Les Miles got a stay of execution on November 29, 2015, but it didn’t matter. The era was over, and it would come crashing down the next season. But for one glorious, emotional moment, he held the jackals at bay.
You would think after two and half years I would be able to write a little more dispassionately about it, and really get into the hows and the whys of that fateful night. I wanted to review the primary sources and try to tell a coherent story of how Les Miles saved his job, for a few months anyway.
But I can’t. The wounds are still too fresh and the nerves are still too raw. I still haven’t forgiven Joe Alleva for the shabby treatment of Miles in the week leading up to the final game of the season and how the Board of Supervisors almost gleefully wanted to push the most successful coach in LSU history out the door.
Emotionally, I’m still at what we all thought would be his final radio show. Old men and young girls both cried openly and said thank you to the man who brought LSU to the mountaintop, and did it with a wink and a smile.
He was gone. Les knew he was gone. Hell, he even told the Gridiron Club that this was going to be his last game. And then it wasn’t.
So let’s back up. LSU entered the season with a loaded roster highlighted by future NFL stars like Leonard Fournette and Jamal Adams. The quarterback, of course, was a huge question mark, but this was a team good enough to play for a national title.
It didn’t work out that way. At the start of November, LSU looked like the best team in the country. They had rolled out to a 7-0 record and Fournette was making absurd highlight reel runs nearly every week. There were cracks in the façade, as the defense allowed 20 or more points in every game save one, when they allowed 19. But times were good, the team was fun, and no one paid it that much mind.
Then things crashed back to earth. LSU lost to Alabama 30-16 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score. And then the wheels came off. LSU lost to Arkansas and Ole Miss by a combined 38 points. It looked like the team simply gave up on the year after the Bama loss, and the howl for Miles’ head grew louder than they ever had before, not completely undeservedly. Losing to Bama was one thing, but getting blown out by Arkansas and Ole Miss was quite another.
This site has always been staunchly pro-Miles, and I even started off the Arkansas postgame recap with two words: “Fire everybody.” We openly speculated it was the end of the Miles era. Miles lost the Humanoids a long time ago, but now he was losing he’s most enthusiastic supporters. It simply felt like the end.
And then LSU did what it always does: it beat Texas A&M like a drum. The team carried Les Miles off on his shoulders as the crowd chanted his name. It felt like a fitting send off. An hour later, school president F King Alexander told Miles he would be staying. Alleva soon confirmed the news.
Nine months later, Joe Alleva would get his wish, and would fire Les right after the Auburn game, an insane loss in which Les bent the laws of time and space, but not enough to win. Les avoided the axe, but the executioner will always get his man eventually. It was a glorious moment for Miles and the program, as you could feel the outpouring of love for the man.
But it was just that, a moment. And moments end.
LSU came out all business. The defense forced a three and out as A&M failed to gain a single yard. LSU easily marched down to the A&M 15 yard line when suddenly the offense hit a wall, thanks to two Brandon Harris incompletions. Trent Domingue kicked a 32-yarder and put LSU up 3-0.
A&M would fumble the kickoff, giving LSU great field position at the 20. However, the offense moved backwards, and Domingue added another mid range field goal. LSU now had two trips to the red zone in the game’s first six minutes, but just six points to show for it.
The Aggies would finally get their offense going on a 47-yard completion from Kyle Allen to Josh Reynolds to get inside the red zone. Allen found Reynolds again at the 8 yard line. On third and goal from the 8, Allen finally found a receiver, Ricky Seals-Jones, for a touchdown and a 7-6 lead.
LSU would respond with an epic 13-play, 70-yard drive which ate up 6:40 of clock. Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice took turns gashing the defense, setting up a third and two from the five. Fournette would lose three yards and LSU would have to settle for a 25-yard chip shot. Which Domingue promptly missed.
The teams exchanged punts, but then it was A&M’s turn to have a terrific drive capped off by a disastrous play. Christian Kirk got things started with a 31-yard reception to get into LSU territory. The Aggies pushed the ball down to a 3rd and 4 at the 7 when Kendell Beckwith sacked Kyle Allen and stripped the football. Davon Godchaux pounced on the loose ball and LSU prevented A&M from extending their lead near the end of the half.
LSU would then race down the field themselves, spurned into action by a fourth down conversion due to a running into the punter penalty. Brandon Harris would find DeSean Smith for 22 yards on 3rd and 12 as well. LSU picked up 54 yards in the waning minutes of the half, only to have Domingue miss his second field goal of the game, this one from 50. LSU would go into the half down 7-6.
Derrius Guice opened the second half with a spectacular return in which he seemingly ran over every single player on the field. He was finally forced out at the 25 and LSU was in business. Except again, the LSU offense went backwards, and Myles Garrett made perhaps the only good play in his career against LSU, sacking Brandon Harris. Domingue missed the 46-yard attempt, his third miss of the game.
The Aggies would respond to their good fortune by driving to the edge of field goal range and missing a 54-yard attempt themselves. LSU took the ball over near midfield and three plays later, Derrius Guice would slice through the defense for a spectacular 50-yard touchdown run. LSU was back in front, 13-7.
The teams would spend the rest of the third quarter moving the ball ineffectively. Neither team could get much traction, as the game clock slowly melted away. LSU took over the ball at their own 20 with 10:55 left in the game and proceeded to put forth one of the ultimate Les Miles drives. The drive took 13 plays, went 80 yards, and took eight minutes off of the clock. By the time Leonard Fournette literally walked into the end zone, LSU had a two score lead, but more importantly, the game had just 2:50 left. It was a masterpiece of Miles Era football.
A&M put together a frantic drive to possible come back in the game’s final minutes, but Donte Jackson pulled down an athletic, tumbling interception near his own goal line to end the threat. One minute later, LSU would be carrying their coach off of the field in one of the most emotional victories of the Miles era.
21-19 #25 Mississippi St.
45-21 #18 Auburn
35-28 #8 Florida
56-27 Texas Tech
The State game was a near miss. LSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead and then pushed the lead out further to 21-6 midway through the third. Then, nothing went right for about an hour, an LSU almost choked on the lead. The Bulldogs missed a long field goal in the game’s final minute. The Auburn game is pretty much the Leonard Fournette highlight reel in 60 minutes. I think I giggled for the entire game.
The Florida game was another classic, marked by a flea flicker and, yes, another fake field goal for the win. How many times are they gonna fall for that? I’m proud that my son was born on the same day Florida fell for an LSU fake kick. After Miles saved his job, everyone got in on the party as the team blew the doors off Texas Tech in the bowl game.
But this is the game I’ll remember forever. I still remember how it felt. Then again, the wounds are still fresh.
What’s the Greatest Game of 2015?
This poll is closed
Les’ Last Stand (Texas A&M)
Holds on for Dear Life (Mississippi St)
Fournette Swallows Souls (Auburn)
Florida Falls for It... Again (Florida)
Bowl Game Party (Texas Tech)