With his white cap placed gently atop his head, Les Miles needs a return to form sooner rather than later.
Is Miles capable, though? The voodoo that was once strong with him, such as converting five first downs against Florida in 2007 and pulling off behind-the-back passes in fake field goal situations, has seemingly run its course.
No one can deny Miles' success at LSU, recording six 10-win seasons in eight years with the Tigers. But in that same accordance, the entire LSU fanbase still doubt "the Hat's" coaching ability in big games.
Why? Well, it's simply because the reoccurring theme of Miles blowing games with clock mismanagement and head-scratching coaching decisions is borderline trite.
Go back no further than last week's game against Furman for an example.
Despite the Tigers' 41-16 lead with 12:01 left to play in the fourth quarter, Anthony Jennings didn’t touch the football until the 5:05 mark.
By then, it was too little too late. Jennings, who will be the Tigers’ starting quarterback next season, rushed twice and passed twice in a contest against a team that my alma mater, Nicholls State (lost 70-7 against UL-Lafayette), could have put up a fight against. Believe me—that’s saying something.
Even worse—when the game was close, Miles failed to hand the ball to his best player in the second quarter, despite Jeremy Hill rushing for over 80 yards and two touchdowns in the first 15 minutes of the contest.
And the weekend before, Miles had a hiccup late against Ole Miss when he let 14 precious seconds tick away before calling a timeout with six seconds left in the game. Ole Miss left the Tigers with only two seconds remaining after a game-winning field goal.
Granted, this coaching decision did not have a dramatic impact on the game. But these follies at the tail end of games have followed Miles throughout his career at LSU.
What he's been great at is what other coaches struggle with. The successful recruiting and physical style invoked throughout his football teams are a testament to his abilities as a coach.
The more difficult subtleties of being a coach are mastered by The Mad Hatter, but the lack of attention to detail has been his downfall for so many years.
It's like he's naturally unorganized.
The botched timeout late in the 2009 Ole Miss game that led to a Jordan Jefferson spike with no seconds on the clock, the timeouts called against Washington that same year which allowed a field goal before the half, and a near game-deciding substitution late against Tennessee in 2010 have lit a fire in LSU fans.
That same fire found its way underneath Miles' seat before revisiting his bag of tricks.
After Miles had already won close games with calls, such as a deep pass to Demetrius Byrd against Auburn with seconds ticking away, Miles produced more witchery to save his job.
He pulled off a miracle at Florida, executing another behind-the-head fake field goal on fourth down followed by a Jarrett Lee touchdown pass with six seconds left, and then, he defeated Alabama with a late drive in the fourth quarter, propelled by a reverse call on fourth down.
Miles was also caught on film eating grass before the play. Both of these events occurred later in 2010, which helped cool down his hot seat.
Ah, yes, there was a time when Miles' luck seemed limitless. All of his crazy tactics at the end of the game served his Tigers well. But lately, they've done more harm than good.
The Tigers lost a close game to Alabama last year, and Miles' fake field goal attempt and unsuccessful onside kick attempt didn't do his team any favors.
Actually, the last time Miles had a brilliant trick play that paid off and secured victory for LSU was the DeAngelo Peterson reverse against Alabama in 2010.
Perhaps, the amount of grass consumed by him has taken a toll on his brain and withered away the wizardry of Miles.
With Nick Saban beating him on the gridiron in the past two matchups and somewhat beating him off of it by stealing away a prized-Louisiana recruit in Cameron Robinson, it's worth noting that maybe Miles has lost a step.
The recruits aren't flying through the door like they used to, and the defensive presence and overall dominant demeanor of 2013 are questionable. With Louisiana 5-star recruits like Laurence "Hootie" Jones and Leonard Fournette considering Alabama, along with LSU, the Tigers' 2014 signing class could dramatically fall flat if two more big-time recruits choose Saban over Miles.
Of course, Miles can silence every critic and influence recruits' decisions with one pivotal game. With a victory over Alabama, Miles would prove his team is still a force to be reckoned with on and off of the field.
Can Miles keep LSU on the map with another victory in Alabama's backyard? Or is The Mad Hatter lacking the magic to get it done again?
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