LSU's Les Miles Proud to Be 4-0, No Matter How It's Happened
The coach whose mysterious syntax and captivating run-on sentences sometimes drives Tiger fans crazy -- or at least to the dictionary -- minced no words Saturday night after his 15th-ranked team used suffocating defense and the deadly return skills of cornerback Patrick Peterson to dispatch No. 22 and previously unbeaten West Virginia, 20-14, in front of 92,574 at Tiger Stadium.
No. 1, Miles said, no matter how atrocious his offense looks under junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson -- whose high, low and wild right and left deliveries had LSU receivers ducking for cover and checking their body parts all night -- he won't apologize for being 4-0.
"I think if you look around, you'll find that's a pretty rare occurrence," Miles said, smiling. "I think there are a lot of teams that would like to be in that position."
No. 2, he characterized the fourth-quarter booing that rained down on Jefferson -- boos that probably were directed in part at the LSU offensive coaching staff that appears as befuddled as Jefferson -- as unbecoming and improper.
"It's one of those things that you put in the back of your mind because it's not conceivable that anybody in the right frame of mind who wears an LSU jacket or T-shirt and comes into our stadium, who has the LSU license plate, who cares so much and is so passionate for these things, could possibly boo," Miles said. "I've got to be honest with you. I've never booed anybody in my life -- only because I realize how hard it is to play.
"They were not perfect," Miles added. "(But) to think that somebody could boo a great effort -- are you kidding me? Our team flew around and busted their tails."
Jefferson's lackluster performance was a drop-off from a fairly promising performance last week against Mississippi State and it triggered the hostile reaction. Although Jefferson was hurt by a couple of dropped balls, including one that sailed through Terrence Tolliver's hands on LSU's first offensive series and resulted in an interception, he completed just 10-of-22 for 75 yards and had two interceptions. It was his lowest yardage total of the season.
"I had a couple of dropped balls and a couple of non-accurate throws that I just got to work on," Jefferson said. "I'm not really frustrated. We're 4-0. What's that to be frustrated about? I'm not worried about what any critics say, what any fans say, what any media say. We're 4-0. What more can you want?"
Well, maybe for starters, a semblance of the forward pass. Eighty yards passing is not going to get it done when the Tigers move into the meat of the SEC schedule.
"Our quarterback play has got to get better," Miles admitted. "It's just that simple. Our guys know it. We're going to work on it. (But) damn if I'm not excited to be 4-0."
LSU jumped out 17-0 lead courtesy of a fumble recovery that led to a seven-yard touchdown drive (capped by a one-yard run on fourth down by Stevan Ridley), an interception that resulted in a three-play drive and a 49-yard field goal by Josh Jasper, and a scintillating 60-yard punt return by Patrick Peterson. The Tigers amassed only two first downs and 80 yards in total offense on 21 plays in the first half.
The low-octane offense finally took its toll, allowing West Virginia to claw its way back against LSU's stout defense. West Virginia made it 17-7 on Geno Smith's five-yard strike to Stedman Bailey just before halftime and 17-14 on its first possession of the third quarter, courtesy of a throw that Jefferson tried to squeeze into tight coverage. It was picked off by Eain Smith.
Smith's pick led to a two-play scoring drive -- with Geno Smith connecting with Jock Sanders on a 13-yard wide receiver screen.
But after LSU got a little breathing room on its only sustained drive of the night -- a 72-yard, 15-play march that climaxed with Jasper's 23-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 20-14 -- Miles had to be asking himself how long his offense could remain hostage to Jefferson's ineffective quarterback play.
Maybe he's already made the decision, yanking Jefferson for one series with less than seven minutes left and LSU leading, 20-14, after the junior quarterback had thrown two wild passes into the ground. Jarrett Lee played only one series and completed one pass for five yards. Miles did not tip his hand on who would start next week against Tennessee.
The Tigers' defense, fittingly, secured the victory over the Mountaineers (3-1) by holding West Virginia without a first down on two possessions.
Jefferson came back into the game with 2:55 left and LSU at the West Virginia 43, but he never threw another pass. Ridley ran out the clock, gaining two first downs on runs of 15 and 7 yards.
It was as though the LSU defense told the offense as it trotted onto the field, "just hold 'em."
"When we had them by three, we said to ourselves, 'If they don't score, they don't win,'" said defensive tackle Pep Levingston. "So that was our big goal. If we go out on the field and they don't score, they don't win. So we just kept grinding and grinding and grinding, and we came up with the victory."