Starting 13: The Les Miles 'Milacles' Continue Edition
Milliseconds before Les Miles was set to be drilled by a bus on national television, Derek Dooley stepped in front of LSU's head coach. Only it took a few minutes to realize who'd actually gotten plowed by the bus. In those few minutes, the entire state of Louisiana was prepared to fire Miles on the spot.
Indeed, you halfway expected for Gov. Bobby Jindal to storm the field and fire Miles himself before the team even got to the locker room. This would have been the crowning moment in the Miles era, a compilation of idiocy that would be taught not just to football coaches, but to soldiers, executives, police officers, firemen, basically anyone who ever has to make a decision in a chaotic moment.
The clip would represent the foundation of what not to do in crisis. Some men find chaos and restore order. Miles creates chaos and remains blithely unaware that the chaos exists. Miles is the idiot who goes outside in the midst of a category five hurricane in a rain slicker, spreads his arms, locks his legs, smiles and screams, "The wind's not strong enough to move me, baby!"
And then ends up impaled on a stop sign.
At long last. it appeared Miles was out of Milacles -- a term I coined last year when I put together the 10 most improbable victories of the Miles era.. As every Vols fan at my tailgate in Tuscaloosa celebrated joyously -- I may or may not have been carried around on another man's shoulders amidst this raucous celebration -- another Milacle, the most profound of all, occurred.
Yep, the resurrection happened. Miles came back from the dead.
Derek Dooley's Tennessee team had 13 men on the field.
11 players and two angels to roll back the rock to free Miles from his entombment.
That's why today's Starting 11 is different than all the others before it. Today, we bring you a special edition of the Starting 13. I'll break down UT-LSU while alternately discussing six other games worth noting.
1. When was the last time that a team took possession of the football at its 31 with 5:41 remaining in the game, two timeouts left and ran out of regulation time before running out of downs?
This particular aspect of LSU's collapse hasn't gotten any attention, but it's one of the more amazing parts of the operatic tragedy that unfolded on Saturday. It's unheard of that LSU's drive would end because the clock ran out. It's unheard of that a team that only needed to drive 69 yards would find itself scrambling to run a play down the stretch. Especially when the clock stops after every first down.
Lots of attention has been paid to the clock mismanagement down the stretch, but the collapse at the end was set in motion by the awful execution to begin the drive. LSU would run 24 plays on that final drive. Twenty-three wasn't enough to win the game.
Think about how insane that is for a moment.
2. Colorado stormed the field after beating a 1-4 Georgia team.
This might be the worst field-storming in the history of college football. How bad have things gotten for Georgia fans? That's the most respect anyone has shown for the Bulldogs program this season.
While we're at it, let's go ahead and toss out the top two candidates for Georgia's head coaching job: Will Muschamp and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen.
If Mark Richt is gone, I think it will be one of these two guys who replaces him.
3. The 4th-and-14 conversion by LSU.
Only Les Miles could have a timeout remaining on a 4th-and-9, yet allow the clock to expire and lose five yards for a delay of game. Then take his final timeout after the delay.
How does this happen?
First, how does no one on the entire sideline take the timeout here? At this point, perhaps I should reiterate my offer to stand on the sideline as LSU's game management guru that I made after the first week this season. Just less than a month ago, I wrote: "Hell, I'll make this offer: let me be on the sideline with LSU and Miles for the remainder of the season. I'll take on this role, and all I ask as remuneration is that you let me write a book about my season as Miles' coaching conscience, the angel on the mad hatter's shoulder. It will cost you absolutely nothing. Plus, I'll increase your probability of victory."
You still know where to find me, LSU.
Second, how do you take the final timeout after you've already gotten a delay of game? Third, in a moment that has become all too familiar for the Tennessee defense, how do the Vols allow Jarrett f'in Lee to convert this play?
This may be even more miraculous than the 13 players on the field. What are the odds of success here? Ten percent? Less?
This was the play that nearly broke me. Jarrett Lee comes off the bench and converts a 4th-and-14. Unbelievable.
4. Oregon is going to lose to someone in the Pac-10 and everyone is going to act shocked.
Don't be one of them. I know Oregon looks amazing on offense, but an inexplicable loss is coming in conference play. Trust me.
Meanwhile, shouldn't Jeremiah Masoli be the poster child for crime not paying? He'd probably be the Heisman front-runner if he's still quarterbacking Oregon. Instead he's stuck in Oxford with losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt on the resume.
The NCAA should start running advertisements that say: Stealing laptops doesn't pay.*
*Unless you're Cam Newton.
5. The bogus pass interference call.
Again, another play that was overshadowed in the chaos of the final seconds was Jarrett Lee's pass that hummed into the stands at LSU and brought a flag from the same officiating crew that was suspended after the finish of the Arkansas-Florida game last year.
There is no way on earth that this pass was catchable. First, you can't throw that flag here. Second, if you throw the flag then someone has to pick it up.
I mean, this wasn't even remotely close. LSU gained six yards and had a first and goal from the two.
Want more LSU clock management issues? Just before this play, the clock was stopped with 52 seconds left and LSU at the Tennessee 10. How many times have we seen teams go 70 yards in 52 seconds? Yet, think about this for a moment, LSU ran out of regulation time from the 10-yard line with 52 seconds left.
Again, this is almost impossible to do.
6. Alabama has outscored Florida 63-19 in the past eight quarters.
Wrote about this in my column from the game on Saturday, but it bears repeating. Nick Saban will make less money this season than The Situation.
He is the most underpaid star in America.
7. LSU's decision to change quarterbacks for the second down and goal play was fine.
Maybe even a good decision.
But if you switch to Jordan Jefferson know two things: First, the Vols are going to expect a run. Jefferson had completed four passes for 30 yards. He'd thrown two bad interceptions. If he beats you with a pass, so be it. But know that the Vols were going to be expecting a run. Second, you have to send Jefferson in with two plays so that if he's tackled with a running clock you're prepared for that situation. Again, it isn't a surprise that the clock is going to be running if he's tackled short of the goal line. Either commit to running Jefferson twice in a row and know that that will be all the plays you get or you have to instruct him that if he doesn't get in on the run, he has to immediately get over the ball and spike it to stop the clock and set up one final play.
What you absolutely can't do is send him in with only one play, watch him stopped and then change personnel.
Again, lost amid the chaos is that LSU's final play call was Jefferson lining up in the shotgun from the goal line. LSU was going to let Jefferson pass! Or he was going to run and the offensive line admitted they didn't know the play call. That's why the ball was snapped early. So no one would have blocked for him.
It seems likely that the LSU coaching staff had chosen to go with a man who had completed only four passes all day to attempt a pass on the most difficult part of the field to win the game.
8. My Heisman top four: 1. Denard Robinson 2. Cam Newton 3. Kellen Moore 4. LaMichael James
Here's an early October prediction for you: Cam Newton is going to become Auburn's first Heisman trophy winner since Bo Jackson.
And Auburn is going to roll into Tuscaloosa 10-1 with a chance to win the SEC West, win Cam the Heisman,and deliver the most crushing defeat to Alabama in Iron Bowl history.
And the Tigers are going to do it. Just you wait.
9. Chaos ensues in Baton Rouge.
Keep in mind that Tennessee has a young coaching staff and played the final couple of downs from last week's game with only 10 players on the field. That's inexcusable and led to some criticism. So it's likely that the person doing the subbing for the Vols had this in the back of his mind and didn't want to end up with too few players again. That's the back story for how this could happen, where the doubt might have come from.
Also, we don't count well in Tennessee. Never have.
Then, keep in mind that LSU is operating from a chaotic perspective. What's the only thing more difficult than creating chaos? Responding to the person who has created the chaos in the first place and seems intent on creating more chaos. Doubt that? How well does the United States respond to Kim Jong-Il's decision-making in North Korea? We have entire teams of geniuses at the CIA trying to decipher and respond to the decisions of a mad man dictator.
Yet, we still have no idea what's coming next. Our entire national policy toward North Korea is basically to stay out of their way. Les Miles is definitely the Kim Jong-Il of college football and Miles was in the midst of a Kim Jong-Il style implosion.
The biggest flaw in Derek Dooley's response? Trying to respond at all. At that point, you just get out of the way and watch the carnage.
Even a day later Miles couldn't make sense of what happened. Read this quote: "We didn't need to exchange personnel," Miles said. "The want to get other personnel on the field took precedence over the play call. We were not in position to execute the play that was called. The multiplicity of personnel created certainly some of the issues."
Seriously, that's what he said a day later about this situation. Are you surprised that he blew it with seconds to make a play call?
10. The yellow panty-wearing cowards of Texas got whipped for the second week in a row and fell out of the top 25 for the first time in a decade.
This means two things: 1. Texas finally reaped what it sowed for dodging out on playing good teams in a decent conference and extorting the members of the TBC -- Texas' Bitches Conference -- not to leave either and 2. Nebraska's softer-than-Boise State schedule just got even softer.
The Cornhuskers could make up this schedule weakness if they they promised to shatter the Big 12 trophy at midfield immediately after winning the title game.
Seriously, how awesome would this be? A final middle finger in the direction of Texas as they bolt for the Big Ten. Please make this happen.
11. There should have been two penalties on the final regulation play, one against Tennessee and the other against LSU.
The penalty against Tennessee was correctly called. But LSU dodged a penalty of its own. One of LSU's offensive linemen threw off his helmet before the final play was over. He was frustrated and angry. I would be, too, if Les Miles were my coach. But that's an unsportsmanlike penalty. If this game had been called correctly, then both penalties would have been marched off and LSU would have had a single play remaining from its own 15 or thereabouts.
Now the official may have believed the game was over so the thrown helmet didn't matter, but the game wasn't actually over. The ball wasn't even out of play yet when the helmet came off. The officials missed it. They were overwhelmed by Miles' chaos as well.
Of course LSU would have probably scored from the 15 anyway.
12. Thesis: There were more good-looking women in Tuscaloosa on Saturday than exist in the entire northeast.
I spent all day tailgating and on Sunday morning my neck was sore. It was unbelievable. The only group that performed better than Nick Saban's team on Saturday? Alabama's women.
It's worth a trip to Tuscaloosa on a big-game weekend even if you never enter the stadium.
13. 13, really, 13?
Thirteen is inexcusable.
The only thing more absurd than the fact that Tennessee had 13 players on the field is that Tennessee could have had eight players on the field or 22 and it wouldn't have impacted LSU's failure on that final play.
I can't remember a more difficult loss to stomach in Tennessee history. Certainly, not in my life. There have been more significant losses, losses like LSU in 2001 for instance, but never before has there been a top-10 victory celebration that was snatched away like this one. Never before have we felt the jubilation of victory and the pain of defeat so closely connected.
This was gut wrenching, excruciating, did that just happen level pain. One LSU fan, Richard Green, e-mailed me and summed the game up best from an LSU perspective: "I feel like I just stole from the collection plate."
And it wasn't just that LSU won, it was that Miles was rewarded for his end-of-the-game incompetence. Only a Miles-coached team could snap the ball 30 yards backward on the final play of the game and then, as a reward, gain a yard by penalty and an untimed down. Only a Miles-coached team could be so poorly organized that the other team couldn't adequately respond to his idiocy.
The greatest pain of this game was that Dooley stole the ending from us that should have happened. What SEC fan was surprised when LSU snapped the ball and saw it rolling back across the field, LSU players running pell-mell in the opposition direction, helmets flying, cursing -- that ending just fit.
It was right.
That was the way this game should have ended.
Instead, Dooley tried to match wits with a madman and ended up getting run over by a bus he never saw coming -- the Les Miles Milacle Express.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail returning for the football season, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com