NCF Nation: Josh Jasper

A decade of Les: Building a persona

August, 4, 2014
8/04/14
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- With Les Miles opening his 10th season as LSU’s head coach today, we’ll use each day this week to review the decade under the eccentric Miles. Today we look back at some of the wacky moments, gutsy decisions and memorable press conferences that helped define Les as the entertaining figure that he is today.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesLes Miles has been known to keep things interesting on the LSU sideline.
 10. The Harlem Shake: LSU wasn’t left out of the “Harlem Shake” video craze that swept the nation last spring. In the Tigers’ version, it first appears as if they are participating in their regular “Big Cat” drill before Miles breaks into an awkward solo dance while the players “argue” behind him. Then the beat drops and mayhem ensues.

9. “It must have been the shoes:” The Legend of Les was already fully developed even before he filmed a 2011 backyard basketball video where he went from hapless to hero while playing against (and dunking on) two of his children. The secret weapon in Miles’ turnaround was a pair of purple-and-gold high tops sent by ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt following an on-air conversation where he made fun of Miles’ all-white game shoes.

8. Les being Les: Unlike many of his buttoned-up counterparts, Miles has never been afraid to show off his oddball side. It’s not particularly unusual to see him answer a reporter’s phone during a press conference, clap like a weirdo or fill everyone in on the difference between Columbus Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Nor is it surprising to see him kiss a pig or rappel off the side of a 24-story building, all in the name of charity. Around Baton Rouge, that’s simply known as Les being Les.

7. Crazy wins vs. Tennessee, Florida: Another example of Les being Les is how his teams have found some wild ways to win (and occasionally lose) ballgames. Two perfect examples came in back-to-back weeks in 2010, when LSU beat Tennessee and Florida to miraculously improve to 6-0.

First, the Tigers were on the verge of a devastating home loss to Tennessee -- and it looked like that’s exactly what happened when the Volunteers thwarted LSU’s last-gasp effort to score at the goal line. However, the referees determined that on the chaotic final play, the Vols actually had 13 defenders on the field instead of the allowed limit of 11. The ensuing penalty gave LSU one final chance to score, and Stevan Ridley plowed into the end zone on that play to give LSU a 16-14 victory.

Miles caught plenty of grief over the next week about LSU’s sloppy final moments in regulation before the Tennessee penalty bailed out the Tigers. It would have been understandable if he became a bit gun shy, but timidity is not in Miles’ DNA. When the Tigers’ final drive stalled late in the Florida game, Miles sent out Josh Jasper to attempt the game-tying field goal -- or so we all thought. Instead, holder Derek Helton flipped the ball over his head to Jasper on a fake field goal, and the kicker’s 5-yard run achieved a first down that kept the drive alive.

The Tigers eventually scored the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Jarrett Lee to Terrence Toliver with six seconds to play. It was yet another example of how you never know what to expect when Miles is making decisions on the sideline.

6. Fourth downs vs. Florida: Miles already had an SEC West title on his résumé when his third team at LSU in 2007 became one of the most impressive college football squads of the 2000s. There are plenty of moments from that BCS championship season that helped cement Miles’ risk-taking reputation, but among the most memorable were his decisions to go for it on fourth down against Florida over and over. In all, Miles and the Jacob Hester-led Tigers went for it on fourth down five times. They achieved a first down or a touchdown all five times in knocking off the defending BCS-champion Gators 28-24 in one of the greatest games ever played at Tiger Stadium.

 5. “Give them a big kiss on the mouth:” It’s difficult to say whether Miles is better known for the wacky things he says behind a microphone or for the gutsy -- and sometimes crazy -- calls he makes on the field.

We’ve already discussed a couple of the crazy calls. Now let’s touch on one of the most memorable press conferences. Following a narrow 2012 win over Ole Miss, he launched into a profane rant that evolved into a standup comedy routine. In response to a story that characterized receiver (and former hotshot recruit) Russell Shepard’s college career as a disappointment, Miles vehemently defended the contributions his seniors (including Shepard) had made to the program.

The rant ended with Miles instructing those within earshot, “You go find them, you throw your arms around them, you give them a big kiss on the mouth … if you’re a girl,” before breaking into a wacky grin as the reporters in attendance laughed.

4. Touchdown bomb against Auburn: In yet another perfectly Les moment from the 2007 season, Miles’ Tigers were in position to kick the game-winning field goal while trailing Auburn 24-23 in the final minute.

Tommy Tuberville’s defense might have expected LSU to down the ball in the middle of the field to set up a more manageable kick, but Miles had other ideas -- and the unorthodox call caught Auburn off guard. LSU quarterback Matt Flynn dropped back and hit Demetrius Byrd with a 22-yard touchdown pass with just 1 second showing on the clock. The enormous risk had paid off, and two weeks after the amazing Florida win, the Tigers delivered some more Miles magic.

3. The Mad Hatter: Miles has been given plenty of nicknames through the years -- some more family-friendly than others -- but the one that seems to resonate most is “The Mad Hatter.” ESPN’s Rece Davis apparently gave Miles that one, in part because of the white ball caps that awkwardly sit atop his head each fall Saturday and in part because of Miles’ general craziness that we’ve already covered, even if he once told sideline reporter Holly Rowe, “Understand something, it’s the hat I wear. There’s nothing mad underneath it.”

2. Eating grass: Shortly after LSU scored the go-ahead touchdown in a 2010 win against Alabama – just before the Tigers attempted a two-point pass that would put them up 21-14 – CBS’ TV cameras caught Miles in the middle of an unusual ritual that he said dates back to adolescence. He leaned down, pinched a blade or two of grass and put it in his mouth.

Miles has made hay out of his grass-eating ways since then, even participating in an ESPN commercial that gleefully ridiculed the practice.

1. “Have a great day:” One of the most unorthodox moments from Miles’ first nine seasons at LSU came when he participated in an impromptu press conference BEFORE the 2007 SEC championship game in order to shoot down a report that he was preparing to leave to coach at his alma mater, Michigan.

Miles told those in attendance that, “I’ve got a championship game to play, and I’m excited about the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play in it. … Please ask me [about Michigan] after. I’m busy.”

His smirking line to close, “Have a great day,” was so memorable that LSU added those words to the rear door of the football team’s equipment hauler.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 19, 2010
9/19/10
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Time to hand out our version of the game balls in SEC country.

A couple of great games highlighted the day -- Auburn’s overtime win against Clemson and Arkansas’ win in the final seconds at Georgia -- and there was also the return of a great player.

That’s where we’ll start with our Week 3 helmet stickers:

Alabama running back Mark Ingram: For a guy who had knee surgery in late August, Ingram couldn’t have looked any better. He was fabulous for the Crimson Tide in their 62-13 mauling of Duke. Ingram popped loose for 48 yards on the first offensive play of the game. He ran for 50 yards on his third carry of the game and had 119 rushing yards on five carries by halftime. He finished with 151 yards on nine carries, serving notice that he is indeed back after missing the first two games. Who knows? He might be right back in the Heisman Trophy race, too.

Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell: His own team awarded him the game ball after Vanderbilt snapped its 10-game SEC losing streak with a 28-14 victory at Ole Miss. Caldwell had vowed that the Commodores would hang in there after losing 27-3 last week at home to LSU, and that’s exactly what they did. Even after Ole Miss came back to tie the game at 14-14, Vanderbilt never blinked and made every play it needed to to send the Rebels packing. Warren Norman had an 80-yard touchdown run. The offensive line paved the way for 227 rushing yards, and the defense forced three turnovers.

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: Forget about the big numbers for a minute. Yes, he threw three more touchdown passes and has nine in his first three games. But when the Hogs needed him Saturday, Mallett was there front and center. He engineered a three-play touchdown drive with just 47 seconds to play, which was capped by Mallett’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Greg Childs. There was never any panic in Mallett’s eyes. He just wanted the ball one more time, and he delivered in the biggest win the Hogs have had under Bobby Petrino to date.

Auburn receiver Darvin Adams: The SEC is full of outstanding receivers, and Adams is certainly one of them. Despite catching 10 touchdown passes last season, he still probably didn’t get the credit he deserved. He’ll get plenty of props after his five-catch, 118-yard performance in the 27-24 overtime win against Clemson. Adams was a big part of the Tigers’ comeback in the second half. He had four catches for 95 yards after halftime, including an 8-yard touchdown catch and another 34-yard catch that set up a touchdown.

LSU place-kicker Josh Jasper: On a night when the LSU offense couldn’t find the end zone as much as it wanted to, Jasper came on to break his own school record with five field goals in a 29-7 win over Mississippi State. He connected from 51, 44, 37, 32 and 21 yards and is now 7-of-8 on field goal attempts this season.

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