Les Miles

LSU coach Les Miles in a file photo from the 2015 season.

In a profession riddled with scoundrels, Les Miles is one of the good guys. He’s been a pillar of the community during a summer of shootings, protests and floods.

Since Saturday, though, he’s been pilloried in the community after his LSU Tigers’ 16-14 loss to Wisconsin. Miles, who said all the right things and pushed all the right buttons from the end of last season when it looked like he was about to lose his job, sailed through the offseason filled with all the right moves.

But once again, he paints himself as a football version of Admiral Farragut:

Damn the nine defenders in the box, full speed ahead.

Miles' biggest problem has always been that when he speaks publicly he rarely inspires confidence. At Tuesday’s weekly media luncheon, Miles tried to explain the issues his team faced Saturday but ended up coming off as a coach who isn't grounded in reality.

Miles opened with a rare acknowledgment of the hailstorm of criticism being heaped on him and his program in the wake of the Wisconsin defeat. It would be hard not to notice. Former LSU All-American and SEC Network football analyst Marcus Spears said it’s time for a change in the head coach’s office. LSU’s offensive strategy, or lack thereof, has been slammed nationwide.

 

 

“I’m aware of what’s going on and what’s being said,” Miles said, before launching into a description of how close LSU was to winning the game with what turned out to be an ill-fated final drive.

“That drive certainly could have cured some ills,” Miles said.

Instead it seemed to confirm what’s ailing LSU. After Leonard Fournette went out with an injury, Brandon Harris threw a dreadful interception to D’Cota Dixon, followed by an equally dreadful personal-foul ejection of offensive guard Josh Boutte for clotheslining Dixon (more on that later).

Miles was asked after the Texas A&M game last year if the LSU offense needed an overhaul. He responded by saying the motor was “pretty stinking strong,” which meant no.

Tuesday he sounded like he still liked the motor despite the coughing and sputtering and trail of oil LSU left on the drive home from Green Bay after being unable to sustain a drive of more than 49 yards.

“Yeah, I think if we had five more passes, I think if a couple of those runs were turned into touchdowns, I think that you would look at us and look at the Texas Tech (Texas Bowl) and say, hmm, a lot of similarities,” Miles said.

If LSU completed five more passes and if a couple of runs were touchdowns? Cue Dandy Don Meredith, please:

“If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

As for comparing LSU’s offensive effort against Texas Tech to that against Wisconsin, the only similarities between those two defenses is they both wear helmets and shoulder pads. Wisconsin led the nation in defense last year while Texas Tech looked like the junior varsity.

Despite the ifs, Miles said there was “nothing off the table” in terms of changes that were possible for the offense. That includes not waiting forever for Harris to get over his confidence issues in games, that there are other quarterbacks to go to. But when asked if backup Danny Etling, a former starter at Purdue, would definitely see some action against Jacksonville State, Miles said he likely would not unless LSU was comfortably ahead.

Things have reached such a state for Miles and LSU he pulled a reverse Woody Hayes and actually mentioned Ohio State to make his point. He recalled Ohio State’s team from two years ago, which stumbled through a 35-21 loss in Week 2 against Virginia Tech and rallied to win the first CFP national championship.

“The goals that we've set are still very much in front of us,” Miles said. “Let's go achieve.”

The problem is achieving means basically running the table the rest of the way à la Ohio State in 2014. If you can find a college football observer who thinks LSU can do that after Saturday’s inert performance against the Badgers, please let us know.

As for Boutte, Miles tried to explain away his egregious hit on Dixon through a combination of him not seeing that Dixon dropped to the turf after the interception and that because of his offensive lineman body type he couldn’t bend over well enough to make the tackle.

So Boutte extended an arm and tried to take Dixon’s head off, Les? Sorry, it’s another statement from Tuesday’s magical mystery tour that didn’t hold water. It’s either a good hit or it’s one deserving a one-game suspension, which Miles gave Boutte.

The ultimate upshot from Miles’ explanations is a coach who was shocked at his team’s tepid performance against Wisconsin and isn’t sure how to change it.

“The issue is we have to find the recipe that allows (being a prolific offense) to happen because we have talent,” Miles said. “I promise you this: We've recruited well.”

That LSU has. And in this topsy turvy start to the season, recruiting well is another fact that now comes back to haunt.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​