THE LES YOU KNOW: Les Miles beat himself in the first half, and it might’ve cost LSU the game. Plain and simple. Photo courtesy Bill Haber/AP

“I should’ve kept that one in my hat.”

Les Miles, as he uttered those words at the half, began jogging towards the locker room. As if he wanted to run away from what he just said. He said it, he meant it, but he wish it never happened.

Never have I seen a coach of Miles’ stature second guess himself so quickly on such a public stage. It was instant, candid reaction. And it showed you just how out of control Miles was in managing last night’s game.

For the first two thirds of the game, it seemed LSU’s head coach took the wrong turn at every fork in the road. The horrific fake field goal. The embarrassing REAL field goal. And don’t even get me started on that onside kick in the third quarter.

Every time the Tiger war machine started rolling last night, Coach Miles popped a few shots in the radiator and watched it grind back to a halt. Which is why, as he mumbled that sentence shortly following the end of the second quarter, it felt like Coach Miles was trying to run away from himself more than anything else.

And who could blame him? Had he just played “conventional football”, the score at the break could’ve very well been 7-6 as opposed to 14-3. With just an 11-point lead, it felt like the Crimson Tide and their top-ranked defense were blowing the Tigers out.

But then, as time wound down in the third quarter, something beautiful and completely unexpected happened. On a dump-off to the outside, LSU fullback J.C. Copeland, who had committed a frustrating penalty in the first half, brought in a pass with soft hands, then broke not one but two tackles and trucked his way down the sideline, the pendulum of momentum not far from behind.

If I could’ve been in Les Miles’ head just after that play, I’m sure I would’ve witnessed an epiphany.

“Wait, that’s right,” Miles must’ve thought to himself, “I have a pretty damn good football team here. Maybe I should just get out of the way and let them get to work.”

And go to work they did. From there, LSU took the lead on a perfectly-placed, indefensible touchdown pass. At the same time, with the assistance of a rejuvenated Tigers defense, Alabama went colder than liquid nitrogen on offense.

All of the sudden, like LSU last season in the title game, the top team in the nation appeared all too mortal.

But mortal doesn’t even begin to describe it. As the Tigers converted that crucial 3rd and 6 with 6:49 to play, even the strongest aspects of the Crimson Tide began to show chinks in the armor.

OUTMATCHED: Nick Saban might’ve started the game with more chess pieces, but he still outmaneuvered Miles. Photo courtesy Gerald Herbert/AP

So what all changed so quickly? The easy answer is LSU started to make plays as Alabama faltered. But, if you ask me, that’s only a small part of the equation. The REAL answer is Les Miles, about 40 minutes into the game, got out of the way of himself.

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. Alabama’s offense finally came out from halftime about 28 minutes late and scored on a brutal screen pass. Shocked and panicky, LSU’s attempt to answer led to three plays of utter implosion. Time ran down and Alabama walked off. Still undefeated.

But did it have to be? Again, I go back to the coaching calls of Les Miles. I already pointed out that it essentially cost the Tigers a ten-point swing. I’m no math major, but the four points LSU ended up losing by were somewhere in there.

We can play the Coulda-woulda-shoulda game until we’re blue in the face, and hindsight is 20-20, but realistically I can’t see a way you can’t put last night’s loss on Coach Miles shoulders.

Instead of dethroning the current kings of college football, LSU now has two losses and will be lucky just to secure a BCS Bowl berth. The Tigers WERE a Top 5 team, but at times the strategy that played out in Death Valley looked like an FCS team desperate to pull a stunning upset.

Had the head coach of the purple and gold called a game more fitting of the national title contender that the Tigers WERE, the headlines written last night in Baton Rouge might’ve been entirely different.

NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make you give him a follow @bclienesch for college football updates and other shenanigans!