BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - LSU's undefeated season came to a screeching halt Saturday in Tuscaloosa but the Tigers still have plenty to play for and coach Les Miles insists his team is focused on the remainder of the season.
Miles spoke with reporters about the task at hand, a home game against Arkansas, and the following is a copy of his session with the media, as transcribed by LSU Sports Information:
COACH MILES: 101,000 dollars (on winning bid for Leonard Fournette jersey auction). Am I right? That's a tremendous piece. It's good for college football, it's good for the flood relief and it's a great piece. They tell me it's the most ever received by an Internet auction. So, we didn't play our best. Our players and coaches know it. Credit Alabama, they played very well.
And the key piece for us is just to recognize that 48 hours, whether we won that game or whether we lost, it's a 48 hour window and we're going to watch that thing today and kind of put it behind us and go from there.
Jalen Mills in our locker room was already there. He realized this and several of his teammates echoed his call. But we have a great attitude on our team, leadership, and I don't think there's any question that our guys will respond properly.
Still a lot of football to play and to let that game define us is certainly not something that I'm going to let happen.
So, improve and move on. But just to recap the game, we were inefficient. We got behind in downs. We took time to snap the ball offensively. Seemed like our field position in the first half that we could not improve on was backed up and we certainly did not play well in the first half. I thought our defense did. I thought offensively we were hit and miss. But with the idea that late in the second quarter it's 10-10, and we kick off to them and they drive and hit a 55 yarder at the, just before the half. And we trail 13-10 going in.
It was certainly our position to come out of the locker room and go down the field and score and take the lead, 17-13.
That didn't happen. The opening play of the second half we turned the ball over and we really just could not get in sync offensively. The defense then was on the field for an extra -- we were on the field 20 minutes offensively, they were on the field 40 minutes defensively. So at any point in time that you're in a position like that, you're going to be taken advantage of because of the time that you're on the field.
Offensively, we have to sustain drives, but when you're 3-11 on third downs, that just didn't happen. So, credit Alabama's defense, they played extremely well.
For Leonard Fournette it certainly wasn't his fault in any way. We didn't get him loose. Safeties were making tackles and they were making them very close to the line of scrimmage.
Defensively, again, I think that they played well in the first half, but going into the late in the game, having been on the field as long as they had, but in a position where we just score and we kick off and we, with 9:18 to go at the end of the game, they have the ball on about the four yard line and it's a, certainly it will be three and out and we'll get the ball and have the opportunity to score. And then on sidekick and have to score really twice.
But the last 9:18, the opponent never turned the ball over. They got to a third and nine on about the 27, 29 yard line, and if the defense had been able to handle that spot, we could have had some come from behind. But again, too many mental mistakes for us to win a game like that.
So, Arkansas, they have been in over time three times, Bret Bielema has got them playing very well. They're big up front on both sides. They have big time running back, Alex Collins, with a thousand yards plus. And Brandon Allen, he's ranked number two in the SEC in passing efficiency. He's thrown for 2476 yards and 21 touchdowns. Arkansas's averaging 35 points and 472 yards per game. Second in the conference. Rushing at 192 and throwing it for 280.
They lead the league in time of possession. And their quarterback back's only had nine sacks. So, defensively, they're playing to the time of possession, but they're giving 29 points per game, 413 yards per game as well, and playing very good on defense.
I know our team and I know our state, I know our fan base is disappointed, but I can tell you this. That this morning when I came in, that certainly was my feeling, but we got a really good team, we got a team that can play, and a lot to play for. We're a team that, if you stay once defeated, that at the back end of this thing, you just never can tell. There's just too much to play for.
You put yourself in a position to take the lead in the west by staying undefeated. So, we are also playing for The Boot, and this is, that gives Arkansas a little added, it gives us a little added incentive.
So, any questions?
Q. Alabama's success in the trenches on Saturday, was that just the bad night by LSU or is this a deep are issue with recruiting and maybe the style of athlete those guys are getting?
COACH MILES: Well, I think there's, I would be hard pressed for me to tell you that I could point at one thing. But I can tell you that Alabama's defense was certainly as it was billed. Yeah, I think there's really some growth that needs to take place offensively and I think it's a matter of that, to be honest with you.
I really look forward to our offense beyond that experience. As much as I hated to have it. But coming off your own goal line and being in an opponent's stadium and even though we have done that once at Mississippi State, it was just much different. And I think this football team will understand what it's been through and look forward to putting themselves in position to play another game of significance.
Q. Maybe this is a little bit of a follow-up on what he asked, but Alabama seems uniquely equipped to stop what you do very well. Do you consider adjusting your approach offensively to be able to better attack Alabama, considering it's been five straight?
COACH MILES: Yeah, we, if you look looked at the -- only two of the games of those five we were not right in position to win the game. So, to change things based on the fact that they out manned us in a contest or to change things based on those days that you had success, didn't necessarily seem appropriate. But beyond finishing second to Alabama in this one, you reconsider everything.
Q. The University of Missouri president resigned today. What are your thoughts about the stand that the football players at Missouri took, considering too you went to college during a time when especially at a place like Michigan where social commentary by everybody was a pretty big deal, and then tying it in also you have a player like Leonard Fournette who is able to auction off his jersey something he probably got a lot more than the Les Miles jersey would have at the time.
COACH MILES: Maybe more than the helmet that I signed as well.
Q. But the idea that athletes can impact a positive change and put themselves in that situation like the Missouri football players did, like Leonard Fournette did with the jersey.
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think there's a, I think there's a social responsibility that if something is happening awry, that you, in this country, you stand your ground. I don't know the real specifics of the Missouri president, but our country was built on the ability to protest and to do so in a right and straightforward manner, to make their expressions known and their feelings known.
I kind of get that. I was at Michigan in the '70s and Vietnam was going on and Vietnam was BAMN was an activist group on our campus and I, our team really took a collective vote kind of not even by proxy, but just kind of word of mouth, and it was more important for us then to play as a team and to step by some of the social issues, so that, one, we could enjoy our college career and, two, it didn't affect the, what was the interwoven pieces of team that were in place at Michigan at that time.
So, I think to protest is a, the right of our country, and I think that there are those things you do and don't protest.
Q. I believe tomorrow is your birthday. So have a good one. And like you say, put Saturday night behind and focus on the three winnable games. I'm sure you're aware that Arkansas started 1-3 and has gone 4-1 the last five games, has won two of its games in over time. Care to comment on that?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think they're a very talented team. I think they're a team that our guys will certainly, once they get a view of how they play, that we'll have to a come date a great game plan and have a great week of preparation. I think the taking the experience that they just had at Alabama and learning from it, but putting it behind them, is a necessity.
Q. You said you didn't want this game to define your team, but so much of the fan base does define a season based on the outcome of this game. How do you reconcile yourself with the fact that you can be a good team, you can have a successful season, and yet if you lose this game, to a large portion or maybe a vocal minority, it's a failure of a year.
COACH MILES: Well, the only thing I can say to those guys is that there's nobody that's more pained and more hurt than the guys that wear the purple and gold, the coaches, and so it's not, they're not by themselves.
The need to improve really at every level is the task at hand. So, I certainly understand, but we'll go forward from here.
Q. I wanted to say that day after tomorrow is my 91st. How about them onions?
COACH MILES: Well happy birthday, Ted. That's 91 years strong, right? Wow.
Q. I think it was Jamal last week saying that last year the Bama game kind of took it out of them and kind of affected their preparation for Arkansas. Do you feel like maybe some of those young guys that were playing such big roles last year were able to be more mature this time around?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think that the lessons that were learned of a season certainly last year as well, I think the 48-hour rule is one that is a real strong rule in our building. Whether you won or finished second, you go forward and you leave that behind you. You can't be too excited about opening with Mississippi State and then the nice win against Florida, but frankly, it's all about the next week, period. It's never going to be any different.
I think our culture, I think our room understands that.
Q. You mentioned the offensive line and the struggles there and lacking forward to seeing what they do from here. How about the defensive front seven? What do you think happened in the game and what can they learn from that?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I thought that they played awfully hard. Christian LaCouture, I thought was a standout. I thought that there -- what happens when you get a team in a position where you must get the ball back and you're really pressuring the opponent, sometimes you run your guys right out of the position that they should be playing in and sometimes you knock them dead in the back field.
And at times that risk is worth it. But when you get in the back end of a game and you've had them on the field virtually twice as long as their offense, it's going to wear on them.
Q. Are you having a big issue on your kickoff return team? Derrius Guice got hit twice really hard by an unblocked player and then he didn't want to run it out of the end zone after that.
COACH MILES: Yeah, well, no, we weren't getting it back to the yard line we wanted to make sure that we kept field position. When Derrius Guice, Derrius Guice will run it out of any end zone. But I'm just letting you know. But we did not block them. Okay. There isn't any question about it. Guys ran free and whacked our returner. That is a source of concern for me and blocking -- to be honest with you, we improved in the kick office and we improved in when we punt the ball in coverage.
Now, really, this kickoff return team has got to come of age. I mean, we have guys back there that are very capable that can return it, we just got to give them some seams.
Q. Are you going to scoreboard watch at all Saturday afternoon with Bama playing at Mississippi State?
COACH MILES: No. No, I don't watch that. I didn't watch that.
Q. Will you this Saturday, because they will play before you play and you obviously need Bama to lose.
COACH MILES: Well, Mississippi State and then an Auburn game late in the year, both of which are significant games. Certainly a score that would help my team I would certainly make sure that they knew. I watch not a snap of football on a Saturday when I'm preparing to play.
Q. Given that Leonard in a very self-aware moment was able to raise $101,000 for a great cause, I don't know if you've given any thought, but should the NCAA adjust the rule? They made an exception for Leonard, but should they adjust the rule to allow more situations like this?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think that that's what college is about. I think that the NCAA really is probably looking to expand these opportunities for college football to help. And I think that that is -- I can't imagine that anybody is not looking at this as a great opportunity for a part of our society that is certainly very popular and can have power and raise money in certain instances based on just offering what is a very small monetary gift such as a helmet or a jersey. I think it's something that the NCAA's looking at and I can't imagine that they won't put in place some style of give back to the society that football represents.
Q. Could you give us an update on J.D. Moore?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think J.D. may well be out for the season at this point.
Q. How does that affect you going forward?
COACH MILES: Well, obviously, one of our best fullbacks is no longer with us, but the good news is, is that Bry'Kiethon Mouton is coming on and we'll have a good group there that, Dave Ducre and we'll have a well-manned position.
Q. When you look at Bret Bielema, he's a former offensive lineman, he's kind of got a similar, y'all have similar kind of offensive approaches. Do you see similarities when you watch his teams and what's your relationship like with him?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I don't have a personal relationship with him, I like him as a coach, watch his teams play, they play hard.
Nothing very -- very talented coach. I don't really know him personally.
Q. I'm sure it's the Les Miles signed helmet that put it over 100,000.
COACH MILES: Oh, yeah, I got the thousand and he got the hundred.
Q. The kick off out of bounds continues to be an issue. Are you asking Cameron to angle the ball to the side and is that, if so, is that to try to help your coverage teams?
COACH MILES: Absolutely.
Q. So is there a remedy there, I guess.
COACH MILES: Yeah, execution. That's the only remedy that I can figure. He'll be able to hit it and hit it long and tall as any of them. And we'll continue there.
We might also look at Trent Domingue. He may be a guy that comes on, because he's competing still there at the kick off spot as well. So, but Cam has given us the things that we want, the landmark down inside, and Trent is also competing. I wouldn't be surprised at times to see both kickers kick.
Q. Two questions: Have you ever seen, or, this year, is there a SEC team that uses their tight end as effectively and efficiently as Arkansas?
COACH MILES: Yeah, none that I really can remember watching. I think they do a great job with the tight end.
Q. And then just Leonard's mental state, I guess, didn't get to talk to him after the game, that's not unusual, but after getting bottled up, that is unusual. How do you expect him to respond moving forward with the year and so much of the expectations there?
COACH MILES: I really can't speak for Leonard in that. That was a coach's responsibility. I took that from him. I did not -- I said, listen, this is a team, this is a, we accept this outcome as a team, this is not your burden. And I would say to him and will that you did everything that we asked you to do and did it as hard as you could do it and as far as I'm concerned I'm good with that.
We tried to get him loose on the offensive line, tight ends, the full backs, the wide receivers, period. And offensively we couldn't quite get it done.
Q. What are your thoughts, I don't know if you saw the play that Arkansas tight end made, throwing the ball back over his head, lateraling over his head to keep a play alive in overtime. Did you see that play and what were your thoughts on it?
COACH MILES: That was a heads-up play. What a great play. Just to get the first down. Fourth and 25. He catches the ball 10 yards short. He's getting tackled, he throws it blindly over his back and their running back gets it, picks up the first down, correct? I thought that was, I thought that play was spectacular. So, certainly something we'll start practicing.
Q. It seems like that your kickers throughout their career have had the ability to kick the ball out of the end zone. Have they lost leg strength or because of the 25 yard line you don't want them to do that anymore?
COACH MILES: No, no, we would like to kick it out of bounds, I mean out through the back line, period.
But sometimes our guys can do that and sometimes they can't. It doesn't have to do necessarily with leg strength as it does to do with field conditions and weather conditions.
Q. When you kick the ball out of bounds, would you consider that kind of an unforced error for a football team?
COACH MILES: Absolutely. Absolutely. This is something that he'll be able to do, we just got to put him in position to do it again and again and again, so.
Q. Did Lewis Neal suffer an injury on Saturday?
COACH MILES: Lewis Neal got nicked. I don't think it's anything that will cost him any time.