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SEC 2010 // Les Miles and the Infamous Spike

It's not that Les Miles is prone to gambling too much; it is, I believe, that he is like his idol Bo Schembechler -- he knows that his guys are better than the other guys (whether that's true or not) and is willing to take risks because of that.--C&F, 7/18/2009

Ah, yes, the post that I called "Why I Like Les Miles." In my defense, it was written before this:

Which was bad enough on its own before Dr. Saturday pointed out that Air Force handled a similar situation -- not the same, but similar -- better than did LSU. Lesson: Miles couldn't get a job at a service academy, but he's the head coach at LSU.

In a way, this was the mistake that Miles' critics wrongly accused him of making in the 2007 game against Auburn: A total mismanagement of the clock, in this case enough to cost him the football game -- something that didn't happen two years earlier. But against Ole Miss, Miles wasn't gambling -- he and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton were just riffing. There was no logic to the late-game strategy, if you want to assume there was a late-game strategy to begin with. This is what you call "chaos."

So do we have to re-evaluate Miles? Maybe. After all, this is not one of those losses that can be categorized as "good risk with no reward" or "hindsight is 20-20." Nor can it be blamed on the phrase that coaches like Miles dread: "He won with (in this case Nick Saban)'s players." It is game strategy and play-calling, pure and simple, and Miles got it wrong.

That said, it's a moment. It no more proves that Miles is a bad coach than the Auburn game proved he was a great one. The only reason we remember this series is (a) LSU had a disappointing season in 2009; and (b) Miles apparently lied when he told reporters after the game that he didn't know who had called for the spike. (Replays appeared to show that Miles had.) If LSU wins 10 games, or wins the same nine more convincingly, it would be a humorous footnote to the season. If that happens and Miles owns up to having called for the spike -- or at least taken responsibility for the call more directly -- it's not even a footnote.

Let's see what Miles does this year and then revisit the question. Who knows -- maybe a daring gamble will help the Bengals get their revenge on Ole Miss and some other Miles doubters.