Miles, Tigers buck convention for results
October, 15, 2011
By Chris Low | ESPN.com
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Les Miles proved a long time ago that he doesn’t care what anybody else thinks.
He’s going to coach his LSU football team the way he sees fit.
Some of the decisions he makes and particularly some of the things he says have been known to border Bizarro World at times.
But this whole quarterback deal with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson really isn’t a big deal at all, at least not to those inside the LSU football family.
“I think it’s more on the outside perimeter,” Lee said. “We’re not worried about it all. It’s not a distraction to us.”
Lee made his seventh straight start at quarterback Saturday, guiding the No. 1-ranked Tigers to a 38-7 win over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.
A fifth-year senior, Lee threw two more touchdown passes Saturday and has 10 for the season and one interception. In fact, the Tigers (7-0, 4-0) have now gone 48 offensive possessions without a turnover, and Lee has been the picture of efficiency in leading this offense.
He’s been steady, smart and productive.
Yet, when the second half began Saturday with LSU still trying to put Tennessee away after leading 17-7 at the half, Jefferson was the Tigers’ quarterback … and not Lee.
“We’re going to keep chugging, and it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is,” LSU sophomore running back Spencer Ware said.
Obviously not, but most coaches go out of their way not to tinker with something that’s working, especially when it rises to the level of seven straight wins by double digits and a No. 1 ranking.
But, then, Miles isn’t most coaches, and he wants to make one thing very clear: He’s going to play both quarterbacks the rest of the way.
“I like using both quarterbacks,” Miles said. “I think that’s what works best and what we need to do. Both guys can do different things. We like to do that, and we’ll continue to do that. There’s a want for both guys to have success and have team success.”
Asked specifically if Lee was still the starter, Miles said, “We’re going to go just like we’ve gone. It’s going to be our call, the offensive coaches’ call and my call, and it’s just that simple.”
Jefferson, in his third game back since being reinstated to the team, played most of the way in the second half.
And even though he threw the ball just three times the whole game, he was plenty effective. He guided the Tigers on a 12-play, 66-yard touchdown drive and then a 16-play, 99-yard touchdown drive.
The Vols (3-3, 0-3) didn’t even have the ball eight minutes in the second half. Their third and final possession of the second half came with 1:35 to play and the outcome long since decided.
LSU threw the ball just five times after halftime and cranked up a running game that has pounded teams into submission all season in the second half. The Tigers finished with 260 rushing yards against the Vols, and 196 of those came after the break.
Ware said the Tigers can sense when they’re about to break a team.
“When we get that feeling, that’s when you see us at our best,” Ware said.
Jefferson wasn’t made available to the media after the game. He’s talked only once since having his felony second-degree battery charge dropped to a misdemeanor and rejoining the team earlier this month.
Immediately, the LSU players welcomed Jefferson back, and several of them said there was an empty feeling without him those first four games.
At the same time, they’ve been outspoken about how well Lee has played, and probably the real key in making this whole dual-quarterback system work is the way Lee has handled everything.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Lee said. “Jordan brings something else to the table athletically at quarterback. You saw him run the ball tonight, and that’s something he does a little bit better.
“If that’s what needs to happen, that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Lee said he didn’t find out that he wasn’t starting the second half until the team was back out on the field.
“We were warming up, and I was told it was a change that was going to happen,” Lee said. “I was all for it.”
His LSU teammates are all for whatever is going to get them to the SEC championship game and ultimately the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win,” Ware said. “If it takes two quarterbacks, we’re going to do it.
“This is our year, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to take it to the promised land.”