfortable with that.  At this point in time I just want you to know something, I just want you to know, I could bring in, I don't know, 25 calls that we sent in specifically, and I could display them by film and go right through it.  What's the score of the game?  The one we just played in?

Q.  20‑13.
COACH MILES:  If that sucker could change, you would see an entirely different guy at the podium.  Right now I recognize we finished second to a very quality team.  We can do better and that does not leave out the officials.

Q.  You're out of the race now in the SEC West and you are guaranteed a bowl game, one of these bowls the SEC will pick, most likely a group of six ‑‑
COACH MILES:  What you're saying is we are not being referred to today as the second best or two‑loss team in the conference?

Q.  No.
COACH MILES:  I agree, I completely agree.  I recognize that.

Q.  With an eye to that, these next couple of games, do you start to think any differently about your personnel, who you play, with an eye to the future?
COACH MILES:  I am not ready to go on to next year in any way.  I am looking at the very next game and to play as well as we can, simply put.
If there is a plan that would allow some guys that are competing in an equal or close‑to‑equal basis, then that would be something that we would give thought to.  But I promise you, these are two‑‑ the very next opponent is a very, very quality one and we will have the want to play our best.

Q.  Coach, have we seen the last of Rashard Robinson this season and what can you tell us about his suspension?
COACH MILES:  It's an indefinite suspension and I don't expect that you would see him in the short‑term at all.

Q.  Do you think that impacts his status for coming back his junior year or is it too early to speculate?
COACH MILES:  I'm beyond that as well.  There is a responsibility that he has to this team that has been foregone.  At this point I'm looking forward to the next team.

Q.  You're a guy that played at Michigan, you've seen a lot of weather, not many of your guys have, what is the impact if that game is played in the 20s or 30s with potential precipitation or snow, what have you?
COACH MILES:  The enjoyable thing about games, it's always the situation of the game, it's never the specifics.  In other words, if it's 8 inches of snow and blowin' like hell, what a great game to play in.  If it's driving rain again it's an opportunity to recognize what you're going to have to do to win in that game.  It's another criteria that you have to figure on and make work.  I think our guys would look forward to playing in a cold weather game and certainly need to‑‑ if they are not looking forward to it, they need to get that in their mind because there is a great chance that will happen.

Q.  Coach, a lot has been made of your ability to win games in the fourth quarter, come‑back win and things like that.  I wonder, is it tougher sometimes with a close lead in the fourth quarter?  Does that change attitudes, perceptions?
COACH MILES:  I promise you, I still want the lead in the fourth quarter.  Okay, men, we have to get behind a little bit so we can come from behind, you know that's an important stat to me.  We really need to make that work!  No, I promise you, we'll take the small lead going into the fourth quarter and look at that opportunity to advantage that lead a little more.

Q.  The four passing plays in a row in overtime as well as you guys ran the ball, who was behind the decision making?
COACH MILES:  Well, the initial passing play was a great call.  Obviously it was one that one of our players would have liked to have executed better but he had been down the sideline 7 to 15 yards, he breaks a tackle, it was a very, very good call.
Now, would I have like to have gotten a run in or two, sure I would have.  I liked the calls and I stand here in front of you today always with the opportunity to say if it didn't work, I would like to do it differently, but, you know, I liked the calls.

Q.  And then you mentioned the big prize of the SEC West Championship is out of the picture.  What is the prize that's still out there for this team?
COACH MILES:  It's always been the same, period, is to continue to improve as a team, and play ourselves into a game of significance.  That very next game of significance will be Arkansas in their stadium.

Q.  Les, Rashard Robinson indefinitely suspended, does that mean that he practices with y'all or does he not practice?
COACH MILES:  No, he's not practicing.

Q.  He didn't practice last week?

Q.  Kenny Hilliard, what did he do?  Maybe a shoulder?
COACH MILES:  Yeah, he got a pretty good size bruise there and we would expect that he would return to play this week.

Q.  Your run defense, especially defensive tackles, seems like earlier in the year they struggled but lately they have been doing a good job, what's been the change there?
COACH MILES:  They load their pad level, they come off the football more aggressively, they're using their hands to play leverage inside so much better, and they are some young guys who have grown up.

Q.  What would you like to see done to improve officiating in the conference?
COACH MILES:  Well, I think there is a‑‑ I think it's a lot like football in the fact that there are some players that, on my team, that I would very much like to, you know‑‑ I don't want to change players, I like the guys I got.  My team is a good quality team.  They didn't play exactly how they could have.  They could have played a lot better.  They could have made plays that could have taken the officiating and made it an easy game to officiate.  I think what they have in place in our conference is this:  They have feedback.  Feedback from the coaches is the key piece.  I was fortunate to spend 20 minutes plus with Steve Shaw, and I was very comfortable with the things that he said and how he saw it.
My team will be as well.  It's not a change of score, but it's a‑‑ it becomes confidence when you realize that that's how it's supposed to be done, and this is what we're going to do as we go forward.  I think that is a key piece in developing week‑after‑week better officiating.  I think that they're doing that.  I think people will be people and their strengths are also their weaknesses and as long as we're going to be officiated like my players, by quality people, they're going to make mistakes.

Q.  Today is your 60th birthday and my 90th!  Couple of other great guys have a birthday today, Jim Corbett, former athletic director, Bud Montet, former sports advocate, but what I wanted to ask you, your team has improved greatly since you played Mississippi State.  It's been my experience through the years, you ask a coach who's gonna win the game, and then you pick the other team, because most of the time, the coach is gonna be wrong.  So how do you see that game, over at Tuskaloosa, Mississippi State, Alabama?  How do you see that game?
COACH MILES:  Now, you do realize, Ted, that should I go strong one way or another, certainly they would never remember that the next time we lined up to play 'em, do you remember what he said, that dirty, rotten dog so I do realize this is one of those questions that there is a good possible wrong answer in there somewhere.
Here is what I would say:  I think that the alignment of Alabama's defense will give Mississippi State an issue.  I think if they can run the football against Alabama's defense, then that they will then find path enough to move the football.  With what would be Alabama's offense against Mississippi State's defense, I think that that will really be a very competitive‑‑ I'm not certain there is an advantage one side or the other.  I think special teams may go a little bit to Alabama, so I'm pickin' a dead, even race and only the bounce of the ball will make the difference.  That's what I'm seein'.  That would not be a wrong answer, guys.

Q.  Coach, happy birthday!  This is one of the youngest teams you have, if not the youngest and five weeks ago‑‑
COACH MILES:  It may be the youngest team in the NCAA, 17 freshmen playing this year.

Q.  This is true.  Five weeks ago you went to Auburn 41‑7, you were beatin' in every aspect of the game and now we're sitting here, five weeks later, you've played two top‑5 teams in the country, you beat the No. 3 team and you beat Alabama in every aspect of the game, maybe not on the scoreboard but on special teams, offense and defense.  Have you ever had a team progress from the beginning of the season to this late in the season like this team has?
COACH MILES:  I think it's a special team that way, I really do.
I think their leadership is done by character and quality people.  I think they're ambitious.  I think they recognize that they can be a very, very‑‑ if not great football team.  I would not‑‑ it would be difficult for me to compare where this team has improved to with some other teams that we've had.  I can tell you it's bested many, and I mean many of the teams that we've had.  They're fighters.  They are quality, quality kids‑‑ men.

Q.  When you hit the practice field this afternoon, what type of emotion are you expecting to see from your players?
COACH MILES:  Here is what will happen.  There's a deep breath in every one of us, and it's ‑‑  I have to be honest with you, to be honest with a lot of people in the room.  You, a lot of people in the room who care about the Tigers you know who sit there in the off side and the waning areas of watching, they care, too.  And you all know what that deep breath is about.  It's that anxiety and that ugly feeling that you get in your stomach and things didn't go exactly right.  That's the emotion that you'll find.  We're going to ache.  We recognize coulda, woulda, shoulda, and we recognize where we are today.  That's going to be difficult to handle, but what will happen is they will go to the field and they will practice and they will get a little bit of sweat going, they will catch a ball and they'll stand in the area they're supposed to stand in and block and they'll do the things you're supposed to do and get to the back end of the practice and feel a little bit better about it and Tuesday they will be all focused on Arkansas and a great game plan, and as we go forward for the week.
We're going to get this behind us as soon as we can.

Q.  I should tell you for the whole generation of people in here, and you can't find these stories on the internet because he got out before them, so Ted Castillo was a heck of a good sports writer in his day.  Ted, it's no longer your day, but you remember good.
COACH MILES:  But, Ted, "no longer your day" is really not an insult.

Q.  No one enjoys retirement more and deserves it.  You've got three games left.  How do you generate some kind of offense, passing?
COACH MILES:  I think we're generating that.  I think there is a‑‑ it's really interesting.  We have, you know, a number of great plays that we look forward to running in that game last Saturday.  You have three more drives extended, just three more, or let's have four more, let's have an overtime play, I mean, there's just so much that's left on the table when you don't have drives that are continuous, down‑the‑field drives.  That's ultimately the easiest way to extend an offensive productivity is to get so some of those plays you want to call after you've picked up a third down.  In other words, just think about how many more plays would have happened if we pick up four third downs.  Legitimately, minimum, 8 to 10, max, 20?  I mean, legitimately, you know, how many big plays‑‑ if you're talking about generating offensive power, offensive production, you know, make third down work.
I want you to know we are.  The issue is we gotta execute it, feel comfortable about it.  I can tell you one thing, I like my players, I'm going to turn and throw it to that guy again and, again and, again.

Q.  What do you make now at this, two games left, Anthony's progression as the season has gone on and then this past weekend when you look at the film, how much was he hampered by drops, how much do you put on the full backs or receivers or what have you when you evaluate his game?
COACH MILES:  I can tell you that he missed through ‑‑ that one pick, we had one pick Travin Dural fell down on an in route and at the very worst it is a knock down play, but he should having to the other side very comfortably.  He should have had two of those.  The rest of his reads were decent, his play was not perfect, but improved and ‑‑ if you throw in the production of the drops, I think he becomes, you know, much more productive and the view of him is much different, and‑‑ but that didn't happen, and it's not just the quarterback, as you know, it's always line, and I can tell you one thing, I was very fortunate to see him pull that ball down and get up the middle there for a couple of first downs on scrambles.

Q.  Coach, about that last possession in the first half, you were trying to instill some confidence in Anthony, let him go 2 minute there and get some points, is that a battle to get him confidence and play close to the vest as well?
COACH MILES:  We're a‑‑ you want to allow him to continue to grow.  He really is‑‑ you know, his capacity as he starts to put his hands around this offense continues to advance and advance, so, yeah, you want to give him those opportunities.  We are approaching, you know, much more equity in the throwing game, and we really think we will get more out of it.
THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, Coach.

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