HOOVER, Ala. — You hear about it all the time. A team gets to the precipice of a championship only to fall short in the title game. Months later, coach of said team admits he still can’t watch the tape — it just hurts too much.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Les Miles isn’t like that, apparently.
“No, I’ve seen that a couple times,” Miles, LSU’s oft-animated head coach, said during Southeastern Conference Media Days on Wednesday.
Who would blame him if he hadn’t? At 13-0, LSU was the nation’s consensus No. 1 entering last January’s BCS Championship Game against Alabama, a team the Tigers had already beaten. LSU lost the title game 21-0.
Miles was asked if he’s seen the tape of that game once, or if he’s watched it a hundred times.
“There weren’t many plays for us on offense for me to spend that much time,” Miles said with a laugh.
Indeed, LSU struggled to move the ball offensively, and Alabama made enough big plays to clinch its second national title in three years, leaving LSU — which won a national title under Miles in the 2007 season — to wonder what could have been.
Not that the defending SEC champs can afford to sit around and mope.
“I don’t think there will be a hangover,” said LSU safety Eric Reid. “If anything, we’ll use (that championship game) as motivation for this year. We had an amazing year … it didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but we’re looking forward to putting it behind us and strapping it on and playing football.”
Receiver Odell Beckham parroted the same message.
“If you dwell on the past,” Beckham said, “you can’t move on.”
So Miles was interested in looking ahead Wednesday, and rest assured there are plenty of reasons to believe LSU can be just as good, if not better, than last year. The Tigers return seven starters from an offense that averaged 35 points per game in SEC play last season and six starters from a defense that allowed eight points per game in conference competition.
There’s no shortage of star power, either. The defense is headlined by standouts at end (Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery), cornerback (Tyrann Mathieu) and safety (Reid), while the offense features a deep stable of runners and a big-armed first-year starter at quarterback — juco recruit Zach Mettenberger — who knows there’s a lot riding on his shoulders.
“My biggest job has been to develop as a leader every day,” said Mettenberger, a junior. “As far as workouts go, it’s just getting that timing down with receivers and tight ends. If we want a good passing game, that starts with us, to prove to coach Miles in the fall that we can do it.”
Sounds like it’s working so far. Miles repeatedly expressed confidence in his new quarterback on Wednesday, citing his improved maturity as a person and a player.
He also expressed confidence in his team as a whole, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s no such thing as rebuilding in Baton Rouge these days, and after coming so close to clearing that final hurdle last year, the Tigers have no shortage of motivation.
“Our team had a great year and played 13 straight very good, quality opponents and won,” Miles said. “We didn’t play our best in the last one. We understand that. … We also remember (that) and look forward to playing like we play. It’s about us, some things we need to fix. I think our team sees that.”