LSU's Les Miles at Monday's press conference
Photo by: LSUsports.net, LSU Athletics Publications
Miles Speaks to Media Prior to 'Gold Game'
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Published: September 22, 2008, 12:00 AM (CT)
by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports), LSU Sports Interactive

BATON ROUGE -- LSU football coach Les Miles recapped the 26-21 victory at Auburn and then looked forward to this weekend's "Gold Game" against Mississippi State at Tiger Stadium. Watch the press conference on-demand for free in the Geaux Zone.

Les Miles Press Luncheon
September 22, 2008

LSU Head Coach Les Miles

Opening statement...
“Good afternoon. It’s nice to see you. I’m certainly excited with the way the team performed over the weekend. I am especially proud that (RB) Charles Scott was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week. He had 132 yards on 21 carries. He was the first back in LSU history to get 100 yards at Auburn. Certainly, he’s worked hard; he’s going to have a great year, and he’s very deserving of that award.

“Our Players of the Week, awards given by the coaching staff after reviewing film: on defense, new names, guys that are playing really big roles for us in this year that really needed to, for us to have the style of year we want to have and the ambitious goals this team has set for themselves. These new names have to step forward, and frankly, Kelvin Sheppard, playing a lot of football, was tremendously productive and showed great leadership. He had a penalty on the sideline that I’m going to forgive him at this point knowing that it was certainly a mistake. Chris Hawkins, to watch Chris Hawkins make plays on balls that were thrown over his head. He’s tremendously talented in coverage. He was the one who broke from the middle of the field and dragged down a receiver that was not covered in broken coverage, but his own personal effort is what saved a touchdown there, and frankly, I feel he is playing really strong football, so those two guys share the defensive award.

“I think our special teams played extremely well in all phases from the beginning to the end of the game, but Brady Dalfrey’s punting, he averaged 48.3. Every time we punted the ball we gained 13 yards in exchange. We punted it six times, and it was really an advantage for us. We kept the field position pressure on them all day long, and certainly, that’s how we would like Dalfrey to punt from this point forward. I think it’s a great test for him to do that in an opponent’s stadium. I think it’ll be something he’ll draw on in his future.

“I can tell you that we enjoyed playing at Jordan-Hare (Stadium). I know it’s the first time LSU has won there since 1998. I think the environment is tremendous. I think it’s something that our guys look forward to, playing in those style of games. I can only tell you that there was only 7,000 LSU fans there that sounded like they were half the stadium, and I can tell you how wonderful it is to travel and represent LSU, and every time you pull up to a stadium, you see that purple and gold. It’s very obvious they’re there for us. I just want to say thank you to those folks.

“On offense, we really needed to be physical. Their defensive front is a physical, very capable defense, and they run to the ball. They have great speed, and we really challenged our team to be physical, and I think you found that the offensive line certainly was. I think our fullback (Quinn Johnson) had a big game and contact. I think our tight end (Richard Dickson) really matched up and won his physical matchup at his spot. I think our wide receivers were more physical than their secondary, and I really enjoyed the way that our offense performed. Certainly, our tailback added to that physicality. For me, seeing how Jarrett Lee performed in the second half was really a key piece to how the offense went. If you look at it, it was kind of a tale of two halves. The first half, we moved the ball, and certainly, we started the game and managed the motion to start the game. We moved, played ball control or field position and then, drove in there for a nice 3-pointer and take the lead early. A long pass and a good run and a reception aided by an interference call allow them to go up 7-3.

“In a two-minute drill, which really, if you look at the play after you see it on film, Jarrett Lee is back behind center and ready to take the snap, and the defense is not lined up, and the opportunity for him to take an advantage play is truly either into the boundary or into the field. If he completes the ball into the boundary just beyond the end on the boundary, a little wider on the perimeter, it’s probably a 10-yard play, but if he throws that same ball to the field based on the fact that the defense wasn’t lined up, it was a 20-yard play. What’s he’s doing is, he’s trying to execute an advantage play. He’s trying to get the ball snapped quickly and make a nice throw. The defense doesn’t line up. The defensive end never takes his stance and runs underneath the advantage play, and obviously, it’s a big mistake. Now, we’re down 11 points. We go into half, and obviously, it’s a key time for any team, and as we have been here in the past, we’re very competitive.

“We understand how to play from behind, but we are there, and we are behind. The locker room was just as it was supposed to be. It would be fair to say that there was a lot of leadership that came out of that locker room, and Ricky Jean-Francois certainly was one. Any number of guys from Kelvin Sheppard to Herman Johnson, Ciron Black, Brett Helms, it was just a pretty comfortable resolve. Get the adjustments squared away. Let’s go. We can run the football. Let’s get comfortable throwing it. Let’s do the things we came to do, and I think it was probably put best by Tyson Jackson as he entered the field in the second half to Holly Rowe, the ESPN sideline reporter. He said, ‘We’re just getting started.’ Frankly, I think that’s how we kind of look at it, and I think then, certainly Lee comes to play.

“Hatch was our second leading rusher with 10 carries for 50 yards and really managed the field and the game really well, and he gets nicked. We turn to the guy who made the big mistake at the end of the first half, and we say to him, ‘OK, it’s your turn.’ He just stepped forward and does the things that we’ve seen him do and really, in our minds, showed that he would eventually perform like he did. Certainly, that was timely. Certainly, we didn’t want to wait any longer. We didn’t want to dig that hole any deeper. I really thought that in that second half, not only at quarterback, but in any number of spots, you could see the level of our play, the intensity of our play raised. Defensively, again, when Auburn, for the day, gets 70 yards rushing, it tells you that our defense is really coming to the line of scrimmage. Linebackers, front guys and support in the secondary is doing a great job.

“The thing we’ve got to get corrected is that there were some errant throws, errant coverage. Some things on defense that we have to shore up, our coverage adjustments to motion and stem, and some of the routes were not adjusted properly. If we can eliminate some of those big throws, that defense would have had a spectacular day. Instead of them having 320 yards, it could have been much less.

“Again, special teams, I thought Dalfrey played his best game as a punter, and he did a great job holding the ball on our field goals and extra points. Colt David sets the all-time scoring record here at LSU, and I talked to him this morning. We had a team meeting where we resolved our last game, and then, this afternoon, we divide our time up and we look to our opponent, and I talked to him this morning. I said, ‘Congratulations on being the all-time leading scorer. Did you think?’ He said he never thought. He said, ‘I just worked hard, and I did everything I could possibly do and hoped that something like this could happen.’ Generally, that’s just how it works for guys, right? You just put your nose down and go like heck and do everything you can, and then, suddenly it works out for that guy because he’s prepared, he’s done everything he can do, and when you call his number, he steps to the front and kicks it through. Congratulations to him.

“I can tell you that I was excited about Jasper’s contributions. I think he kicked the ball just as we would have instructed him on every kickoff. Certainly, that nice little punch kick that he provided for us gave us a change of momentum. As we score and then, come back and get the next possession, that really changed the feel of the game. As much as it did not provide a score, it changed field position. It told them that the pressure was on. It continued a point in the game where we were really in control, and he did a great job. That was a kick that he’s perfected and something we are really comfortable in his ability to execute.

Trindon Holliday misjudged a couple of punts and put them on the ground and busted his tail to get them back in his possession. I can tell you that we’ve not lost confidence in him. We really think that he is the future in there at the return. We have to insist that he catches the ball. I think we have those guys who are very sure-handed but maybe not as electric in the return. He is much better at receiving the punt. He is much better at receiving all kind of balls. He’s at wide receiver. He does a tremendous job at practice and is much more professed and has greater ball skills, so we’re with him. We’re going to see him again, and we’re going to test him all week. Let’s go to the field and see if we can do it again.

“I liked our kickoff return team for that matter. They tried every style – sky kick, squib kick, punch kick. We fielded the ball cleanly, and our average starting possession beyond the kickoff was the 37-yard line. I can promise you that if they called me pregame and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to mark it at the 37. Are you happy?’ I would say, yeah, and we would mark it at the 37 and go play ball. I like what we’re doing there.

“Now, we turn our attention to Mississippi State. I know that they didn’t get the start that they wanted. I can tell you that I watched the Auburn-Mississippi State game, and I think they are potentially, a very dangerous opponent. Defensively, they play with a very tenacious, aggressive defense and have the ability to give you serious issues. We’re not going to run the same offense that Georgia Tech ran. They run a nice little option offense, and they read it, and it’s a tremendous piece that is very difficult to get ready for in a week. Certainly, our opponent had a very difficult time defending them. I can only tell you that they did not have that difficulty defending a very potent Auburn offense, and I can see that team is a very dangerous defense. We understand that this is going to be a great challenge for us. I know that Coach (Sylvester) Croom does a great job in preparation, and I know that they’ll be prepared and ready to play when they come to Tiger Stadium.

“They have a great tailback in Anthony Dixon. He’s a big, 230 pounder who we looked at when we were recruiting and really just felt that he would be a good player. We couldn’t get him; we just didn’t have room, but he’s a tremendous player and has 2,000 yards in this league and is very accomplished. They played two quarterbacks against Georgia Tech. Wesley Carroll and  Tyson Lee, both guys got a 100 yards throwing the football, and in my opinion, both guys are very capable.

“Defensively, they’re allowing 18.2 points a game and 308 yards, so statistically, you can see that their defense is enough. I know Derek Pegues, No. 3, is a great kick returner and a great punt returner, so we’re going to have to be prepared to play. The key to that is, in our opinion, we must improve. We had a good outing. Certainly, we did better things, but we have to be more consistent, and we have to be able to call on that style of play routinely, play after play and quarter after quarter, and do it now in this next game for four quarters. It’s going to be a test. Certainly, it’s our conference. It’s a team that beat some quality teams a year ago and played us extremely hard a year ago and then, went on to win a bowl game. We’re ready, and I think this team is in a good position. They came off a hard-fought victory and a road win where we have not had success in the past, and I think that’s a great position to teach from. I don’t think there’s any guy on our team or coach that doesn’t believe, fundamentally, that we can really improve. As long as we take that approach and go this next week with the idea that there are some things we need to get fixed and let’s improve, this team will have some ability to do some special things. That’s kind of how we look at it.”

On if Charles Scott should be getting some Heisman coverage...
“To be honest with you, I think Charles Scott would be the first one to feel that we’re a long way from trying to proclaim national honors as a team or individually, For me, to turn my attentions to campaigning for a national honor, not today. We have a lot of work to do. I think that if we get to a point where the teams that we play, that our running back will match and compare, in my opinion, favorably against any that we play. What our offensive line and what our team is doing to get the ball in his hands will benefit his skills. Again, I think this thing will unfold pretty naturally, and there can easily be a re-gear, and (Sports Information Director) Michael Bonnette and his crew are more than capable. I’ll focus on the team end of it, and let those guys, as he starts to amass statistics, worry about national honors.”

On why Dalfrey was wearing No. 30...
“I think, frankly, I kind of enjoyed the fact that I had a punter who was going to wear No. 30. I didn’t want to get confused, so that I knew that the punter was on the field when he wore 30. That may be the reason. It may not be the reason. I enjoy the fact that one guy kicks right-footed and the other kicks left-footed, and they both wore the same number. It might well have been a cause for an opponent to pause and say, ‘Hmm, I wonder which one’s kicking.’ He may wear No. 38 this week.”

On the severity of Hatch’s injury...
“I would be optimistic to say that he’d be ready to play this weekend, and I feel that is likely. Our trainers always do a great job in assessing that. That’s not my call. I’ll wait and hear, but frankly, I think he’ll play.”

On what Scott is doing different this year...
“I think certain guys approach the year with the idea that they anticipate plays that they are going to make. I think that when they have that anticipation, that they prepare their mind for that eventuality. You can call it visualization or being prepared or having a great summer, anything you want to call it, but I think that’s what Charles Scott is saying. I think he’s saying, ‘Ok, I’m ready. I understand the way that ball’s cut. I know what I’m looking for, the next move when that linebacker shows up. I know how I’m taking him on.’ I believe that’s a mental preparation. He had a great physical summer. He’s bigger and stronger, faster, but the reality of it is, in my mind, has always been his approach. His approach, in my opinion, has changed, realizing he can get the lion’s share of the carries.” 

On why RB Charles Scott was able to rush for 100 yards when there have been many LSU running backs who had the ability...
“First, I think he plays with a passion and an eager want for football. I think he’s an aggressive man and competitive and he combines that with a big, strong offensive line in an offense that will use balance so they can’t gang up on him. We’ll throw the football, and that will always be a part of us. When that ball gets handed to the tailback, he goes north and south pretty fast, so I think there are some advantaged to the style of offense that we play and the offensive line and tight ends are playing well. Certainly, it’s a team event when a back gets over 100 yards, but in my opinion it’s also due to the fact that Charles Scott is a pretty special back.”

On how much more he learned about the team in the close game at Auburn than he did in the first two blowout victories...
“Anytime you go on the road and you have to overcome adversity and you see how the team rallies to win, it tells you how competitive they are. It tells you that they do have the ability to have poise and concentration about their job, and play it aggressively. I don’t think I can say it enough – they’re competitive. I think if you put a ball on the line and you want to play for it, you’ll find 11 guys in our building that will be there.”

On how the team developed a mindset where they’re never out of a game...
“I think it comes individually. I think there are leaders on our team that have been here through time and understand what it’s like to play from behind, and how important it is in a competitive league to be able to play from behind. I think that understanding becomes a collective understanding where the team anticipates that anybody that steps on the field in an LSU uniform will have a confidence and swagger about them that says ‘We can win.’”

On who will start at quarterback against Mississippi State...
“I don’t know just yet, to be honest with you. I can tell you that whoever it is will play well.”

On how much progress he believes QB Jarrett Lee will make in the next few weeks...
“I think that our quarterback position has made progress, progress that we all haven’t seen just yet because, frankly, we haven’t had enough snaps to get us into full swing. That position has made progress and will continue to do so, and I think you’ll all see it. We’re not going to change the calls. We’re going to run the plays we’ve developed and our quarterbacks know and I think that confidence will continue.”

On why TE Richard Dickson hasn’t been thrown to a lot the past two games...
“I think you can always count on us trying to get the ball to him. He was instrumental in Saturday’s game to the fact that after we changed quarterbacks on third-down-and-five, he makes a big catch down the middle of the field for 15 yards. That’s the style of play that we count on him for. On Saturday, he was probably the best blocking tight end that we’ve had in a while because he really did a quality job on some good defensive ends from Auburn.”

On his plans for the nickel position with DBs Danny McCray and Chad Jones...
“They are very talented players. You look at Danny McCray and he’s really just coming back to health. He’ll be playing on a healthy ankle probably for the first time this weekend. Chad is a very fine young player and just needs the component that makes every good player a great player, and that’s experience. We’ll get him snaps and correct the mistakes and keep going forward because he’s one of those guys you have to have on the field.”

On if Keiland Williams’ TD pass was made possible by the running of Charles Scott and if Williams has any other talents we don’t know about...
“Keiland really thinks he could be the best quarterback on the team. He’s 100 percent throwing. He’s one for one with one touchdown. There really is upheaval at the football building. (Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Gary) Crowton’s fighting for him and (Running Backs coach Larry) Porter is fighting against him. It’s interesting, Keiland has the ability to throw the football and we wanted to get a look at it and, sure enough, he did it. He may get the chance to do it again. He might get two or three shots at it in a season.”

On why he decided to use a sky kick on the last kickoff in the fourth quarter...
“They had set up a counter. The counter was something that we worked through. We liked the idea that they were going to have to get a touchdown. Frankly, we thought that if we put the kick in a good enough position that they might put it on the ground and that guy has not fielded a lot of these kicks for us. Certainly, we gave them about ten more yards than we had been up to that point in the ball game. We felt like the risk was that no big play was going to come out of it, they wouldn’t cross the 50-yrd line or get a big return. We felt like there was an opportunity for a turnover with the ball on the ground.”

On what goes into his decision-making that makes risky calls not-so-risky to him...
“As a staff, we look at the film and we make decisions. All the calls we make are percentage calls. We looked at Auburn’s return front and they had a guy that seemed to leave a little early, so that gave a percentage plus to that call. It also happened that the wind was blowing into the face of the kick, so it was going to help keep the ball up and in bounds. Those two things, and the fact that we had just scored and had momentum, made it seem like it was the right time to make that call. Again, this is a kick that Josh Jasper is tremendous at, so we felt like he could make the kick if we made the call. It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

On what caused the blown coverages against Auburn...
“The tempo of the no-huddle certainly was a test for our defense and is something we’re working on and trying to perfect because we know we’ll run into it again. It certainly had a piece in some of the blown coverages.”

On how many plays they lose with the new play clock and his opinion of the rule...
“I think the most plays we have had this year was 65. Generally speaking, with a good offensive team who has a moderately successful day, somewhere in the 80-play range is expected. In the triple-overtime game against Kentucky (in 2007), our defense played 94 snaps. I think offensively, we played 91. If you look at those numbers and now 65 is the high number, there are a lot of plays that are being missed. I like the fact that the best team should have some time to prove it. If you give us some more snaps, I think it’s an advantage for us.”

On the danger in changing the name of the starting quarterback...
“The idea that both quarterbacks are going to play and the name of the starter is really the other quarterback that’s going to play anyway, I don’t know if it makes a whole lot of difference. If the change was that he’s now our only quarterback, then that’s much different. The view of ‘starter’ is not necessarily just the guy that goes on the field first. For example, we could start out with two tight ends and have (WR) Brandon LaFell on the sidelines. Well, Brandon LaFell is a starter; he just didn’t start that first play. In my opinion, our quarterbacks are both going to play so changing the name of the guy that goes on the field first, I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”

On how Mississippi State has the fourth-ranked pass defense in the country...
“They also have given up 308 yards of total offense. Auburn had a pretty viable offense and got very little. I see their defense being a very capable defense. I think they had some difficulty against Louisiana Tech that was not reflective of the defensive team. I see their defense being very capable. I think they would run into problems, as would many defenses, against Georgia Tech. TO be ready for them in a week is very difficult to do. Against a traditional offense or a spread, I see them being very capable. Anybody that holds Auburn to three points has my respect.”

 

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