Nothing about Les Miles’ firing is celebratory.
Miles is a good man that genuinely loved LSU and its people. He gave LSU “quality” wins against top-ranked opponents and flavorful quotes the people of Louisiana savored.
Despite his charm and passion for the state, I don’t think anyone will dispute how necessary of a change this is.
After Wisconsin defeated LSU in the season opener, I wrote myself off, quite literally, as being a Les Miles’ defender. I stated Miles deserved to be fired, not because of one loss to start the season but because he showcased an unwillingness to evoke change to ensure greater offensive success.
While many called for his head last season, I felt the Mad Hatter earned the right to explore change with one of his most talented and experienced teams to date. While that slowly started to happen, it was far too late.
Since the Wisconsin loss, Miles has made a change at quarterback, incorporated different skill players like D.J. Chark into the game plan and introduced balance to what’s been a stagnant offense. It was quite a shift from week one to week four, and it seemed the team wasn’t properly prepared for the offensive changes.
Through the use of singleback, I-formation, shotgun and pistol sets, LSU mixed runs with passes and even set up a perfectly timed Chark reverse that put LSU in business in the fourth quarter. But LSU was beaten badly upfront and Danny Etling had mishaps we haven’t seen from him before (fumble, ill-timed sack, snapping the football prematurely with six seconds left). More on that premature snap later.
While LSU failed to get into rhythm, Auburn played a conservative game, as Gus Malzahn faced offensive issues and quarterback woes only LSU fans can relate to. So this game featured two teams feeling each other out like fighters circling in a cage, circling as the clock ticked down instead of engaging in an exciting spectacle.
Through it, Miles made mistakes.
The most glaring was the clock management at the end of the game. Etling looked unprepared when he snapped the ball with six seconds left. So unprepared, in fact, that he forgot to look to his left and see if Chark was lined up for what should have been a final heave toward the end zone.Etling rushed it, perhaps thinking he could get two plays in during that allotted time, but that decision proved costly.
As fate would have it, LSU was left with a second remaining, and instead of Jordan Jefferson spiking the ball with no time left, Danny Etling pulled off a miracle that wouldn’t stand. Unlike the Jefferson spike, Miles did not survive this late-game fiasco.
It’s hard to fathom a more heartbreaking way to realize one’s fate than tasting victory before having it stripped away.
But with a career filled with the highest of highs and sometimes the lowest of lows, this weekend was poetic justice for Miles’ LSU career.