LSU Football: Les Miles' 10 Most Gutsy Play Calls
If LSU head coach Les Miles got a dollar every time he made an unconventional play call, he would be as rich as Oprah Winfrey.
He's been called "The Mad Hatter," "Lucky Les" and "The Gambler." When he pulls off a seemingly miraculous victory, it is known as a "Milacle."
Miles dialed up two more logic-defying calls in LSU's 24-21 win on Saturday over Alabama and former Tigers coach Nick Saban.
You can argue with his play selection but not with his 59-16 record in Baton Rouge.
Here are Les Miles' 10 gutsiest play calls and why they worked.
No. 10: Press Conference Two Hours Before the 2007 SEC Championship Game
While this wasn't an in-game decision, it was a bold gamble by Miles.
Responding to ESPN College GameDay anchor Kirk Herbstreit's report that he would soon leave LSU to take the head coaching job at his alma mater Michigan, Miles held a press conference two hours before the 2007 SEC Championship Game to address the rumors.
Miles declared, "I'm the head coach at LSU. I will be the head coach at LSU. I have a championship game to play. I'm excited about the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play in it."
This could have easily turned an inconvenience into a major distraction that took the attention of LSU's players away from the game. Instead, the Tigers rallied around their embattled coach and beat Tennessee 21-14.
No. 9: Hatch Halfback Option To Dickson Vs. South Carolina 2008
This game is remembered more for referee Wibur Hackett Jr. dropping South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia at the five-yard line.
But Miles used more conventional trickery to get LSU back into the game.
Trailing 17-10 and having failed to get a first down on its first two drives of the second half, LSU finally got going late in the third quarter. At the six-yard line, Miles subbed quarterback Jarrett Lee with Andrew Hatch, who usually came in for running plays.
On the next snap, Hatch rolled right, then threw back to the left and found a wide-open Ricky Dickson for a six-yard touchdown that tied the game at 17. LSU would go on to win 24-17.
No. 8: Josh Jasper's Fake Punt Vs. Alabama 2010
Sometimes, making an unusual play call is less about the result as it is about establishing an attitude for the rest of the game.
Trailing Alabama 7-3, LSU's first drive of the third quarter stalled at the 40. Most coaches would just hope their punter pins the opponent deep in their own territory. Not Les. On 4th-and-1, he called on kicker Josh Jasper to execute a fake punt. Alabama was completely caught off guard, and Jasper ran 29 yards to the Tide 31-yard line.
LSU wouldn't score on the drive, but it set a tone for the remainder of the game.
Photo courtesy of LSUSports.net
No. 7: Lee To LaFell TD Pass Vs. Auburn 2008
The best attribute Miles possess is that he is always aggressive. While other coaches play it safe when the game is close late in the final minutes, he's pushing the envelope.
Down 21-20 to Auburn and well within field goal range, Miles could have gone conservative, ran draw plays in the middle of the field, took time off the clock and went for a high percentage field goal attempt.
Instead, he trusted his freshman quarterback with throwing the ball. In one of the few times Jarrett Lee didn't toss a pick six during the 2008 season, he found Brandon LaFell for a 19-yard TD pass with 1:08 left in the game. LSU won 26-21.
No. 6: The Fake Field Goal, Part I
How many coaches can honestly say they outfoxed the "Ole Ball Coach," Steve Spurrier? Miles surely did with this fantastic call.
Up 14-7 against South Carolina with 1:22 remaining in the first half, LSU set up for a 32-yard field goal. Tigers quarterback Matt Flynn was the holder. Instead of tacking on three points, Flynn flipped the ball over his shoulder and hit kicker Colt David perfectly in stride as the ran 15 yards for a touchdown.
LSU tailback Jacob Hester later said, "It was definitely a surprise to us that it worked that well. I don't know if that will work that well again."
No. 5: 4th-and-1 Reverse Vs. Alabama 2010
Trailing 14-13 with 4th-and-1 from the Alabama 26 early in the fourth quarter, it was no surprise that Miles would choose to go for it.
Normally, coaches choose one of two plays in this situation: run up the gut with your best big back, or roll the quarterback out for a short pass in the flat.
Which would Miles chose? Neither! Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson handed off to RB Stevan Ridley up the middle, who quickly handed off to tight end Deangelo Peterson on a reverse to the left end. With a decent block by Jefferson, Peterson picked up 23 yards on the play to the Alabama three-yard line. Ridley would score the go-ahead touchdown three plays later.
No. 4: 4th-and-10 TD Pass Vs. Arizona St 2005
Miles' debut as LSU head coach would foreshadow his coaching philosophy.
Down 31-28 to Arizona St. and facing 4th-and-10 with a little over a minute remaining, most coaches are just looking a play to keep the drive alive and prolong the game. They also wouldn't put the game in the hands of a wide receiver who had dropped several passes in the first three quarters.
Miles ignored both tenets. He went for the win and trusted Early Doucet to hold on to the ball. JaMarcus Russell dropped back and zipped a 39-yard pass to the left side of the end zone. Doucet went up high to snatch Russell's pass and landed one foot in bounds for the touchdown with 1:13 remaining. LSU won 35-31.
No. 3: The Fake Field Goal, Part II
One problem with being known for calling trick plays is that it's harder to catch opponents off-guard with something you have already used. But Miles didn't let that stop him for going for the fake field goal again.
With 35 seconds remaining and trailing Florida 29-26, LSU lined up for a game-tying, 52-yard field goal on 4th-and-3. Holder Derek Helton threw a no-look, over-the-shoulder toss to kicker Josh Jasper. Unlike the attempt three years earlier, the ball bounced off the ground, so Jasper scooped it up and ran five yards for the first down.
The play was reviewed for over five minutes to determine if it was a forward pass, which would have been incomplete and ended LSU's comeback hopes, but the ruling on the field stood. Four plays later, Lee threw a three-yard TD pass to Terrence Toliver, and LSU won 33-29.
No. 2: Five Fourth Down Conversions Vs. Florida 2007
Most teams don't have five successful fourth-down conversions for an entire season. Miles and the Tigers did that on five attempts when No. 1 Florida visited Death Valley in 2007. LSU would win 28-24.
4th-and-goal at FLA 1: Ryan Perrilloux rushes for one-yard touchdown.
4th-and-5 at FLA 25: Flynn rushes eight yards for a first down.
4th-and-3 at FLA 4: Flynn throws four-yard TD pass to Demetrius Byrd.
4th-and-1 at LSU 49: Hester rushes two yards for a first down.
4th-and-1 at FLA 7: Hester rushes two yards for a first down.
If any one of those attempts fail, LSU doesn't win because they all led to touchdowns. The Mad Hatter became "The Gambler" that night and came up aces.
No. 1: Flynn To Byrd TD Pass with One Second Left Vs. Auburn 2007
There are about a dozen plays you can use to personify why Les Miles infuriates his critics and emboldens his supporters. But, this one probably does him the most justice.
LSU trailed Auburn 24-23 with 32 seconds remaining. Miles had one timeout left but chose not to use it. So, the clock kept running. And running. And running.
Finally, with eight seconds left, the ball was snapped. Flynn dropped back and found Demetrius Byrd on a 22-yard fade route touchdown pass with one second left on the clock that sent Death Valley into pandemonium.
To this day, Miles maintains there was enough time to take the shot at the end zone and use the timeout if necessary. But to even risk it is the gutsiest play call Miles has ever made.