Miles, Tigers Turn Focus to Regular-Season Finale

LSU's Les Miles reacts to an interesting question at Monday's press luncheon
LSU's Les Miles reacts to an interesting question at Monday's press luncheon
Chris Parent (@chrisparent) (@LSUsports) (@LSUsports)
LSU Sports Interactive

BATON ROUGE -- Prior to his team's traditional regular-season finale against Arkansas, LSU head coach Les Miles addressed the media on Monday afternoon at the LSU Athletics Administration Building. Watch the on-demand video of "Lunch With Les" free in the Geaux Zone.

LSU (10-1, 6-1 SEC) will face Arkansas (9-2, 5-2 SEC) on Saturday, Nov. 27, at 2:30 p.m. CST in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.


Les Miles Press Conference
November 22, 2010


Opening Statement ...
"Happy Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for, all of us. Our football team, our state, and our community have a lot to be thankful for. I have to say finishing a home stand at Tiger Stadium undefeated, I would have to thank the fans. I think those people that come and sit in those seats are rare and they make a great difference to our team. I can tell you that we play with more passion, and it is a wonderful place. I just want to say thanks. How wonderful it is to walk into a stadium where 92,500 fans believe in their hearts that you are supposed to beat the ever living tar out of your opponents just like you are supposed to believe. We set out together to that eventual end, and thanks.

"This senior class has accomplished quite a lot. I want to say thanks to them, because as a group they have been outstanding leaders, they have been guys that like to work hard, and they are committed to the team. I believe in my heart they will be great husbands, fathers and people in business. I think we will really enjoy these seniors as they go on. Let's not lose sight of the fact that they averaged 10 victories for five years, one of the winningest senior cases in school history. They are the sixth straight senior class to win 50 games, they have five straight bowl appearances and they are all on pace to graduate. They take a national title and 16 wins over top 25 teams with them. They are a very quality group of men, and I am fortunate to have worked with them.

"The Ole Miss game, I think Jeremiah Masoli waited for this game to play his best, and he was just uncanny. I thought he was as talented a quarterback as we have seen, and I have watched every game that he played and he played his best. I give it to coach (Houston) Nutt for having that team ready to play. Certainly we have to tackle better. There are ways to get better. There were a couple places where we missed the line on defense, a couple signals that they just didn't quite get accomplished on the field and it led to some big plays. These things are definitely correctable, and the issue that I enjoy is I like how our defense plays. They are fast and they are hard-hitting guys that tackle. We will make some corrections and certainly continue to improve, and we will return that defense to playing a style of defense that we are used to seeing play.

"Offensively we had a big day. I thought Jordan Jefferson had his best day to date, and he is the SEC Offensive Player of the Week. I think Stevan Ridley with three touchdowns, and giving him the ball in tough situations, displays each week with more confidence that he is capable. I would have to say the first game the defense won it for us. If you go on through and you look at how well the teams play, it takes a team. This week it was the offense's turn. There was a point in time in that game where the defense had a busted coverage that led to a fast score by our opponent. It was told to me that Kelvin Sheppard went to the offensive leaders and told them 'Guys, right now we need you. You need to come to play. You give us a chance to get back on the field, we blew that drive and we need to play. You have our back.' Let me tell you something that defense has had that offense's back a great majority of the season, so it was right. It was their time and they played well.

"Again, it takes a team. Josh Jasper may be the finest field goal kicker in the country. He is tied for the lead nationally with 23, and he adds three more just when we need him. I ask him to go kick three and he does. Like our quarterback he is also the SEC Player of the Week. We are 10-1 and 6-1 in the conference, and ranked fifth in the country. I like the position we are in. I recognize the enjoyment to come over here and see you all, and that the quickness to which the season goes by really predicts how much fun you are having. I go to work every day with guys that have a smile on their face all the time, and I go to work with guys that fight like hell for victory. As we get to the back end of the season we have a lot to play for and that is a wonderful thing.

"This Arkansas team is very talented, and they have lost to Auburn and Alabama. I think they are better than a 12th ranked team. They are a very talented passing offense and they have a very talented running back in Knile (Davis). Ryan Mallett is a big tall quarterback and is on target with a quick release. He has improved from the Ryan Mallet we saw a year ago. They are a really quality receiving core and they lead the conference throwing the ball. The defense is not necessarily talked about, but they continue to improve and they are a very physical group. They have speed and they get to the ball, and in my opinion they are much improved since the beginning of the year. In special teams they have the leading punt returner in the conference in Joe Adams, and we are going to have to be better in special teams. We look forward to meaningful games in November, and that is right where we are at. We look forward to a very competitive game against Arkansas. Coach Bobby Petrino has done a great job there and we know it is going to be a very competitive game, so we look forward to playing them for the boot."

On how important the secondary will be against Arkansas ...
"Our secondary play is certainly going to be tested as is our pass rush and our underneath coverage, because we are going to have to stop a very quality running game. That secondary has to play big in this game, but it is a different challenge and certainly something that I think they will forward to."

On Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton re-inventing himself on offense ...
"I don't know if there is really a re-inventing, but I can tell you that the things that we need to have happen. There are different facets of calling a game on offense. Finishing a game like he did, and having the opportunity to make third down plays and calls and getting our playmakers the ball, all of those things need to take place for a quality offensive performance. I think he did a very strong job in that last game."

On Jordan Jefferson's progression as the season has gone on ...
"It is interesting. The thing that you have to allow is for our guys to get better. The observation of where they are at now and where they are going to be is always going to be different. I think you look at Jordan Jefferson, and certainly he has continued to improve. If you look at the style of throws and the things that we are doing, it is the same. It is the comfort of the offense and the taking the steps and strides that a college student athlete takes to get better. I think both he and (Jarrett) Lee have done that, and again if you go back to key contests this year you will find that Lee has made some very big plays for us as well."

On what Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett does so well ...
"His anticipation of the throw. He knows where he is going to go with the ball and he makes a very accurate and very strong throw. His ability to put air under the ball at the right times and give his receiver an opportunity to work, and the times that he needs to drive the throw in, he has that also. The key is to make sure we are in coverage and in position, and see if we can make him move his feet some."

On kickoff coverage ...
"There have been a couple of guys that have come out of the kickoff coverage and there were a couple of mistakes that were made in this last game that really lead to big yardage. If that doesn't improve we are going to have difficulty this Saturday, but we talked about that already this morning and it is something that will be ongoing as we look to improve. We are not going to change the scheme, but we are going to look at personnel. Our last kick off had Stevan Ridley, Kelvin Sheppard and a lot of real veteran guys on it, and I am not certain we will go by them when we get to the first kickoff. Then there is some improvement being made by certain guys, and we can't go by that very talented young player that we have on that team that made mistakes in that game with the idea that we need to correct him and get him fixed, because they are very talented. We all know Daniel Graff as he has gone from walk-on to special teams has virtually averaged two tackles on kickoffs a game, and just has really come to life in that position. Early on a guy like Lamin Barrow was really uncomfortable in the position that we had him, so we had to tweak his responsibilities and suddenly he has come to life. He has been very capable for us. What needs to happen is we need to have guys in the position that are doing well, maybe some of which need to just be coached."

On why the wildcat offense has given the LSU defense so many problems ...
"I don't think it is necessarily the wildcat quarterback, because I think if you look at wildcat formations nationally and certainly in our league it has kind of had a difficult time because that wildcat quarterback is virtually a non-throwing quarterback. He is more of a running back, so the passing game is all ground to a halt. It is that quarterback that has the ability to throw it and the ability to run it that gives the defense, and every defense, not just ours, its biggest headaches. We are challenged best by the guy who is most talented, and by the guy that runs fast, is strong, breaks tackles, and can sit in the pocket and make the read and deliver the ball. When the guy who has the ball is both a running threat, a play action passing threat, and a wide and inside threat every time he takes the ball, that is a tremendous challenge to defense. I think our defense is equipped with the speed we have on the field as any for that attack, but we have run into two very good quarterbacks."

On RB Richard Murphy possibly seeking a sixth year of eligibility...
"I can tell you that his contribution is very significant. He's a great leader in our program. The opportunities that we have to get him the ball, certainly we want that to happen for him, but when he doesn't have the ball, he plays big for us. I welcome a sixth year with Richard Murphy. I don't know that we would use him tremendously differently, but I can tell you that we sure have enjoyed his participation to this point and look forward to the remaining pieces of the year."

On increasing the amount of passing plays on first down against Ole Miss...
"I think what we've tried to do is to be 50-50 (percentage) on first down when the game is in question or that the situation does not suggest that we need to run it like the back end of the Ole Miss game. We wanted to make sure that we ran the football, so we got some first downs there and followed with the run yet again. If you would have eliminated those with the game in question and where the situation didn't absolutely predict us, I think we're 50-50 on first down in that game certainly."

On Kelvin Sheppard and Stevan Ridley participating on the final kickoff...
"Those are guys that have played in it for years. They are as trained as they can be. They said, 'Hey, listen. I want in on this one. This may be the last play of the game. I want in.'"

On what the 'Boot' trophy means to him...
"I can tell you that since I've been here, the Arkansas-LSU game has been tremendously contested. Every game has always come down to the back end. Every game has had big plays, and I can't imagine it will be any different (this year). I promise you when it comes to the challenge of keeping that trophy, that's something that we want to have happen. I can also tell you that the 'Boot' kind of reminds me of the shape of our state. I can tell you that a boot is also a piece of clothing worn on the foot. The key is to not be given the boot."

On Ole Miss' effort...
"I recognize and so does our football team that, that is a tremendous rivalry, and we'll look forward to playing that game every year. I agree that, that team plays LSU with great intent. It certainly has gotten our attention."

On Arkansas' defense...
"They are very talented. They are a big, physical group. They get to the ball. They've continued to get better. If you've watched their early games and their late games, they're much improved. We're going to have to attack them smartly. We are going to have to attack them physically. It's going to be a very competitive piece there."

On RB Michael Ford's performance...
"Again, as you would review our quarterback, our guys are improving, and Michael Ford certainly is as well. He's much more comfortable in the offense. He's much more comfortable with the checks. We put him in every situation. He's much improved, and he's taking coaching. Again, when I tell you that this team is filled with a group of men that have character, want, ambition and commitment to team. It really is a special group. It's a lot of fun to work with guys that are saying, 'Take me where I can't take myself. I need to know. Give me the information.' Then, they want to play it big on Saturdays. I'm fortunate that way."

On if he has noticed any change in QB Jordan Jefferson's demeanor or body language...
"I'm not necessarily following demeanor and body language. I can tell you at practice he has continued to want to improve. There is an understanding that he's got to get this, and he understands that. He's maybe a little bit more selfish with the reps, making sure that the reps that he takes and when he steps onto the field with that practice rep or that game rep, that he fully understands what's coming. I just think he's improved and has a desire to get it right and be excellent, not just be the guy but be an excellent quarterback. I just think there is a fine line between executing and just being somewhat less, and I just think he has stepped up and continues to call himself to a higher level."

On the matchup between Arkansas' passing attack and LSU's defense...
"I think it will require us to play the run and the pass. I think they have a balanced offense, not so much in yardage but in the fact that you can be just as hurt when they hand that ball to Knile (Davis). We're going to have to have a plan that allows us to defeat the run first and foremost. The opportunities to have that passer move his feet is something that we must do. We have to be able to get a pass rush. We all know that. We like our secondary. We feel like there is some experience back there and some speed and the ability to get a hand on the ball. It's going to be a great matchup. In that piece when they go back in the pocket and throw, it will predict a lot of the success that they have."

On offensive coordinator Gary Crowton opening up the playbook a bit more for Jefferson...
"I think that his confidence in how he is stepping up and the things that he's doing allows us to see that it's a beneficial ingredient to our team and to say, 'OK. Let's give him some more. Let's continue to do this. Let's go.' The good news is he's made good decisions with the ball. First and foremost, that's the most important piece that he has. Now, he's executing the throwing game much better than he has, so it becomes much more productive to call it. I like where he's going. It's got to continue. Each week there is a game plan that has some subtle changes in it that you must accomplish. It's exactly the same this next week. As we go through the week, he becomes more confident and comfortable with the calls. We then feel the same. It's a weekly process that we go through, and it's an accumulation of the year where you bring a piece in from the first game, you bring a piece in from the fifth game, but it's something now that he's much more comfortable with, and here we go. I think that's allowed him to play better, and I think that gives Gary confidence on some of those calls."

On having OL Will Blackwell back in action...
"How fortunate a guy is to come back and heal quicker than expected and having him back on the field. Beyond this last game, he'll be back on the field with a little bit more aggression, not so tentative, and we'll look forward to him playing and figuring in our plans in the next games."

On if RT Alex Hurst will be back against Arkansas...
"I think you will see Alex Hurst back. He was really a game-day decision on Saturday, and we feel like he'll be ready to play."

On if he has ever been around a kicker as athletic as Josh Jasper...
"It's really interesting. He was a great soccer player from the state of Tennessee. I'm surely going to miss this, but I want to say he was 'Mr. Soccer' in Tennessee if I'm not mistaken or certainly a noteworthy soccer player. He has great speed and great feet, and I say that because I think those guys that have had very competitive backgrounds in other sports allow them to figure in and understand their role best. I just think that's who he is. We ask Jasper to punt and to punt in a variety of situations. We ask him to come in there and pooch punt. We ask him to kick field goals. We ask him to kick off and put them in spots that we want them, and rarely we ask him to run -- I hate to use the word -- a fake. It's something an athlete can do, and when he goes onto the field he gives us some advantages of cool, comfortable and he'll get it. Our team has great confidence in him. They see him, and they recognize that when we put him on the field, it's an advantage for us."




This Week in LSU Athletics - May 22-27
May. 22
Cannon on Goal-Line Stand vs. Ole Miss
May. 21
'The Tribute' - Celebrating LSU Athletics Graduates
May. 11