Somewhere in the depths of the LSU Football Operations Building, Leslie Edwin Miles is sweating about his third bowl loss in four years.
In 2009, he lost an embarrassing game to a sub-par Penn State team on a muddy, disgusting field. Field conditions may serve as a valid excuse for one bowl loss. After all, LSU wasn't spectacular that year. Jordan Jefferson was the starting quarterback. Need I say more?
The following year, LSU improved—losing to eventual BCS champion Auburn, led by Cam Newton, and Arkansas. Most importantly, the Tigers defeated arch-rival Alabama. In their bowl game, they pounded Texas A&M into submission. Tiger fans received their first glimpse of the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu. Things were looking up.
LSU lived up to its heightening expectations in 2011. The Bayou Bengals put together one of the most impressive seasons in NCAA football history. In total, LSU beat eight ranked teams. The closest games included a 12-point victory against Mississippi State and a three-point win against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
Then the unthinkable happened.
The Tigers would play Alabama for a second time in the BCS championship. In Baton Rouge, emotions were mixed. Some fans were confident after defeating Alabama once. Others were worried, knowing that the Crimson Tide had dominated the majority of their previous meeting.
But it was essentially a home game. New Orleans is approximately 80 miles from Baton Rouge. The Superdome is a great atmosphere for football, college or pro. The stadium would surely be populated mostly by Tiger fans. If there was any year for LSU to win a championship, this was it.
21-0. LSU didn't score a single point.
Like many other Tiger fans that night, I sat on the streets of New Orleans bewildered at what I had just seen. Hours earlier, the area surrounding the Superdome was buzzing with excitement. Shortly after the game ended, the streets were filled with tears.
In the game's aftermath, many questioned the play-calling. Why hadn't Jarrett Lee played? Why didn't LSU throw the ball more?
Fast forward to New Year's Eve 2012.
The Tigers were coming off a disappointing season—losing to Florida and being crushed by Alabama in Game 3. LSU had the game in its fingertips. Despite the team's best efforts, there was blown coverage on a last-second screen pass to TJ Yeldon.
That was it. The end of LSU's hopes for a championship. It was another crushing loss to Alabama.
Perhaps winning out could land LSU in a decent bowl game and maybe even a top 10 ranking in the final BCS rankings.
But with 2:43 left in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson, the LSU Tigers threw the ball three times. The same team that had relied so heavily on the run game for the entirety of Miles' tenure, changed its philosophy in a crucial moment.
Perhaps it was offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa's decision to throw the ball on 2nd-and-2. Maybe it was also his decision to throw the ball on 3rd-and-2. Either way, Clemson still had three timeouts.
The ACC Tigers methodically moved down the field. By the end of the game. Clemson had run 100 plays, an astounding number and more than double the 49 that LSU had run.
Where does that leave Miles? Where does yet another disappointing season—capped off by another disappointing loss in a big game—leave one of the most successful active college football coaches?
It leaves him just short of being fired. Sure, Tiger fans love Miles. He fits in well with the laissez faire attitude of Louisiana. But his coaching decisions continually disappoint faithful fans. He is beginning to wear out his welcome.
Miles has one championship to his name. But it's hard for LSU fans not to demand another with such stellar talent coming in year after year.
Your time is running out, Les. It's time for results.
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