LSU head coach Les Miles at Monday's press conference
LSU head coach Les Miles at Monday's press conference
Photo by:Chris Parent, LSU Athletics Photography Assistant
Miles Speaks to Media Prior to Tulane
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Published: October 26, 2009, 12:00 AM (CT)
by (@LSUsports), LSU Sports Interactive

BATON ROUGE -- On Monday, LSU head coach Les Miles addressed the media as his ninth-ranked team prepares to face in-state rival Tulane on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Watch on-demand video of the press conference in the Geaux Zone now.

Prior to Miles' appearance, LSU Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon took questions from the media about the 50th anniversary of his famous "Halloween Run" -- an 89-yard, game-winning punt return against Ole Miss on Oct. 31, 1959.


Les Miles Press Luncheon
October 26, 2009


Opening statement...
“When Herb Vincent and our sports information director asked me to come up here and speak for a short length of time, I told him I’d be that to because there are a lot of questions I’d like to ask you guys. They informed me, no, Billy, you don’t ask the questions. They ask you the questions. The only question I really have is, ‘What question could y’all possibly ask about that run that hasn’t already been asked? Is there anything that I ever left out or didn’t mention over the years?’

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“We had a get together the other night over in Hammond and we did a fundraiser for Johnny Robinson’s Boys Home over in Monroe. Johnny was able to come down and be there with us, and the bad part was that he still looks better than all of us and he’s had some terrible health problems lately. We raised him about $10,000. It was great because we let all the old timers that played with us get up and talk. We gave them all a microphone. Someone who just happened to be in town was a guy who played against us for Ole Miss that night and later was the head coach at the University of Mississippi, Billy Brewer. We let Billy talk, and I thought we were going to have to assassinate him to get the microphone from him. He shed some insight from his side of the field that were funny and good natured.

“Johnny’s Home is a pet project of some of the guys. He has 47 boys who live with him up there. It started 30 years ago when he moved one kid in with him and his family and found his calling. When they leave his home at about 18 years of age, they’re nothing but gentlemen. When he would send a kid who had braces into this area, he would send them to me. I think there are two reasons he sent them to me. One, he knew I’d give them a little extra attention. And the other, he knew I wouldn’t send him a bill. He agrees to both of those statements. It’s been a project. He’s done some wonderful things with some wonderful kids. I don’t mean kids that are bad. I mean kids that have their mother and daddy move out of town and don’t tell them. He just does a wonderful job.

“Dave McCarty is going to have another show, in Lake Charles, before next season. We’ve done it twice for Johnny in Hammond at Shorty Rogers’ motel. The first time, we had to talk Shorty into doing it. We raised about $7500 for him. We did it again, and this time we raised almost $10,000. So if any of y’all are around Lake Charles next year, I hope you can come and join us. How much did we charge? $100, and you can get everything you can carry. You’ll probably hear some of the stories that you’ve always wanted to hear but that were unprintable at the time. I’d love to have you with us.

“The Ole Miss run 50 years ago... when we had all the guys there the other night, I asked them, ’50 years ago, how many of y’all thought we’d do anything that would last 50 years?’ Not one hand, not one word, not one peep out of any of them. We’re as surprised as everyone else is. I think every player is proud of their part in that run and in that preparation to play that game. Really, I don’t have anything new to add to it. The film is there. It speaks for itself, although the film may be turning a little yellow. I thought about sending it to Ted Turner, and I saw what he did to Jane Fonda, so I said, ‘No, we better keep our film.’”

On watching replays of the run while in Tiger Stadium...
“It’s fun. It’s really enjoyable. The thing that I enjoy about it is that I usually have some of my grandchildren with me, and to see the look on their faces, that it really happened. Now they hear about it from when they’re little, but to see it and be with those people, our LSU fanatic fans, and to see the look on their faces, is fantastic. It gives you a warm feeling. I made Herb (Vincent) promise that there would be no enactment, no re-enactment, because I’ve looked at my guys and I don’t think any of us could finish it. But we’ve enjoyed it very much over the years.”

On training methods during his high school years...
“Well, what you’ve forgotten is that we started the weightlifting program. We started it at Istrouma High School with Alvin Roy. He had been wanting to put it in at a high school on the team level for years and years. Baton Rouge High beat us handily, with Warren Rabb, Gus Kinchen, Don Norwood, and other future teammates. They were an excellent team. They beat us handily when I was a junior. We came back after Christmas and the big freight truck pulled up. Back then, they didn’t have the hydraulic lift gates in the back. We broke the boxes down, and we carried the weights out to the gym one at a time. I thought one of the greater stories of it was that we started lifting the day after Christmas break. We lifted until kickoff time the next year. We did eight basic lifts. It was just for strength. Alvin was there every afternoon, and during the summer we went to his gym and worked out at the school. It was a terrific change. It’s been enhanced and built and carried on, and we’re very proud of that. There was dentist, Dr. Ted Edwards, who practiced in Donaldsonville, and he was the scorekeeper for a baseball team out of Alexandria. They came down to play us in baseball. They parked in front of the gym and walked through the gym. He went through there and he said we he opened the door, the sweat and the heat hit him. There was a guy doing a bench press, and Dr. Edwards said there was more weight on one side of the bar than they had in the whole school at Alexandria. He said they were hollering, cheering each other on, and no wonder we won all our games. I think that was part of it. Every year, we’d have two or three kids lost to knee or shoulder injuries, and my senior year we lost nobody the entire year. We won every game, and we won the state championship.

On if athletes from the 1950s could compete in today’s game...
“Oh yes. Of course, one of the lawyers in town told me last week that not having any confidence was never part of my personality. I think I could play day before yesterday. If Max Fugler couldn’t play today, then there’s nobody out there that could play. He was the finest linebacker I ever played with or against, and I’ve played against some great ones. You could fool everybody in the press box, everybody on the bench, all the coaches, the rest of the players, but you didn’t fool Max. Max always came up with the football, and always made the tackles. He was just a phenomenal athlete in his time, and if it wasn’t for a bad knee, he’d probably still be playing.”

On his return as well as his fumble that led to the Ole Miss field goal...
“I was probably one of your better fumblers, too. The guy that made the tackle was a great tackler, unlike Jake Gibbs. I tell the story when I’m in Mississippi or around Jake that that was the only tackle he ever missed in his life. He punted the ball and then he had the last shot to tackle me. I made a terrific fake to the inside, continued to the outside, and ran through his tackle. What I don’t tell them is that it was the only tackle he ever attempted. They had never gotten to him before. He was quite an athlete. The fumble came at that point of the game where the ball was wet and slippery. I had it perfectly, and I got spun around. The ball went one way and I went the other. They picked up the ball. After Ole Miss couldn’t score a touchdown, their kicker Bobby Caillet kicked a field goal.”

On the quality of the 1959 LSU-Ole Miss game...
“It was a great ball game. If you ever get a couple of hours to watch the old film, it’s really fun to watch. The runaways and where you get blown out, you forget. Where every play can determine the outcome of the game, those are the ones you remember. You remember them vividly because if you didn’t give it everything you had against a Johnny Vaught team, you were going to get embarrassed, whether it was personally or as a group. We had made another goal line stand right before the half. If we hadn’t have held them there, at the end of the game when they were at our one-yard line, they could have kicked a field goal and won 9-7. It was a great game.”

On who made the goal line stop at the end of the game...
“Warren Rabb made the initial contact. I did a Bosworth. I jumped on the top and got my name called out. Warren was a good defensive back and a great quarterback until he broke his hand. He was a great competitor, a great leader and an excellent person.”

On the differences between the 1958 and 1959 teams...
“I thought it was our play selection. I thought we did things in 1958 because we were trying to be good and we were trying to score points. For instance, we were playing Duke and Duke was a good football team. I was sitting on the wing and they put in a post pattern to me. I ran the post and we scored on a long pass. We never saw that play again for the 18 months I was in school. I didn’t see that pattern again until I got to Houston. We did a lot of things. We had a toss play where the remaining back would do a toss to the weak side, and it was only called one time. We were playing Tulane in 1958, and we were up 55-0 in the final minute. I had to go back in to prevent us from burning someone’s redshirt. Coach Paul Dietzel said, “Go in there and run the ball up the middle, run out the clock and get this over with.’ So like a good soldier, I went in there and said, ‘Call that toss to me. Coach Dietzel said it. Run it to the left right now.’ Like a good quarterback, he called the play. I took the ball 35 or 40 yards for a touchdown. Tulane’s coach was out at midfield cursing Dietzel, who kept saying ‘I didn’t do it.’ There’s a guy in New Orleans who follows Dietzel around every time he’s in New Orleans and says, ‘I had binoculars out there and I saw you tell Cannon to do that!’ That’s a couple of examples of what we didn’t do in 1959. Our defense was so good. There were a lot of zeroes and not a lot of points scored that year. They knew if we played our game we’d get enough points to win the game. Most of the time, it worked.”

On if he actually scored a disputed touchdown in the 1959 loss to Tennessee...
“I swear to God, I’ll go to my grave believing I was across the goal line, looking down, and then got pushed back. And then the referee doing that, it made me sick. But we didn’t lose that game on the goal line.”

On why his run is so celebrated...
“I think it’s the time of the moment that makes a great play stand up. I think if we had been up two touchdowns, it wouldn’t have made any difference. But it was a lot of fun doing it.”

On if any LSU players have reminded him of himself...
“Oh yes – Tommy Casanova. He made All-America three years in a row for us. He was a great athlete. He would have made All-America four years in a row if freshmen were allowed to play. That’s how good he was. He practiced in spring practice one day, went through the whole scrimmage on a Saturday. He showered, ate supper, and then went to his room and started to study because he was pre-med, and an excellent student. A guy running the quarter-mile relay for the LSU track team pulled a hamstring. They went and got Tommy, he came down, got his uniform and shoes, and ran a leg on the quarter-mile relay team – on the winning quarter-mile relay team, which won the meet. He was such a great athlete.



Opening statement...
“What a joy to have Billy Cannon be a part of our football tradition and our school’s tradition. Fifty years ago this Saturday, he returns a punt against Ole Miss for one of the celebrated plays in college football. I can tell you our players understand the traditions that have been set here, and certainly Billy Cannon is a big part of that.

“I like the position that we’re in. I like the understanding that we take each opponent one at a time and go forward. All of our goals are there. Looking at the Auburn game, I felt like what we did in the open week was specifically to plan to practice and improve in certain areas, and I felt like offensively, we got into a nice rhythm. We threw the ball down the field. Some of the things that we worked on like specific coverages we saw come to bear in the game. I really felt like our quarterback (Jordan Jefferson) did a nice job running the game and managing the game. We’re a team with great wide receivers. If we can get the ball in their hands and if our quarterback can dish the ball to the playmakers, then we’re going to have a pretty good day. He was 21-of-31 for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Even in a situation where he’s trying to get rid of the ball and we get penalized for intentional grounding, that’s improvement. That’s a young quarterback who realizes that his reads have been exhausted. He turns to his (running) back. His back is tied up coming out of the backfield, so instead, he goes to throw it and throw it away. The instruction is to find a back or receiver to throw it away at, but again, it’s a positive step.

“It’s nice to see Russell Shepard get in there and get some carries. One thing about him is he waited for a nice long game before he got it in the end zone for the first time. I hope that’s the first of many. Our defense is getting better each week. There is a real pride there, an enjoyment or a spirit if you will, but that defense just wants to keep improving and play better than the teams they’re playing against. I was tickled. I’m the guy who wants everybody out of the game late in the game when the victory is salted away, and you don’t want to risk injury to starters except that the defense, with seconds to go on the clock, is on the perimeter fighting like heck to get in the game. I enjoyed Al Woods, Rahim Alem and that group on the sideline who said, ‘Are you kidding me? Get me on the field. We don’t want them to score.’ I think if that opponent had have run it, I don’t think they would have gotten in either, but I enjoy the development of that defense. They are certainly coming.

“We have not lost sight of the fact that we are still a long way away. What we need to accomplish – offense and defense – needs to continue, and improvement is the down payment on a great season. Our football team understands that. I think they looked at that game, and I think they realized that we have the potential to be a very explosive team. We have to build on that, do it more regularly and be more efficient at it. On special teams, I feel like we are a very good unit. I felt like our punter (Derek Helton) was certainly a little nicked to start the game, and his first kick aggravated that issue, so we had to go with Josh Jasper at punting, and certainly he did a very capable job. I think that health will return, but we have to be more consistent there. If we do that, our special teams are pretty strong. We lead the conference in covering kicks, and our pride unit seldom gives returns. With a good return team, both on the kickoff and punt team, we have advantages on special teams. Again, I like where we’re at.

Harry Coleman was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week with nine tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and just great effort. He is truly having a great senior campaign, and we enjoy his leadership. We certainly enjoy his play. Kelvin Sheppard also had a big day, and we gave both those guys Defensive MVPs for their efforts. On the offensive side, Jordan Jefferson and Terrance Toliver were the Offensive MVPs. Both guys were instrumental in that team’s success. As we go forward, Tulane is a very dangerous team. You take the records, and you throw that out. They’ve lost to two very good football teams – both Houston and BYU who are nationally-ranked – and they will play very good football against us. Bob Toledo is a tremendous coach. He does a great job preparing his team, and I think offensively, they are a very dangerous football team. They are averaging 328 yards of total offense and have played some very good defenses. On the offensive side, Andre Anderson, their tailback has six touchdowns and just under 700 yards. Their wide receiver, Jeremy Williams, has 660 yards, and they have very talented guys. They started a new quarterback against Southern Miss, Ryan Griffin, but he was very successful. He completed a lot of balls. I think they are very dangerous on offense.

“Defensively, they play fast and to the ball and work hard. They seldom miss tackles, so they are getting our attention. We understand that we must improve. We understand that we must play well against Tulane. No game is more important than the next one, especially an in-state rival that will prepare very well against us, and our football team understands that we made improvement against our last opponent. That kind of improvement must continue against the next opponent. The specific challenge of Tulane will help prepare us for the next games we play. There will be no want to look beyond that. We understand that our greatest ally at this point is time, to improve, do better and play strong and play dominant against our next opponent. Then we’ll look around and see where we are at.”

On watching Jordan Jefferson start a half having fun and relaxed...
“Anytime you see a young player that is talented come of age and get the benefit of a completed pass for the work he’s put in, that’s what you enjoy. He threw the ball extremely well, and in the open week, he didn’t throw the ball as well as that. He improved and worked hard at it. Anytime a guy works hard, no matter what position, certainly you’re happy when he has success, and he’s done that for us. He’s truly a very quiet leader for our football team but an awfully important one.”

On if he needed to get to a bye week to get to a comfort level with some of the young players...
“I think the young guys that played, played well. I think you’ll look forward to them continuing to play. I don’t know that the bye week was as necessary as just time in spots where we can get them reps and have them gain some speed and understanding of what we need to have done. The good news is they are coming at the right time. I think we’ll need them to play. I think the guys who stepped on the field for the first time last Saturday will play key roles during the rest of the season.”

On a renewed belief that LSU has a shot to win the SEC...
“I don’t think there was ever any ‘renewed’ needed. I think our football team recognizes that if they do the things that they are capable of, we’ll get to a position where we’ll play for everything that we want. There are reasons to look around at scores on Saturday. After Saturday, the key score is the one that we are playing in. You take that home and recognize that it’s all about next week.”

On Jefferson’s maturation process...
“It’s not so much having confidence in him doing it early in the season. I think it’s more of a question of having him see enough and have enough experiences so that when he goes to the game and things change that he is very comfortable with how it should read out and how it should work. I say this with the understanding that he is a young quarterback. This is about the ninth game he’s started, and you’d like to have him go through the season once and have 12 to 14 games under his belt and then see how he plays from there. But, what I think we’re finding is each game he continues to improve, he understands, he learns, he sees the field well, and I’m not surprised, and I think it’s an experience. It’s a quotient that every player has to go through. You have to get it. There’s no ability for a coach to take you beyond experience. You don’t need this look. No, you need you every look. You need as many snaps as you can get, and then, it helps him translate those plays in a game more effectively, especially for a guy that has the talent that he has.”

On the LSU-Tulane series...
“I certainly enjoy the fact that at the right time the two teams in this state will get into a stadium and celebrate football. I have no problem playing Tulane and certainly respect that opponent very well and very highly. I can tell you that the series really takes a feel on gameday. When that opponent steps onto the field and wants very clearly to play their best football against you, we understand that and look forward to playing those types of games.”

On Jefferson taking a hit late in the game...
“I promise you that was right in the crosshairs of the decision-making, and the reality of it is if he matured a little further, he wouldn’t have gotten hit. That was the thought that we had. As sad as that last hit was and thank goodness without consequence, hopefully that was also a learning moment.”

On if he ever feels like he is walking on a ‘knife’s edge’ with his program...
“No, I really don’t see it that way. I look at the players that we have in this program, and I look at the traditions that we have at LSU, and I recognize that this is a very strong position that we’re in, and we look forward to playing games and having seasons. I think it will get nothing but stronger from this point forward, especially with the youth in this program playing as prominent a role as they are. I do recognize that a five-win Auburn team that is nationally-ranked in the rushing department, total offense department and in the scoring department is a pretty strong football team. Certainly they lost a couple of games to Arkansas and Kentucky before we played them, but we expected to get their very best shot and feel like they competed very well against us. I think Auburn is still Auburn. This is the first time we’ve beaten them three times in a row since 1937 I think it is, and the point being is that maybe LSU is a little bit stronger than we’ve been.”

On if there were any changes in the offensive line...
“I have to be honest with you. I think our offensive line moved around a little bit based on a nick or two but not really based on performance. I think the performance was good. Will Blackwell went in there at left guard for a spot. We moved Josh Dworaczyk around, and they played well with the change in the mix, but I think our offensive line is playing pretty well. As I look back on it and I looked at the film, there was a backside tight end, and he doesn’t get cut off on two plays, it probably adds 30 yards rushing to the total. If a back sees cleanly a hole and hits it, it’s a big game. It’s probably 15 or 20 yards. If Keiland Williams doesn’t just fall down on a pitch out there into space. I think our football team has an opportunity to get better. I don’t know that it’s necessarily the offensive line. At times, it is the offensive line certainly, but I think they’re improving, and I think our team is. Am I still impatient about facets of our game? Absolutely, but I like the want that this team has to get better.”

On Ciron Black...
“Ciron sprained a ligament in between his third finger and fourth finger. It’s not broken, and it definitely hurts, but we’ll put some ice on it, a band-aid and knowing him, it won’t bother him much.”

On the cohesiveness of the defensive unit...
“I want you to know something. This football team, as a group, really enjoys each other. They are a close group of men. They are ambitious. This defense seems to have a smile on its face when it goes out to play, and they are playing aggressive and downhill to the football. There is some contact being passed. They can be better, and they know that. They see it on film. They understand it. They recognize those spots where they say, ‘No, I should have done that. Yeah, you’re right. I need to tackle better. I need to wrap up.’ There are some instances of that, but there is great effort. There is a sprit there that is allowing them to continue to get better.”

On Russell Shepard’s transition into college ball...
“Well, it’s a very difficult one for anybody. What happens is when you’re in high school and you’re the player of the school, the high school coach coaches you, and the other guys get the information around and after you get it because certainly when we go out onto the field, that’s the one guy that has to get the information, and then, the supporting cast will be filled in. They’ll get it peripherally after the guy is operating extremely well. What happens is you come to college and you realize that there is a quarterback, receivers, running backs and a number of guys who get their opportunities and just to coach you would be inappropriate, but we’re going to coach the room, and that room’s responsibility is to get that information. Well, many times when a high school player comes to college, he figures, ‘Well, certainly they are going to grab me and go over that when we get onto the field.’ They don’t necessarily need to take that in their mind that coaching in the classroom to the field with them. Certainly, the coach will tell them again, but what happens is, we call the play and we haven’t told you again, but we’ve called the play. This is your opportunity to demonstrate now what you’ve learned in the classroom.

“That is a transition for all freshmen. I think that when you change positions, and we’ve asked him to do a lot of things. We’ve played him at quarterback. We’ve played him at running back. We’ve played him at wide receiver. I think we certainly multiply his issues with how much we’re trying to put on his plate. It’s quite a transition. It’s a transition certainly for him and for many.”

On what we can expect from Shepard after Saturday’s performance...
“We could expect very similar things that we’ve done with him in the past. I think he’ll get an opportunity to catch it. I think he’ll get an opportunity to throw it. I think he’ll get an opportunity to run it, and hopefully, we’ll see some more runs like he had Saturday.”

On letting the receivers go up and make a play...
“Again, it’s an opportunity to take advantage of certain coverage and coverage technique. It’s not just as easy as letting the big guy run over there and post up the corner. There has to be some coordination with the quarterback throw, when he’s covered and when he’s not and what the thought process is. That’s what they worked on, and they worked hard at it and worked daily at it. It’s accomplished to a point. It’s accomplished to the point where we need to practice it again and again. I think you’ll see that throw and catch as we go forward from this point throughout the season.”

On WR Brandon LaFell’s drops...
“There was one really bad drop. It appeared that he had a pretty comfortable spot at it, and then, there were some throws that were hard for him to catch. I think those things happen to receivers across the board, period. I think they happen to Toliver and Trindon Holliday and anybody that gets the ball thrown to them does not necessarily, for whatever reason, catch every ball. The good thing about Jo Jo LaFell is he’s proven that after a mishap he can turn right around, change the page and make the catch.”

On having success throwing the ball out of the I-formation...
“It certainly appeared that it was single coverage on those wide receivers. That’s what happens. We can run the football, and we will run the football if they give us even numbers. If they give us even numbers, then Charles Scott and some of our running backs will have some yards and some carries. If they don’t, then the opportunity then is to throw it to our receivers on the perimeter. You’re right. Jordan Jefferson does throw that ball well out of the I-formation and those sets that we can run it well out of.”

On choosing to go for a field goal over a fourth-and-one...
“We talked about the options that we had and what we wanted to get done. It proved to be the right call.”

On how key it is to get some backup offensive linemen some playing time as the regulars start to wear down...
“I think that the guys who are in the backup roles are more prepared now to take the field. I still think we want to play our best players as we go forward, but hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to play those guys, and they’ll have an opportunity to continue to develop in every game.”

On how he keeps the players from looking ahead to Alabama...
“The best thing that our players do right now for the rest of our season is to take this practice today and do the things that we’re doing as well as they can do them and improve and understand that they can’t fast forward a calendar and get to any game other than the very next one, which is the one we have to play well in. The good news about this football team is we get to play. When you get to play, there is an opportunity to improve and to demonstrate that improvement in your play against an opponent. We’re looking forward to Tulane. It’s going to be a very specifically different challenge than some of the teams we’ve faced. We have to improve to play well against this team and then thereafter.”

On if the bye week lends itself to a turning point in the way this team plays...
“I don’t know that it’s a calendar or a day. I think it’s the people. I think the recognition of how we play against Florida and the comparisons of the two teams that were made by the players who played really told them something. I think it became a more urgent want to prepare, improve and be the team they are capable of being. I think for the first time our linebackers as a group lead the team in tackling. That’s who is supposed to lead the team in tackling. I think that our receivers are going up and making plays they knew they could make and want to make and are now looking to make those plays in key ball games. I don’t know that it is necessarily the open week but maybe the people that are dressed in the LSU purple and gold. They recognize where they are at, enjoy a path that they can see and will improve to get there.”

On Keiland Williams not getting as many touches...
“I want you to know, we expect Keiland to be a contributor in a variety of ways, and his plays may or may not be carries. His plays may be a blocking back in a third down situation. It may be a flare pass out of the backfield. It may be a draw. It may be a run. The great thing about Keiland Williams is he has a diverse set of talents, and we want to use him where it best suits our team. We’re trying to do that, and I think that Keiland, as late as he is in his career, is trying to improve and working hard at it. I kind of stand by the carries and the touches that he’s getting.”

On changing the game clock rules to allow for more plays...
“It has quietly changed college football. It really has. If you look at the number of snaps that you’re getting, it’s much less. I think we are averaging nine possessions. We are second in the conference in turnover margin and top-10 nationally in turnover margin, so we are plus-nine in opportunities at extra possessions, and the truth of the matter is we aren’t getting as many possessions. The possessions in the college game are much less. I can remember times where 10 was a very small number. If you had 14 possessions, you had a really nice day. Nine possessions? Wow. You think nine to 14. That’s a tremendous difference. I have not done the research to see how many plays get taken out, but it’s a different game. In the triple overtime game against Kentucky (in 2007) I want to say we had 94 defensive snaps. I think we had 89 offensive snaps in that game. I want you to know something. The opportunity for us to get 89 snaps is a game and a half. It really is much different it appears to me.”


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