LSU Football: Why Les Miles Deserves Some of the Blame for the Tigers' Bowl Loss

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers questions a call in the final minutes against the Clemson Tigers during the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Note to LSU fans: Ignore any critics saying that Les Miles should be looking over his shoulder and that his head coaching position at LSU is in serious jeopardy.

The chances of LSU parting ways with Miles are about the same as those of Jordan Jefferson starting at quarterback in the NFL next season.

It's simply not going to happen.

However, make no mistake about it, Miles does rightfully deserve some of the blame for LSU's unforeseen 25-24 loss to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

The bottom line here is that LSU was a better football team than Clemson.

Dabbo Swinney's team might have been stronger on the offensive side of the ball, but LSU had a better defense, better special teams and supposedly better coaching.

This matchup really shouldn't have been this close in the final minutes of the game, but because it was, let's take a look at what transpired.

LSU held a 24-13 lead going into the final quarter of play. The defense was playing exceptional, getting solid pressure on Tajh Boyd, as well as shutting down Clemson's electric running game. The offense was relying on its own running game and it was working to perfection.

Heading into the fourth quarter, LSU starting running back Jeremy Hill had already racked up 124 yards on 12 carries, including two big touchdown runs.

And then it all got away from the Tigers.

Hill finished with 12 carries for 124 carries, as the talented back did not receive a single carry in the final quarter despite having a great game up to that point.

On defense, the Tigers began to give far too much cushion to Clemson receivers, as it appeared they feared the thought of getting beat deep. In return, Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins ate up LSU's secondary, hauling in six fourth-quarter catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Hopkin's TD reception, which came with just 2:47 remaining in the game, cut the Clemson deficit to just two points.

But after that is where Miles' coaching techniques really made me question what he was doing.

Following the touchdown, Clemson went for a two-point conversation in an attempt to tie the game at 24, but it failed to convert.

LSU got the ball back with just 2:47 remaining in the game, and instead of going back to the run game, which had worked so well up to this point and would force Clemson to burn its timeouts, LSU chose to pass on three straight downs.

All three of those passes fell incomplete, and more importantly, only 1:08 was taken off the play clock while Clemson still had those timeouts in its back pocket.

Why did LSU choose to pass, not once, not twice, but on all three downs?

It would be understandable if the Tigers' run game had been invisible up to that point and their best bet to move the ball was to pass it, but Jeremy Hill had been having an exceptional game up to this point. Why not feed the running backs the ball to run down the clock and force Clemson into using those timeouts?

After three straight incompletions, LSU was forced to punt and Clemson took advantage of it, driving down the field in the final 1:39 of the game and sealing the game-winning score on a 37-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro as time expired.

Not to mention, as Clemson moved the ball to the middle of the field to set up the field-goal attempt, there was still time on the clock for Miles to use one of his timeouts in order to give his team a chance on a return or a Hail Mary throw, assuming Clemson was going to take the lead on the field goal.

But instead, Miles let the clock dwindle down, then used one of his timeouts in an attempt to ice the kicker. His tactic didn't work, as Catanzaro drilled the game-winner and Clemson walked off victorious.

Of course, it's easy to criticize these coaching decisions after LSU lost the game. Chances are we probably wouldn't be having this same discussion had Miles and the Tigers won this contest.

Les Miles isn't going anywhere. He is a great college football coach, one of the best in the game.

But I can say with plenty of confidence that this wasn't Miles' best coaching performance.

And in the end, it cost his team the game.


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