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September 6, 2016

Les Miles

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

LES MILES: Well, after the summer that we had in Louisiana and after the floods, there wasn't a group of men more motivated to please their state and their school than our team. I can tell you that they're just like you; they're sick. They're miserable. I've given them the 48-hour rule, so at this point in time, we're trying to shed that feeling and go forward.

Obviously I am the one that gets to regress and hopefully not them, as I need to address the media.

Now, there's a lot that can be said about a lot of things, and there's a lot of observations, and certainly I'm aware of what's going on and what's being said, et cetera. But I -- if you just look at the last drive, for instance, irrespective of those things that happened before, a couple of nice passes, moving the ball, Leonard takes the nice run, just kind of the script that you would have, and with 51 seconds, or 55 seconds and a time-out, quarterback does a great job and avoids the rush, comes to his left, and like was done in practice yesterday where he did exactly the same thing in a two-minute drill, hit a guy for a touchdown, it was Malachi. He wasn't able to extend his scramble and make a play, and that was the mistake.

Other than that, that drive certainly could have healed some ills.

We had three turnovers, a fumble, and it was a fumble on contact, and it was very difficult for him not to -- for him to return the ball because he got stung. We had a pass that really was a completed pass except it was taken right out of the hands of the receiver, and then the last play where he should have squared his feet and possibly run for 15 or run for seven or in any way returned the ball back to the huddle.

I thought that the guys like Travin Dural who came off injury had a nice, very functional day and gave us a lift, scored a touchdown. Tre'Davious White, if you had to pick a most valuable player for the game, you might well have picked him except that we didn't win the game, and so it's very difficult to be - even though your performance is great - the most valuable player.

Leonard Fournette had 138 yards, averaged six yards a carry.

Now, hearing those things that are being said, I just kind of want to go back. You know, we took the stadium -- when we took the stadium, I can tell you that we were so pleased that the 30,000 fans wearing purple and gold were there. We enjoyed them very much. It was a -- we realized how important it was, and I can tell you we look forward to getting back to Tiger Stadium and Saturday night in Death Valley.

After the finish of the game and at some point in time yesterday, I said to the team that -- and really they echoed it, there's nothing off the table. When you take a team that you can recognize as a very good team, they played Michigan State for the Big Ten title, they won their division, their defense was one of the best defenses in the country a year ago, and they have a nice possession offense. So you take those games, you need to prepare well. You need to be ready to come off and play at a very high level, and the reality is we weren't as ready to do that as we liked.

But at times you can finish second in those games, and I think our team realizes that, again, that was -- several years ago they were saying the Ohio State team lost to Virginia Tech and came right back and decided that that was the last time we were going to lose and really ended up winning the national title.

I think our team is capable and talented. I recognize that they did not play as well as they're capable. I think there's a lot of factors that go into that, one of which is there was a couple of guys nicked here and a couple of guys nicked there, and very possibly we didn't get their best performance, but they performed, and they performed hard. They worked hard.

Yeah, I recognize that there's some things going on out there, and I'll address them at the right time.

On defense, I thought it was a tremendous spot for us. I thought we played extremely well for our first game. We missed too many tackles. We don't miss tackles where we just shut them completely down. But generally speaking, simple mistakes like alignment and tackles, but that was -- and everybody can recognize that's going to be a great defense.

I want to talk on Boutte right now. Josh made a mistake. He certainly called their player Dakota Dixon and apologized and spent time on the phone to let him know what his take of the play was, and really wanted him to know that there was no -- he didn't mean to hurt him. He didn't want to hurt him. He asked if he'd hurt him, and he had not. What happened was -- when you see, think about -- at the Jumbotron several times about using the flag to challenge a call, I had no view, and I was looking right there and I was looking for all three views, and I just kept looking, and I could not see it.

Josh was protecting on the backside of a play and then turned, and it would be my thought that he saw him down. But this guy was not necessarily as big as Josh, and so you don't know if that short guy is down or if he picked up that ball, okay, and that now, is this a live play. It was an instinctive reaction when color went running by him with the ball carrier, in other words, as a group of blockers, and he said -- so I just instinctively went to tackle him, and in tackling him -- like for instance, I talked to the head of officials, and he says, the recent I called it egregious was because it was a -- he didn't try and tackle him.

Well, when you're 6'6" and you weigh 330, you have a difficult time bending your body down to get anything on a guy that's flying by there, so whatever you can get your body to do, you do. That's why offensive line bodies don't play defense.

But again, he was very sorry, and then on the other hand, that kind of action doesn't belong in football, and we want to make sure that we are in that teaching mode, and so we suspend him for a game.

This week we had a good week of practice, a good practice yesterday I should say, and I think there is leadership in position here to handle and deal with where we're at. We're looking forward to playing Jacksonville State. They're a very, very talented football team, two regular-season losses go back to Michigan State and Auburn. They lost to Auburn last year in overtime. They beat Ole Miss in 2010. They're 1-0. They're ranked No. 3 in FCS.

Coach Grass is in his third season, 24-4, just a really fine coach, does a great job preparing his team.

Veteran quarterback, Eli Jenkins is an All-American. He makes plays with his feet and his arm. For a career he's got -- he's rushed for 2,900 yards and 30 touchdowns and thrown for 5,700 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Kevin Spears is on that team, an ex-Tiger that transferred. He's a talented guy, and we wish him well. This is the place Ryan Perrilloux transferred to, so we realize they get transfers that are very, very talented, and this could be a team that could play in a lot of major conferences.

Defenses this last week allowed 222 yards total to North Alabama, 52 yards rushing and 170 yards passing. They had five sacks and nine tackles for loss in the opener. That's a good football team. You're going to have to play well.

But again, the approach has always been to improve us. The goals that we've set are still very much in front of us, and let's go achieve.

Any questions?

Q. You referenced a few time things going on or things being said. What are you talking about?
LES MILES: Just the perimeter, outside-the-building opinions, basic opinions.

Q. How did you feel like all the coaches down on the field, how that worked for you?
LES MILES: You know, we kind of reviewed that, and I think that what was a Texas Tech obvious advantage, we did not get as much information from the box as we would have liked, and Cam is pretty good, has a good view of offense and defense and can really tell what's going on very quickly from there as opposed to having it relayed, especially in between calls. So we look to reverse that, and we feel like there's two young quarterbacks that can really help Brandon off the field as well as Dameyune Craig who played it. We feel like we would reverse that step there and put him back in the box.

Q. Since watching the film, tell us about what you thought of two positions, the quarterback position and then the offensive line.
LES MILES: Okay. The quarterback was errant several times, but he had two drops, so 14 for 21 as opposed to 12 for 21. He looks like a much better quarterback. You take him into the last drive, and he heroically gets out of the grasp of a defender, and instead of just really squaring himself and seeing the field, he saw the guy he wanted to throw it to, and again, it was going to be a big play, except he did not square his body up, and so he could not make the throw.

Again, it's just a decision and judgment that we need to affect there. We think certainly he's got the tools that every quarterback would want to have, a big rifle arm and the ability to move his feet.

Yeah, I don't think his play was great. He overthrew a couple of balls, but by the same point, I think there's some opportunity for guys to catch balls, and that's something that we can fix.

The offensive line, we've kind of moved them around. There's some youth there mixed with veterans, which is usually a very positive piece there, and I think that will eventually happen. I think it will mature nicely. But the -- they went through a camp where this guy was found, this guy was found and they had limited action, so instead of really gaining a lot of ground in camp, we kind of treaded water there for a while, but now they're gaining their health. It potentially could be a very, very good line.

Q. When it was announced that you were returning as the coach last November, there seemed to be maybe an ultimatum agreement across the board that the offense had to improve, that changes had to be made for you guys to compete for championships again. The overwhelming feedback that we get is that nothing looked different than what you guys did in November. What is your assessment on what you guys did, and did you make effort to improve the offense?
LES MILES: Yeah, I think if we had five more passes, I think if a couple of those runs were returned into touchdowns, I think that you would look at us and look at the Texas Tech fix and say, hmm, a lot of similarities. We were spread in two back. We had some big plays out of two back, and we really operate out of three personnel groups, and it's three wides, doubles, four, a regular and two tight ends.

I think you would consider it an offense that has the width and breadth to take advantage of an opponent, so I can't imagine that -- I think what everybody is saying is, geez, you know, let's go for 600 yards and let's put 50 on people, and we're for that.

The issue is we have to find the recipe that allows that to happen because we have talent. I promise you this: We've recruited well, and there's some really, really good kids here and good people.

We're fighting it, and we're seeing what we can get to.

Q. With regard to Brandon Harris, how do you balance on one hand empathy for a guy that's worked hard for a number of years but made some critical mistakes in the first game versus the cold realities of the demands of the SEC and the level of performance that's expected, the level of improvement that's expected from year to year, how much leeway does he get before you have to consider changing things?
LES MILES: Yeah, we give that thought really on a regular basis. It's not something that you go by for time. He's talented and capable decision making and really relaxing and letting the game come to him. At times he struggles there. But again, we're a talented team. If he can just get the ball to the guys that we're really insisting that he throw to in some ways, we're going to be a very -- we're going to be able to run it and we're going to be able to throw it, and the quarterback can move his feet and extend plays and go get yards. By the makeup of the talent that's there, we're in pretty good shape. It's just that maturation process.

I have to be honest with you. I've seen some of the scrimmages that we've had in Tiger Stadium, and he's been just tremendous, and so I know the capability, as do our team, we just need for that capability to continue to come.

You know, I think it was about the first two passes that he threw, he threw out of bounds. It was at least early in the game, and I said, okay, now relax and just realize it's the same throw that you've been making, just calm down. I recognize that he's got to still come. We all do. And he doesn't have a lifetime to do it, and there are other quarterbacks to go to.

Q. In the last offensive series, how much did the illegal procedure call against Clapp make you feel like you had to throw the ball to get it closer into field goal range?
LES MILES: Well, I think we had, I don't know, 50-some segments at the end. The 1st and 15 at that time probably felt like a nice throw to work. Here's what happened: We had our headphones go down twice in the game, and it cost us timeouts in the second half. As an example, our tight ends coach, we're supposed to have tight ends on the field for a call, and he got no information because the headphones went down, okay, and that happened earlier in another spot, and it cost us two time-outs. Otherwise we have three time-outs and just plenty of time to control the clock and go down there.

I don't think that the five-yard penalty is something that we would not have overcome. I mean, I think down in there, in a position where we have some calls that we really liked, I think we were really just waiting to get to him.

Q. So are you considering playing Danny at all this week?
LES MILES: Every time that you practice, every time that you put your coaching gear on, you think about how you improve your team. I think we've considered it and will consider it for -- hopefully it'll not have to be done for the necessity of victory. Hopefully it'll be done because Brandon has really improved and done well, and let's give Danny some snaps.

But that consideration is -- that evaluation is ongoing.

Q. And would you mind updating us on Leonard after he left the game the other night?
LES MILES: Yeah, he's fine. He's not terribly swollen. I think he got a contusion, a nice bruise. I'd expect him to play.

Q. Did he miss any practice, have to sit out at all, Leonard?
LES MILES: Yeah, he did not practice yesterday. We took that time to get him some ice and some rest.

Q. When you have an offensive strategy that has proved successful in the past, it's one that won you a National Championship in 2007 and got you to another title game in 2011. Is it difficult to want or feel the need to make changes in it when it's proven successful in the past or when defenses start to play it better, do you feel like something does have to change?
LES MILES: Well, I think when you come into a game plan, you look at the people that you're playing, and you try to put your skills and talents in an ability by formation so that you can get an edge, have an opportunity to run plays that you want to run that can focus on both the receivers and the quarterback and the tailback.

That being said. I think that's what we do every week, and I don't think that there's a -- there's not a lot off the board. You have plenty of choices. I don't think change is something that we avoid in any way. I think that it's really how best do we attack our opponents, given the skills and talents that we have.

Q. Your thought on having some weaknesses exposed early despite the result might help this team better than a cake-walk game to open the season might have to lull you into a false sense of security?
LES MILES: Yeah, you recognize that when you line up against a really quality football team, and Wisconsin is that, they kind of make you and expose the strength and weaknesses that you have.

Yeah, I think if we would have just taken a team and then not a nationally prominent football team from a major conference, I think it would have been a mistake. And hopefully this team can enjoy to rally and prove that they can still end up where they want to be.

Q. Alan Trammell has been diagnosed with ALS, and when you look at the overall picture, I mean, losing by two points on the road against a formidable opponent, I want to lay that on you, and I think you guys will play a lot better this week. Do you know this guy personally?
LES MILES: Coach Grass?

Q. Yeah.
LES MILES: I do not. I know of him, and we're acquaintances.

Q. No, Trammell.
LES MILES: Trammell? Yeah, I know the family. It's a -- basically what you say is football is awfully important. I mean, it really is, and it's the make you feel good for the week, it's the deep breath of fresh air that you enjoy, having achieved, but when you compare it with -- we had a close family friend lose a child at childbirth, and it's much different. The scope and the level is a much different level.

Yeah, I wish the Trammells well. It's, again, a very good family.

Q. We talked about best five on offensive line on the day of the game, and I know who you have and who you have that's hurt. Is there anything you can do for the left side of that line, or is this going to be a process that's going to have to evolve?
LES MILES: I mean, to be honest with you, Karl Malone really played pretty decent in the game. A little nicked up, but getting healthier and better, and we think he's shown quickness and played awfully well in that game. I think one of our best players is Will Clapp. I just think that he, again, is another guy that's a little nicked now and then but is coming to health.

I don't know that we'll change those guys. I think that they're -- I think we would expect that they would play better than they played last week, and we think they're most capable, okay. I like the right side, too. Don't get me wrong, Toby Weathersby in my opinion is a big strong horse, and this week Maea Teuhema will be a big, strong, formidable guy, and then with Pocic in the middle, I think that that fivesome is going to really mature and turn into something special. It just takes some time. It's Karl Malone's first start, and it was Maea Teuhema's -- he's been around, everybody is moving positions around, and really it was Josh Boutte's first start, and he made a couple mistakes, but then he knocked the living tar out of somebody, even legally, before the last play. So I think that eventually he will eventually be a good addition to that line. Finding the best five, we have six that can play, it's a good thing.

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