Hard to believe it’s already Les Miles tenth season as LSU’s head coach. Where does the time go? The Miles era has been a roller coaster filled with plenty of memorable great moments and some not so great. To commemorate the Tigers’ 100th victory under Miles, we’ll be counting down the top 10 games during that time. Because this is a celebratory post, only positive moments will be listed. So you won’t find certain games against Ole Miss or Tennessee here.
10. Florida, 2014
Kicking off with win number 100. This one fittingly ended in typical Les Miles fashion. Florida scored a late touchdown to take the lead with just over six minutes to go, only for LSU to answer back with a TD with under three to play. All hope looked lost when Florida tied it and got the ball back, but Ricky Jefferson picked off Jeff Driskel, and LSU won the game on a 50 yard field goal with 3 seconds left.
9. Arizona State, 2005:
This game was Miles’ LSU debut after their originally scheduled season opener was postponed due to Hurricane Katrina. It began and ended in a fashion LSU fans have become familiar with. On LSU’s first offensive series, they ran a fake punt from their own endzone. That drive didn’t lead to anything, but that play still stands out. With LSU trailing 31-28 with just over a minute remaining, Jamarcus Russell hit Early Doucet for a 39-yard touchdown pass on 4th and 10. Doucet pinned the ball to his hip and somehow got one foot down in bounds. I’m still not sure if he ever controlled the ball, but it held up on replay.
8. Miami, 2005 Peach Bowl:
The 2005 Peach Bowl was LSU’s first bowl game under Miles. The Tigers initially didn’t seem to have much of a chance going up against the ninth-ranked Miami Hurricanes with Jamarcus Russell out with an injury. Enter Matt Flynn, who threw two touchdown passes and earned game MVP honors. LSU won 40-3, handing Miami their largest ever defeat in a bowl game.
7. Alabama, 2007: Miles vs. Saban Part I.
As much as the coach and team tried to downplay the significance of this game, it was definitely one LSU had to win for reasons other than staying in the BCS Championship picture. It was a back-and-forth struggle almost right from the start. Alabama looked like they might pull off the upset after taking the lead a 62-yard punt return touchdown by Javier Arenas in the fourth quarter, but Matt Flynn connected with Early Doucet on a long TD pass with under three minutes left. Then Chad Jones got sacked John Parker Wilson and forced a fumble to eventually set up Jacob Hester’s game winning touchdown run.
6. Auburn, 2007 “The One-Second Miracle”
One second is what separated this game from making this list and being remembered as one of the lowest points of the Miles era. After Auburn took a 24-23 lead with 3:21 left in the game, LSU drove down to the Auburn 22 yard line and ended the game in the bizarre fashion. A one-yard pass from Flynn to Richard Dickson kept the clock moving with under 15 seconds left. LSU had a timeout and was well within field goal range for Colt David. But the Tigers did not use their timeout, nor did they spike the ball. Instead, Flynn took the snap and lofted the ball to Demetrius Byrd, who came down with it in the endzone with one second on the clock. If Byrd had bobbled the ball and dropped it, the game would have been over and LSU would have taken a loss to knock them out of championship contention. But it all worked out in the end, just like almost everything else during the 2007 season.
5. Ole Miss, 2012:
LSU defeated Ole Miss 41-35 to avoid an upset to the unranked Rebels. While it was a fun and exciting game to watch, nothing noteworthy happened on the field and this game probably could have easily been forgotten. After the game, however, this happened.
4. Notre Dame, 2007 Sugar Bowl:
It took Miles just two seasons to get LSU into a BCS bowl. And they couldn’t have been matched up against a better opponent, a former (emphasis on former) college football power that everyone outside of the midwest and northeast loves to hate. It seemed like a good match up on paper. The “resurgent” Irish featured Heisman Trophy finalist Brady Quinn and All-American receiver Jeff Samardzjia, who could surely put LSU’s stout defense to the test. But what happened was what we’ve come to expect every time Notre Dame plays a good team. A few LSU mistakes kept the game close at halftime, but the Tigers scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to win 41-14. Jamarcus Russell was named the offensive MVP after passing for 332 yards and two touchdowns. Russell’s domination of Notre Dame impressed many people. Unfortunately for him, one of those people was Al Davis. Enjoy the highlights in the vid below. Ignore the angry Godsmack playing.
3. Tennessee, 2007 SEC Championship:
LSU was dealing with a lot leading up to the 2007 SEC Championship. Their hopes of a National Championship had just seemingly ended with a 50-48 overtime loss to Arkansas, Matt Flynn was ruled out with an injury during the week and rumors of Miles leaving for Michigan were quickly gaining steam. However, Miles announced in a pre-game press conference that he would remain at LSU to coach his “damn strong football team.” Backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux played well enough to keep the Tigers within striking distance into the fourth quarter. Just past the ten-minute mark, Jonathan Zenon picked off Vols quarterback Eric Ainge and took it to the house to put LSU up 21-14 after a successful two-point attempt. They held on for the win to claim the SEC crown, and then the unthinkable happened. Just a few hours later, Oklahoma blew out top ranked Missouri in the Big XII Championship and second ranked West Virginia fell to an unranked Pittsburgh team. LSU’s victory in the SEC title game vaulted them into one of the top two spots and set up the next moment.
2. Ohio State, 2008 BCS National Championship:
The Ohio State Buckeyes had played in the previous BCS Championship and took a shellacking from the Florida Gators. Many of the same players remained and were looking for a chance at redemption. It looked promising for them in the first quarter after they scored the first 10 points. And then reality ensued. LSU shook off the rust and scored 31 points in a row and eventually won the game 38-24. It was the second of what would become seven straight BCS Championships for the SEC. Matt Flynn tossed four touchdowns to gain offensive MVP honors while defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois took home the defensive MVP. What stood out the most to me was the pre-game show. During the five weeks leading up to the game, the experts were all in agreement that LSU had a decisive advantage in terms of talent. Yet when it came time for predictions, every single one of them picked Ohio State to win because of “psychological factors.” I guess they needed to find a way to make the game seem interesting.
You might be wondering why this game is in the number two spot. What could possibly rank ahead of the National Championship? Here’s your answer.
1. Florida, 2007 “The Mad Hatter is Born”
Florida bookends the list. This is where Miles earned his “Mad Hatter” moniker. LSU cruised through their first five games of the 2007 season and looked almost unbeatable. They got their first real test of the year from the Gators led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner and arguably greatest college football player ever, Tim Tebow. Florida scored first at the 11:19 mark in the first quarter and held the lead for the next 54 minutes. Miles threw caution into the wind and went for it on fourth down five times over the course of the game, successfully converting all of them. Their last conversion was a two-yard touchdown run by Jacob Hester to give the Tigers a 28-24 lead with 1:09 remaining in the game. Florida got one last chance, but Tebow’s Hail Mary went unanswered, giving LSU the win and Miles a new title.