GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some thoughts from 40,000 feet heading home from Saturday’s LSU-Florida game …
-- What, you thought Les Miles’ 100th win at LSU was going to be ordinary? Dullsville? A game that wouldn’t have you too wired to sleep until well after midnight?
Not in a million. With The Hat at the helm, LSU football is Miles from ordinary.
One of Miles’ stock phrases is, “You know, it’s interesting.” Well, there’s interesting and then there’s something that makes you reach for a paper bag to stop hyperventilating. Twenty-three of Miles’ 100 wins have been a variation on this ulcer-inducing theme — as in a fourth-quarter comeback from some sort of deficit.
Saturday’s 30-27 victory, though, goes right near the top of that list.
Not just a comeback, but a dizzying flurry of punches, counterattacks, brilliant plays, blown coverages and clutch feats of athleticism.
In the final 6 minutes and 10 seconds, there were three lead changes and a tie, none of it decided until Colby Delahoussaye’s 50-yard field goal (1 yard longer than his previous career long) pinwheeled through the uprights with :03 remaining.
-- No one has pulled off more fourth-quarter comebacks than Miles and the Tigers during his 10-year tenure. LSU is now 23-23 in such games. The next closest? Texas, which has 18 fourth-quarter comebacks, but the Longhorns are 18-32 in such games overall.
According to LSUSports.net webmaster Todd Politz, LSU has trailed by double digits in 13 of 38 Southeastern Conference road games under Miles. (The Tigers were down 17-7 in the second quarter Saturday.) They’ve roared back to win six times.
-- What does all this mean? One, Miles is a winner. A maddening, confounding, stubborn-at-heart winner whose teams are rarely out of it. Remember how close they came to beating now-No. 1 Mississippi State? About 2 feet from Trey Quinn’s hands at the goal line, that’s how close.
There is plenty to criticize about Miles, like his team getting a substitution penalty down 24-20 in the fourth to make it third-and-25 from the LSU 33. There is plenty to love, like Anthony Jennings then completing a 41-yard bomb to Travin Dural that, with a 13-yard personal foul penalty on the Gators, put the ball at the Florida 13 — setting up Dural’s circus-stunt, one-handed, 11-yard touchdown grab two plays later.
Miles is never going to be the coach that every LSU fan respects or admires, much less appreciates. But his teams win, and it can’t all just be luck. And if winning is the bottom line, as it is for more respected coaches like Sean Payton and Nick Saban, both of whom also saw their teams squeak out narrow victories over lesser opponents in their most recent games, shouldn’t that be at least part of the equation for rating Miles as well?
-- Speaking of Miles and the way he wants to win, don’t look now, Les haters, but this victory will embolden The Hat to go all Frank Sinatra on the offensive game plan.
In other words, he’s going to do it his way.
The strategy going into Gainesville was obviously to try to run the ball, rely on defense against a sputtering Florida offense and pass the ball only when required by law.
Well, LSU threw it just 22 times, completing 10, for 110 yards. The Tigers ran it 50 times for 195 yards, and that’s counting the 34 yards lost by Jennings via sacks.
The defense had breakdowns, like the 73-yard Jeff Driskel-to-Demarcus Robinson pass that set up the Florida field goal that tied the score at 27. So did special teams, which gave up an Andre Debose punt return touchdown and another long Debose return to set up a TD and had a missed extra point by Delahoussaye.
This wasn’t a battle of classic LSU and Florida teams, but it was a precious road game the Tigers could win. They did, and now at 5-2 and 1-2 in the SEC — with the last three home games against Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama — the season takes on a different complexion.
-- What of the quarterback duel between Jennings and Brandon Harris? Miles said Harris would play at Florida, but he never saw the field and was never even seen in Jennings’ vicinity on the sideline.
This position battle is constantly evolving, and in this column I’ve called for Harris to be the starter. But this week, it looks again like Jennings should have the job and Harris should be in the supporting role. LSU is almost certain to need Harris again to win in its last five games.
But how many wins, and how Miles’ Tigers will pull them off, I can’t begin to guess.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.