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January 6, 2008
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
THE MODERATOR: We'll ask coach to give us some opening comments on LSU as they enter the game tomorrow night.
COACH LES MILES: Well, I can tell you that we surely have enjoyed the hospitality of the Sugar Bowl committee, and it appears to me that the add one, the ability to double host is not something that seemed to be in any way limiting here. We had great service. It appears to me that New Orleans is a very live and thriving city. We really enjoyed being here and our time.
But, again, special thanks to Ray Jeandron and Paul Hoolihan and Jeff Hundley. They did a great job. And we've enjoyed the festivities, enjoyed getting around in the city. Seemed like everywhere we went that somebody was talking about how much better, how much more improved, and looking forward to the very short near future where the city is completely up and running.
So it was really interesting, the media that surrounds this game. The number of stories that came out that reflected on our team and the efforts that the media went through, in my opinion, to get different quality stories, you know, surely added some color to the game. So I'd like to say thanks there. Of course, anything that you do in covering me, if you'd minimize that, I'd appreciate (laughter).
But our guys, we've got a great team. We've got a great group of young men. If you look at the really -- since a year ago when we were here and pretty strong LSU team played Notre Dame, and we really focused on the opportunity to be back here in the second game and the game after the Sugar Bowl.
And this team went through some highs and lows in the season. A lot of drama. A lot of injury. There were certainly issues. And they just kept finding a way to win, just kept finding a way to overcome hurdles and obstacles and feel very fortunate to be in this game. And this team, in my opinion, getting their degree and pursuing excellence, both on and off the field, speaks to everything that's good and right about college football.
And I'm very fortunate to be at LSU and very fortunate to represent this team. So I want to congratulate Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes, what a great team they have. They are an extremely talented bunch of players. It's going to be a very competitive, very hard-fought game, and to the victor goes the spoils.
But I couldn't think of a better way to end the college season than 1 playing 2 for the right to be 1.
So any questions?
THE MODERATOR: Raise your hands for questions.
Q. You talked a lot about the health of your team as far as injuries. Any other issues there with you as far as suiting up people and people available for the game?
COACH LES MILES: I think you'll find that all the key participants of our football team are healthier than they've ever been and look forward to playing long and hard.
Q. Coach, this being for the championship, have you approached this different than you did your previous bowl trips, such as the activities and the level of concentration and all those things?
COACH LES MILES: I think the level of concentration, the focus, certainly is the one piece that we'll probably pick up, probably raise. But we've won 11 games with our schedule. And that schedule hasn't changed. And we're going to approach this game just like we've approached all the games that we've played.
And we can't play football any differently because there's some kind of a magic name at the back end of it. You've just got to play it the way you play it.
And we're going to worry about the ending after we get to that. We're going to approach this game and play this game like it's meant to be played, like we've played it in every game thus far.
Q. Coach, you talk about the mood of your team and how they're feeling this week and how anxious they are to finally get underway and start playing this game?
COACH LES MILES: Pent up, trapped, held hostage. The coaching staff keeps looking at the calendar, are we playing today, are we playing today? I think our team is ready to play, looking forward to getting to the field. And I hope that we back off on the emotion a little bit, to be honest with you, so that we can end up on that field in a nice, clean framework.
Q. What's the biggest thing that concerns you about Ohio State, what they do and special teams, how tough is that to simulate with you guys not playing 37 days?
COACH LES MILES: Well, there's a number of things. Certainly special teams are an issue. Offense, defense. Everything that we do is going to be tested, first, in my opinion, not because of the layoff, but because of the quality of the opponent. You're going to have to play well.
Those things that there are little cracks in, you'll see them, and those things that you've got smooth and well oiled and ready to play, you'll see that as well. I think special teams is something that we focus on. I think our return teams and our coverage units and our kickers and punters have hit balls and are ready to play there.
If there was something that I knew that we needed to fix, I would not be here, I would be out there fixing it. So I think we're okay.
Q. Has your staff spent much time getting ready for Antonio Henton, Ohio State's back-up quarterback, rumored he might play some and how much tape was available of him, I guess?
COACH LES MILES: We saw all of his early tape and we kind of got decent feel for his abilities. I think we have a nice plan ready to go once he steps on the field at the opponent's request.
Q. You mentioned the guys who have graduated already. I was wondering if you could talk about that senior class as a whole. You guys start a lot of seniors. They've been together. Most of them came in together. How important have they been to the whole season?
COACH LES MILES: 25 seniors. I did a little research to see how successful that senior class has been. They're the most successful senior class in the a five-year period in the SEC.
If you look at the college football in that time frame, in a game or two in closeness, it's SC and us and then Boise State. So for five years this senior class has performed extremely well, been a part of championship games, understandably one of two teams, our opponent being the other, has a chance to put two BCS titles behind one senior class.
So they're not only special guys. The idea that at mid-semester nine of 11 that have already received their degrees got their degree, and that the other 14, probably eight or nine will graduate without hitch this spring. And the others would have the opportunity this summer.
So 25 guys, half have already graduated, three-quarters soon to graduate, and 100 percent on line to graduate. We have goals in a team room, kind of the overview goals, and the goals are these: 100 percent graduation and a national championship. And this team certainly has the opportunity to do both.
Q. You talked about during the course of the season about improving the mental mistakes, penalties you've had. At some point do you finally just say this is the team you are and you have to be prepared to deal with it?
COACH LES MILES: What you have to do is improve as best you can. Point out those things that make you smarter and more competent, and then be ready to make that adjustment that if something happens negative in the game we've got to play over it.
And we're still in the process of correcting rather than playing over. Don't worry about the playing over until we get to the game.
Q. Some of the younger receivers have had some issues this year with drops. How confident are you in their abilities to come through in the biggest game of their career?
COACH LES MILES: They've improved all year long. This is just another football game by time and 11 players on the field and 11 players your opponents puts on the field. We're going to call plays that they've been comfortable with. We're not going to extend them beyond their capabilities. I would expect them to pick up just where they left off, which is pretty competent.
Q. How is Chris Wells similar to McFadden and what challenge will he present to you?
COACH LES MILES: I think he's different than McFadden, generally. I think he's a big, powerful fast back. I think McFadden certainly does more -- he has the ability to throw the ball, operates at quarterback all the time. I mean, their scheme is completely different. So the comparisons are different.
But Chris Wells is extremely talented. Very big, strong, fast, punishing back. Our defense will have to be very aware of where he's at and bring a lot of hats to him.
Q. This is going to be LSU's second national championship game, this decade is going to be Ohio State's third. What do you think has enabled both schools to consistently compete and be this successful throughout the decade?
COACH LES MILES: I can only tell you that -- and speak for our school. It's a great opportunity for our players. Guys come on campus. They realize it's a great degree. Get the degree of choice. We have great academic support.
If you come to LSU you come to get your degree and then play championship football. And I think the first thing that happens on our campus is they see the fact that they're going to be serviced and supported in that goal in getting their degree. And I think that opens their eyes first. Then they see there's a very passionate support of our athletics. I think there's a cooperative spirit within the school and certainly our population that surrounds Tiger Stadium is tremendously supportive and passionate.
I think that there's a draw there. I think that you visit LSU, it opens your eyes. I don't think that -- I don't think there's any question it's a very special place. I suspect Ohio State must have some similar pluses, because, you know, it comes down to are you doing a great job servicing your student athletes, graduating them and allowing them to play in championship games. Certainly Ohio State must well be in that position because it's obvious to see that they've had great success over time.
Certainly they were having success in the Big Ten conference for decades.
Q. The last game was so emotional for Bo. He's getting a chance one more time to be with his guys. Given the kind of players' coach that he is and the magnitude of this, what has he been like the last few days and what do you expect him to be on game day both in emotions and his plan?
COACH LES MILES: Well, I can't imagine he'll be any different on game day than he's been. It's a wild Indian. I certainly -- after the game's over I suspect that there will be some emotion. But that's for always after the game.
It will be business at hand and getting it done. And I've seen no difference in preparation. I think our defense will be ready to play.
Q. One of your friends back at Michigan said that he remembered talking to you after the HBO special came out about the Ohio State/Michigan game, he said you told him that you teared up a little bit when you were watching part of that. I'm just wondering with a day before the game, does this feel similar to the days before games when you got ready to play Ohio State and coach against Ohio State?
COACH LES MILES: I can tell you I watched that HBO special and I teared up when I saw Bo Schembechler sitting in that stadium talking about Michigan. That's a very significant piece of that special that warmed my heart.
No, no, you know, preparing for a game of this nature is something that you've gotta do. And you look forward to it. And the emotion is one that's reflective and it's post and there's a lot of active focus and understanding what needs to be accomplished.
Emotion in this game for me would be that the seniors that are now graduating, and I look to speak to in my final talk to the team, that will evoke the same emotion that Coach Schembechler evoked for me.
Q. Which of your players has surprised you the most with his development this season?
COACH LES MILES: You know what, any time you have a team that has had success and there's so many different guys that have had to step up at times because of injury, or lack of experience that has had to come through and make plays.
And, you know, if you look very comfortably -- we lost Early Doucet early in the year, and that young receiving core had to step in, and Demetrius Byrd and Terrance Toliver and the Mitchells all had to be called on at different times in key games so we could have success.
Certainly Matt Flynn sprains an ankle and our quarterback position is manned by Ryan Perrilloux, and he comes in and does a really good job in the Middleton Tennessee State game, and then comes in in the championship game in the SEC and plays very strong, competitive Tennessee team, plays extremely well. We win.
Glenn Dorsey is out the back half of that game. And you look at rookie Jean Francois that steps in and first game back he plays extremely well. It's hard for me to tell you which one. There's just a number. I can tell you right now when you look at Hester play, he's had his finest year. He's done everything we've asked him to do.
You look at our quarterback, Matt Flynn. Matt Flynn will play in this game and has showed the patience and the commitment to team that you would want from any player. And now is his chance to lead and a chance to play. He's making best of it.
I can tell you, I mean Kirston Pittman, guy who misses two years. Did I expect Kirston Pittman to step in this fall and have the kind of year that he's had? No, I did not.
He went through a spring and fought like heck to get healthy. And then in two years I had not seen him on the field. And he continued to play. And we really went practice by practice. And he just kept getting stronger and kept being more competent. And he's older and wiser now. And he's a guy that I was really -- I really have enjoyed how he's committed to this team and the year that he's had, he's deserving of.
So I gotta be honest with you, I could go on.
Q. In your thank you to the media earlier, you said that we ought to minimize your part in the LSU doings. Is that your way of saying that you haven't enjoyed every minute of the wall-to-wall coverage you've received since your 58th press conference in Atlanta (laughter)?
COACH LES MILES: I've always enjoyed not being an issue, and that's kind of the piece that I'd kind of like to represent. I'm a guy that likes to coach a team and support his team and really be on the perimeter.
I think that's the position of the coach. I don't think that -- the coach leads them on the field and the coach directs. But the players play. And I have always enjoyed the position of just being a coach and not necessarily an issue.
Q. This week people have talked about you being a risk taker and it's been kind of a crazy season with two losses, you guys are still here. You're a lifer, you've had many stops over your career.
What would it mean at the end of that roller coaster if on Monday night you personally are holding that trophy?
COACH LES MILES: It's not something that has to do with me, again. It's a quality team. I'm fortunate to represent a great school. And I would represent those seniors and those underclassmen that have really worked so hard and done everything in their power to lift that team.
And it would be tremendous. And it's not something that I want to focus on at this point, because, frankly, I'm focused on other issues right now. But certainly I'm respectful of that opportunity and I'd enjoy every second of the ability to hold that trophy up high.
Q. There's been a lot of discussion about Southern Cal's success, LSU, Ohio State, winning this game and having that multiple title, can that program now put their flag on the top of the mountain over the last decade? It's not just a singular achievement, is it?
COACH LES MILES: I can tell you that being in a position to play in this game is something everybody in college football wants to be in. And I think it's obvious to say that certainly USC, Ohio State and LSU can say that if you want to play for the national championship, then there's some advantages to those three locations.
But I gotta be real honest with you, that landscape will change and it's all about next year after Monday night. And until Monday night, it's about Monday night. And so I don't know that I make too much of that position.
Q. Do you see similarities between Laurinaitis and the way he approaches the game and the way Jacob approaches the game and how can you appreciate that as kind of an old school coach?
COACH LES MILES: You know, how did I get this old school moniker? (Laughter) I still have humor, what the hell. (Laughter).
I have always enjoyed guys that enjoy contact, that want the game in their hands, that want to be in the middle of the fray. And I think both Hester and Laurinaitis have that feel to them.
And I was fortunate to go around in the awards, the Lombardi and the places that he was at and really enjoyed how he represented Ohio State, really felt that he had a great perspective on his coaches and his players and his team.
And then as I watched him in every game that he played this fall, I felt like he was truly committed and so I have great respect for No. 33.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts