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November 16, 2015

Les Miles

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

COACH MILES: There was no -- anything but a very focused, enthusiastic group of men came to work and worked extremely hard in practice. And I would certainly have seen that they were absolutely ready to play in this game. Just really did not think that we would start that poorly. I watched in pregame and in pregame I thought that they had great energy.

Really, there was a lot of vocal leadership in our locker room. Our guys across the board, the leadership of our team spoke and said, hey, this is about us. This is the position that we are in. We need to maintain this position and do so by winning this game in our stadium tonight.

So I did not expect to start poorly. In fact, we got a turnover on about the 15, I said, this about the time we take in and score. We didn't. You look at the many things that contribute to starting slowly: I think our quarterback certainly can play better, but there were times where he was brilliant. He was 14 for 16 at one stretch. And then that's the kind of quarterback that we need to have every day.

We pop a big run or a nice run, ten-yard-plus run, and ended up with a penalty. And so we continually put ourselves in third-down-and-long situations. When you do that, you tell that defense to come get you and they did. They obliged us. And our offensive line is a good offensive line. Hawk was a little hobbled.

But I think when you put the third down and 16, third down and 19, third down and not manageable; if it's a manageable third down, you have the opportunity then to call a run and now that defense is not just with their ears pinned back coming.

But we in about the first five possessions, we punted, fumbled, got sacked and that was as poor a start as we could have had. It's interesting, I think my quarterback is better than he was to start the season. I think our fullbacks, now minus J.D., we needed to have some growth there. I think Bry'Kiethon Mouton and our fullbacks have come. My wide receivers can go and get the ball. Our offensive line needs to heal a little bit, but frankly they are still intact. It's the same offensive line. We are youthful but we are capable.

Our tight ends, we lost Dillon Gordon but the two guys have stepped in and done a good job by Colin Jeter and Foster Moreau both, and really, DeSean Smith, if he gets healthy would be a guy that would step in and do a lot of playing. I think they are improved.

Defensively, here is an interesting statistic, and it just makes you sad, because 53 plays, they gave up 239 yards. And on three plays they gave up 201 yards. So the point is, for 53 plays, that looks like LSU defense. For three plays, it cost you the game.

And just as a for instance: We had a guy in man coverage fall down. It gets out at an awkward angle. We have a couple of runs that -- one of which should have been a zero play. Open slate, safety loses contain and it just goes vertical for, I don't know, 80 yards. And the reverse was a great play, but reality there is, we have a safety in great position, as well.

So this is a defense that played a lot of good football. I mean, simply put, if you look at the way college offenses are scoring, this defense played a lot of good football minus three plays.

Now, the special teams, we are improved there, but we still gave up a return that came out to the 44 at a time where we really needed them not to. Our kick return is averaging about 23 yards per return. Jamie punted at 44 yards, so Jamie is getting better. Laying marks on our kicks are better.

So, I know, for me, I just want to go back to scoring and producing and having the style offense that we are used to having, and that defense to eliminate some mistakes and play dominant LSU football. That's really the plan for this weekend. We know what work on. It's a time where as a coach, you just bury your head and you go to work and you coach like there's no tomorrow and it's time to step up.

I think our guys understand that. They understand crisis. They understand finning second in a ballgame and what you need to do. I look forward to taking the field with them today.

So a full recap: We put ourselves in a very awkward position, down 21 just before the half, we go and get seven. And then the first drive of the second half, question comeback and it's 14-21. Kick the ball off to the 44 and that cost us the three-pointer. And from that point forward, we really did not muster. We had some nice plays, but the issue of penalties kept putting us in the arrears and did not allow us to go down the field and score. Should we have tied that thing up in an opportunity in a tie ballgame, that could easily have been one of the very nice turnarounds that we've seen.

But last four possessions were two punts, one turnover, and we did not convert on a fourth down. And we called the plays that we felt were like the best plays that we could have called. I think our team, again, if I -- we have character on our football team. We have great leadership. We have guys that care and I suspect when I see them today they will be ready to work and ready to turn the page. So get back to playing very, very quality football.

Of course, playing Ole Miss and Ole Miss is always an exciting game. There's always something to it. Coach Hugh Freeze has done a great job there. They have done a great job recruiting and there's talent on both sides of the ball. They are No. 1 in scoring in the conference on offense, and they have got one of the top wide receivers in the country in Laquon Treadwell, for a thousand-plus yards. Very good running game. Complements the passing attack. They are averaging 177 yards of rushing a game.

Defensively, again, a lot of very talented players. And they are allowing 23 points in 374 yards per game. Again, it's always very exciting what you battle Ole Miss and that will not change.

Again, character of my football team and I believe in the Tigers. So, questions.

Q. Saturday you said that you didn't give your team the right stuff to win that game. Could you go into some detail about that?
COACH MILES: I tried to review that, and I wanted to send them on to the field better. I just -- there had to be some piece there, a string I'm not yanking on. Because that play, that first play, that opening play, I'm for that play. I'd call that one again. I'd start the exact same way.

In fact, I'd be willing to bet you that Brandon Harris would hit that sucker nine out of ten times. And the play, if you just go back and review it, catches probably seven yards from the guy that was defending it; probably 17 yards -- just off memory, 17 yards from the safety who would have to tackle it. And it really would have been, if Malaki's (ph) speed could have had him score and that was the first play that we threw.

I'm just giving you the start. And we ran, off left tackle, if the tight end had a little bit more width, our boy, Len Fournette, would have been into the -- would have made a wide cut, not been hindered, and it would have been down the sideline. But it was a minus four, or minus five. So we are at second down now, third down, and 14, and we get sacked.

So those things that could well have been positive, didn't occur. And I don't know how that -- I don't know that there's anybody else to take the credit or discredit than the coach.

Q. You obviously ran shotgun more than you have; is that more of changing things after Alabama or trying to revamp the offense in general against Arkansas?
COACH MILES: I think we have an ability to do both. I think that's something that our coaches want to do. I think we want to have the ability to push them around a little bit with two-back and tight ends and a little bit more physical brand of football, as well as use the finesse and the ability to throw and pop some really quality runs in one back, as well.

Q. Smith, he didn't dress out. What's his status?
COACH MILES: We did an MRI and checked him out. It does not appear to be serious at this point. So we would expect him to get back as soon as he can.

Q. What about Jerald Hawkins?
COACH MILES: Hawk probably will not practice today. We are hopeful to get him back for Tuesday's practice.

Q. Is it safe to say that your defensive secondary has not progressed throughout the course of the season?
COACH MILES: Well, the start of the -- the start of the game certainly gives you that view, but, you know, difficult when you're on your butt, if you fell down, for you to respond to that.

But there was a secondary back that should have been right over the top, the power that busted. I think it's safe to say that we're talented there; that we'll be youthful at times, but that we are coming. I can't imagine that there's any -- as soon as the player sees the film, he's going to go: Absolutely correct, and not have any doubt where he was supposed to be.

I'd like to say that it's basically just, he felt like the ball was going to break to the width, so he put himself in a position that he needed not to, and really it ends up being two guys in a spot being blocked by one. So those are the things that pull your hair out.

Q. Can an offensive line go into a slump? These last couple weeks, is that possible, where things just don't click for everybody?
COACH MILES: I hope not. I've not seen offensive lines that were as good as this one go into slumps. But I think there's -- I think there's a -- certainly in this season, this has been a flat spot. You know, we need to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to make that not only offensive line but the offense more productive.

Q. Do you feel like the program is far off from competing for SEC Championships, National Championships? It's only two losses but some people have some concerns about where you guys are heading.
COACH MILES: I think that every time that you line up in a season, give you an ex-example. Just before we played Tennessee in what was the SEC Championship Game, we lost to a very good Arkansas team. That team needed to respond, okay. Before that, we lost on the road at Kentucky and that same team needed to respond.

And I think that that response comes from the need to have something not go as planned, and certainly these last two games have not gone as planned for us, and especially on offense.

So I think that the understanding of that and the ability to step forward and say: I'm accountable, I'm responsible, let's get this done, all is in response to that flat area, that negative piece that needs fixed.

Q. Saturday night, you said the offense is weeks away.
COACH MILES: I didn't say weeks away -- I promise you. You probably didn't sound away, but I didn't say weeks away, I promise.

Q. Well, it sounded like you said weeks away. It's only two weeks left in the season and I'm wondering, how do you resolve something like that when you're in week 13, 12 or 13?
COACH MILES: Well, the good news is, is we really know what to coach because we are pretty talented there. It's a specific rush and something that we are going to get plenty of coaching time on, and our guys are going to want that. I mean, these are veteran guys who have aspirations of playing a lot of football.

So it's not like anybody is going to say, you tricked me, that didn't work. We will get that technique right.

Q. I've worked with you a long time and I think I know the kind of coach you are, all about the team and not about the individual. But do you feel like you do your team a disservice by not focusing on the actual problem areas of your team and addressing them in a public forum, maybe not necessarily in your building?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I want you to know, within the confines of that building, there's specific conversations being had with specific players about their play. And in coaching reference; in other words, how and why and next time. And the coaching staff and the players, in it together.

So when I bring a philosophical metaphor, if you will, into this room, and speak in generalities, it's done because I want to make sure that they understand that they need to focus on not what's being written in the newspaper but by what's being said by the coach in that building.

That's always been my -- certainly to those people sitting out there listening to me now, a failing; but it will always be my response.

Q. The cornerback position obviously tray white, you played three different guys Saturday. What's kind of going on with that spot there?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I like 7, I like 1, I like 18, and I think there's some -- I think there's some good players there.

Q. Is it a matter of continuing to rotate those guys or is there one you'd like to see emerge as a starter there?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I like that group, that threesome right there, I'm good with those guys.

Q. The fixes on offense, is it just about executing better or does schematically something need to change?
COACH MILES: I don't think we changed anything. The protection is just how we protected. And I have to be honest with you; I wish we would have thrown that pass we opened the game with again.

Look, for instance, I want to be critical of the style of run and learning from that breaks off left tackle makes a jump cut that's going to go around the edge and frankly it's a good run. If my tight end had a little bit more width on the play, it may have been about a 25-yard gain.

So it's little pieces and little increments of improvement and it's interesting, we went to 7-0 with this team, and it's a lot of youth on it and they are betting better. For me to say, you know, I'm disappointed this is in some way, you know, where they are at; it's not.

This is a football team that's going to improve, it's going to work hard, it's great kids, and I would be just as -- I would have expected that the 14 of 16 could have been the first 14 of 16 for Brandon Harris. I was there, too. I watched the game. I promise you -- I also know that we have taken him into some tough spots on the road; at Mississippi State, certainly, and at Syracuse, and he just performed.

So I think like our team, I think that's something that's next, okay, and that's a next step for these Tigers.

Q. So in other words, it sounds like with all of the youth on the team, were they ahead of schedule then when you guys were 7-0?
COACH MILES: Well, I can tell you this; that my two guards, freshmen guards, both are playing way better, okay, way better. I'm just saying we ran into a spot where protection was terrible, okay, and we have to get better. We made a couple of adjustments during the game to give the tackle some help. But I think a good, solid week and an understanding, you know, turf was a little slick a little bit, and, you know, you end up when you get momentum going back and the defender gets on you, you have to learn how to find your back leg on slippery turf. I don't think that that will be there this Saturday.

This Saturday, there will be a fast turf. It will be sure footing.

Q. You've had it happen three times where you've had back-to-back losses. What is the key to approaching your team about that and does it change --
COACH MILES: Yeah, the keys to doing that are to not really have to do it; to have the style of team that has character and want and is affixed on accomplishing and achieving and having something happen this season. And if they have that, then the coach got an easy job.

Q. Not always the silver lining -- but early in the game, you've got a 15-yard penalty, and instead of having the ball first and 10 on the 20-yard line, they were back on the 45, and the touchdown at that point could have made a big difference. It seems like this team has a problem incurring penalties, crucial penalties.
COACH MILES: At the wrong time, yeah. It's interesting, I watched the film on that, and it was a momentary -- it was a face mask, the one, and it was a very momentary grasp and let go. And I get that, okay. I mean, I understand how that happens. It just doesn't need to happen at that time.

We had three off-sides penalties, one no more painful than the other. But when you put them together and you end up throwing the ball at second down and 20, as opposed to 1st and 10, it's just a huge difference.

Q. The matchup this week with Ole Miss, it's the team at the very top of the SEC in terms of passing yardage and attempts and LSU at the very bottom. What do you see as the differences? Is it the philosophy, you guys just have a totally different philosophy? Is it personnel? Because almost the entire league throws a lot more than LSU and seems to make that more --
COACH MILES: Well, we were 21-for-35 in throwing. We threw for 200-plus, and I would think that our football team and start to approach the throws, the number of throws, that anybody can have balance, and I think that philosophically that's us. We want to have balance and want them to defend the run and pass on every down and distance.

So, yeah, I think that they have a -- I think they are very talented at quarterback. They are a very nice receiving crew and nice scheme. I think Coach Freeze does a good job.

Q. If Jerald Hawkins is unable to play, will you stay with K.J. Malone at left tackle or will you try some other people there?
COACH MILES: Certainly K.J. is a quality player, but we'll have to look around and see what we're going to do there. Maybe, you just never can tell, you might move a tackle around.

Q. Leonard typically no matter the situation is pretty positive, upbeat, smiling. He seemed pretty down after this past game. Your thoughts on getting him going again; do you think he's a little tired from the early carries in the year or what's your thoughts on him?
COACH MILES: Well, he got 19 in the last one. I think the weariness is the finish of the game. You know, when you finish second in a football game -- I want you to know something. Leonard is one of the guys that spoke to the team. I watched every snap and Leonard played hard. He took contact and gave contact and made plays.

When you give everything you have, there's a risk and that risk is emotional and painful and it's honest.

Q. Last year, I think maybe after the Auburn loss, you said you pulled up to your parking spot and there was a guy, a fan there, that rolled down the window and offered you encouragement. Have you seen the last couple days, have you seen anything like that, anything from fans?
COACH MILES: No. I have heard from the Miles family routinely, the eldest son and daughter, and the youngest son and daughter. So that's been the -- because they know what we go through, and there's -- it's fun, to be honest with you, to be supported by your family during a tough time.

Q. You mentioned earlier kind of calling this a crisis situation and your team understanding that. Do you feel like this is -- since you've been at LSU, this is the toughest crisis situation you've faced right now, your team?
COACH MILES: Well, I don't know, there's been some things that we've done here. I thought Katrina was a pretty serious one. I felt like there have been some issues that -- I think health and direction certainly are something that this team is looking forward to.

Q. Your players bringing out the French flag before the game, when did you guys decide to do that and why did you think that was important?
COACH MILES: It was decided very late in the pregame. The wisdom of connecting with people that are disadvantaged and suffered the terrible tragedy and terrorism, which is not only a national but an international issue, I felt like it was the right thing. They had to talk me into it, I just want you to know. I had to hear the specifics and once I did, it was the right thing.

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