LSU Football: The Top 8 Moments of the Les Miles Era
The first decade of the 2000s saw LSU Football grow from a long-established tradition to a veritable powerhouse within the SEC—in its own right the best conference in college football, if six of the last eight BCS National Championships (including the past five straight) are any indication.
The Les Miles Era saw little dropoff from the successes of the early aughts, as LSU currently holds the No. 2 ranking in the country with a monster defense and big game wins against Oregon and Mississippi State.
In addition to a roster loaded with stars, of course, the Tigers have the fearlessly conservative "Mad Hatter" at the helm, and the combination has led to just over six years of incredible moments.
Don't forget the water. You're walking into Death Valley.
No. 8: Trindon Holliday Burns Everybody
November 24, 2006, the day after Thanksgiving at War Memorial Stadium:
The No. 5 Razorbacks had just gotten closer to No. 9 LSU after Darren McFadden's 80-yard run brought Arkansas to within five with 10:31 left in the fourth quarter. The story of this game was Arkansas' complete lack of a passing attack, instead relying on the team of McFadden and Felix Jones to shoulder the load, which they did to the tune of 324 yards and three TDs between them.
But on this day in Fayetteville, there was only one man who stood out in this top 10 matchup: a 5'5", 161-pound freshman return specialist. After the McFadden TD, you could argue that Arkansas was, in fact, set to kickoff.
But no one could have been set for what happened next.
No. 7: "Have a Great Day"
In 2007, on the eve of LSU and Tennessee's battle in the SEC Championship Game, Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr announced that he would retire at the end of the season. This prompted immediate and unending speculation on who would succeed the Wolverine Legend, and eyes floated somewhat naturally to Les Miles, a Michigan alum, former player and assistant coach.
To many in the media, it seemed like a dream situation were Miles to leave Baton Rouge for The Big House, and the speculation began to overshadow the No. 2 ranked Tigers and their incredible run towards the BCS National Championship Game. Until Miles, flanked by Louisiana State University Chancellor Sean O'Keefe and athletic director Skip Bertman, put a direct and appropriate end to the controversy.
Being Les, though, he gave the people one of the better coach soundbites in recent years.
No. 6: Jefferswag Level 10, Engage
Say what you will about Jordan Jefferson, there is definitely talent there.
He gave Tiger fans a brief dose of "Shut the Hell up" on the first play against Tennessee in 2010. The season would see Jefferson and Lee in a tandem QB setup that left LSU fans puzzled and conflicted, to say the least. The announcers here do a quick job of elaborating on the controversy, which would persist into this season.
Later in the game (due to poor clock management by Les Miles), the Tigers would take advantage of a Tennessee penalty on the last play to allow for one more chance to win the game, which they would do on an untimed, one-yard Stevan Ridley TD that gave the unbeaten Tigers the win. The game would be remembered as one of the sloppier miracles in Tigers history, with not a soul confusing it for "great."
But when Jefferson and the No. 10 ranked Tiger offense first took the field, their very first play lived up to the label.
No. 5: Chad Jones. Who? Chad Jones.
As a College World Series Pitcher and National Champion cornerback, Chad Jones has been LSU's most potent Babe Ruth/Deion Sanders hybrid in years, and he was literally everywhere on the field against Mississippi State in 2009. His biggest contribution was helping LB Kelvin Sheppard stop the Bulldogs on a dramatic goal-line stand to ultimately help the Tigers earn a 30-24 victory.
But for the game-winning touchdown, Jones took it upon himself to silence the Starkville cowbells, despite the plea for a fair catch from the color commentator.
No. 4: Patrick Peterson Strikes a Pose
This moment belongs to the LSU Student Section.
When the students graduate from the University with degrees in tow, look back at those who never missed a game, who never stopped cheering long into the night, who gave it their all to play a part in making Tiger Stadium the toughest place to play college football on a Louisiana Saturday night.
When they remind themselves of the moment when Patrick Peterson ran this punt back for a TD against West Virginia and struck a pose right in front of the student section, they'll all look back, never forgetting what a privilege it was to be able to say, "I was there."
Honorable Mention: USC Upset Provokes Insane LSU Reaction
WARNING: TURN DOWN YOUR SPEAKERS FOR THIS.
At no point in the entire last decade did one team's loss provoke such a fiery response from a school who didn't beat them.
But that's exactly what Stanford's 24-23 upset of No. 2 ranked USC did to the game already in progress in Death Valley.
Southern Cal and LSU split the top two rankings in the AP poll and USA Today Coaches' Poll, with each reigning atop one poll while the other close behind at No. 2. LSU went into their October 2007 matchup against the Florida Gators as the AP No. 1 team (a ranking the Tigers hadn't held before the Florida game since 1959) but questions remained as to whether the Tigers would play like it, or whether the Coaches' Poll No. 1 Trojans of USC should leapfrog LSU.
Just as Keiland Williams scampered into the end zone to bring the Tigers within three of the Gators with 7:49 in the third quarter, legendary LSU public announcer Dan Borne delivered the news that the Trojans were upset at home, making us realize that AP No. 1 LSU was playing for our right to be called the undisputed top team in college football. Our Tigers were playing for their right to be called the best.
What we did next just seemed to come naturally to all of us. This is a homemade video from someone in the student section after we got the news. Pay particular attention to the band starts to play "Four Corners," the song typically saved for when the band opens the game on the field and at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Also the girl at the 12-13 second mark for a brief few seconds looking up into the student section. Because we all were, at some point. We didn't know what we were feeling, but all of a sudden, we knew it was on.
This was the loudest and most electrified I ever heard our student section, and I'll never remember this moment without choking up just a little bit.
No. 3: Early Byrd Gets the Late Worm with One Second Left
With time winding down at the end of an epic back and forth against Auburn in 2007, the Tigers needed to salvage their national title hopes after being upset in triple-overtime against Kentucky.
Down 24-23 to the (other) Tigers, LSU drove down the field and were in position to kick a game-winning field goal to run out the clock. Instead of calling a timeout, former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville decided to let the time go down as the LSU faithful yelled at Les Miles to call a timeout himself.
Instead Miles called for Matt Flynn to throw a fade route to Demetrius Byrd in the back of the end zone. Thankfully for us, the end zone was right in front of the student section, giving me and 20,000 students the best seats in the house for one of the most memorable finishes in LSU history.
No. 2: LSU Beats Ohio State to Win BCS National Championship
I know, shouldn't this be No. 1?
The answer is, not necessarily. This article is about great moments, which can differ from great achievements—on which, the national title would be No. 1. But the controversy surrounding the win, including but not limited to the noise about being a two-loss team in the title game, brings this a bit down for me.
The win was celebrated and honored, and Tiger fans still think back to it fondly. It certainly felt great to destroy Jim Tressel's Ohio State Buckeyes on what amounted to home turf in the Louisiana Superdome.
But I can think of one moment that tops this, and I may be biased, but I was also there.
Honorable Mention: We Goin' to Da Ship!
This was also a fantastic moment, snide Fox announcers and the absence of Jeanne Zelasko notwithstanding. But for me, there was only one moment that could top this list, and it took three hours to make...
No. 1: LSU-Florida 2007 Becomes New "Greatest Game Ever Played"
The single greatest game ever played.
This game included a fake field goal, the USC announcement I alluded to earlier, our fiercest opponent of the year in No. 9 Florida, led by the eventual 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and, of course, five for five on fourth down.
The Hester TD at the end sparked the second tremor in LSU Football history, just after the famous "Earthquake Game" against Auburn in 1988. But this game and this moment, for the 92,910 of us who cheered our hearts out, is the one we're going to bring up with our grand-kids.