He is the best of coaches. He is the worst of coaches. He is strategic. He is “strategery.” Les Miles swamped the Alabama Crimson Tide and Nick Saban in Baton Rouge. Les Miles was swamped by Alabama and Nick Saban in Baton Rouge. There is no getting beyond the coaches in this game. Unfortunately for LSU, Les Miles typified the best and worst.
Les Miles gambled. The gambles did not pay off. Fake field goals while the opponent is in a safe defense? Stupid. Kicking an even longer field goal later in the game? This is Les Miles for you! Going for it on fourth when you should kick? Yep, Les Miles did it Saturday night. Breaking down the tactical errors during an LSU season would be a fulltime job for an LSU blog.
So, how was LSU in position to win Saturday night in Baton Rouge?
LSU played better football.
This is really the strength of a Les Miles team—they play hard, block and tackle and play special teams. What LSU displayed was character and moxie. Miles excels in the strategic elements of the game—the grand strategy level. He knows what his team is—a powerful offense and defensive team that utilizes its fertile recruiting ground. He runs the ball and passes with the quarterback taking snaps under center. From a strategic view, Miles knows what he wants to do, gets the players to do it and because he is good at this, he puts his teams into a position as a perennial contender in the SEC.
His strategic vision was translated into the game plan. The Tigers came from behind and dominated the second half with strong defense forcing Alabama’s offense to the sideline and an effective passing attack that kept LSU’s drives alive.
Unfortunately, Miles made tactical errors by refusing to play the percentages.
Fans criticize the NFL for kicking field goals, and often conservative play. There is a reason the best coaches at the highest level tend to do the same things. With money on the line, you do the smart thing.
John Madden loved to say that sometimes the hardest thing to do is the smart thing, and the smart thing is to take the points and kick and play field position football.
There is a reason this has been a dictum in football since the earliest days. It works.
When a coach believes he cannot beat a team, or that his team needs a confidence boost then he will gamble.
Saturday night in Death Valley, the gambling hurt LSU.
What went wrong for Alabama? Very poor execution. This was the worst an Alabama team has looked since the Utah game in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 season. Some of this is was a result of LSU’s good play. Some of it was a result of mistakes that young players—even players involved in Nick Saban’s Process—make in SEC games.
And yet, Alabama found a way to win this game. Alabama won this game on the road. Alabama won this game in Death Valley, the place where dreams come to die.
What does this win say about Alabama and Nick Saban?
Simple: Alabama remains in contention for an SEC championship and a chance to do the unthinkable with back-to-back BCS titles. This win declares that Nick Saban is a colossus. This win also explains something about the state of LSU football. As Shakespeare put it:
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
The fault rests in Les Miles. There isn’t any getting past this point. Les is what Les is. His tactical decisions undermine his strategic vision. It wasn’t his stars that cost LSU the game, it was his own personal faults.