Since LSU's 21-0 loss to Alabama in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game last week, much has been made about the Tigers' ineffective game plan against the Crimson Tide.
The team we saw trample just about every prior opponent, was dominated in its own backyard of New Orleans. The defense held its ground for as long as it could, while the offense failed to adjust throughout the game and for some reason kept trying to run the option over and over again.
While LSU looked lost with the ball, LSU coach Les Miles said Tuesday that his team's struggles didn't happen because of a lack of effort.
"I have a difficult time people moaning my effort and my coaches' effort and the want to win," Miles said during his first interview with the media since his postgame press conference following the loss to Alabama. "I felt that they did everything that they could, that they were asked to do. I don’t think we played perfectly. I don’t think there’s anybody would say that this was something that was representative of our best play, but I can tell you that our guys gave everything that they had."
Miles defended his quarterback decision. Miles left Jordan Jefferson in the entire game even as he struggled throughout. There were plenty of opportunities for Miles to put fellow senior Jarrett Lee in, but never did.
Instead of handing the ball over to the quarterback that led the Tigers to an 8-0 start, averaging 156.3 passing yards per game and tossing 13 touchdowns to one interception along the way, Miles stayed with Jefferson and saw him pass for 53 yards and an interception. LSU finished the game with just 92 total yards and didn't cross into Alabama's territory until the fourth quarter.
"I can tell you that Jarrett Lee did come to mind," Miles said. "We do have confidence in Jarrett, we just felt like we needed that guy who might be able to get loose with his feet."
Alabama's pass rush might have been ferocious, but LSU's lack of offensive change truly was mind-boggling.
But Miles couldn't put everything on his quarterback. Miles said the defense played well as a whole, but struggled to put Alabama away on critical third downs.
(Alabama converted 3-of-14 third downs, with all three coming in the first half, though two came on drives that ended in field goals.)
Miles pointed out other mistakes, such as pres-snap penalties, the long punt return given up early, and a lack of big plays on offense.
"There were certainly a number of uncharacteristic mistakes by our guys," he said. "We ended up in some first down and 15’s that we didn’t need to. There were some snaps that hit the ground, some guys that had made big plays, not the quarterback, big plays throughout the year made some mistakes. Guys that we needed to count on in that game."
Now, Miles turns his focus to 2012, and he's excited. He's excited to see JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger take over at quarterback and expects to see much more passing from the Tigers. He's also excited about the attitude of the team and the 16 starters returning.
Last Monday hurt those in and around LSU, but Miles said it won't erase what the Tigers did before. There is still plenty to celebrate from 2011.
"The fundamentals of this program are to win championships," Miles said, "and this team is a championship team. We won the (SEC) West. Now, in the West you have at one point and time, 1-2-3 (in the country). So when you win the West, anyway you cut it, you are in the top four in the country.
"Later this spring, our team will take a day and hang the Western Division championship and the conference championship banners in our indoor facility. I have to be very honest to tell you that I cannot bemoan this team’s success.
"By any measure, this is a great year."