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Mad Hatter loses his mind vs. 'Bama, and much of Tigers Nation with it

by | CBSSports.com College Football Blogger

Some LSU players, along with fans and media, are not happy with their coach. (Getty Images)  
Some LSU players, along with fans and media, are not happy with their coach. (Getty Images)  

Twelve months from now the LSU Tigers and Les Miles may be standing on a podium at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Fla., hoisting a crystal football above their heads as the SEC's seventh consecutive BCS champion. That's how good most experts believe the 2012 version of college football's runners-up will be, as LSU returns most of its key starters at just about every position.

At the moment, however, January 2013 is a long ways away, and most LSU fans are more focused on what happened 72 hours ago in the Superdome down in New Orleans.

It was on Monday night that Miles' Tigers spent 60 minutes getting their butts kicked up and down the field by the Alabama Crimson Tide, losing the game 21-0 without managing even 100 yards of total offense. The Tigers didn't even cross the 50-yard line with the ball until the fourth quarter when the game was essentially over.

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Since that loss, Miles, who was the rare combination of media darling and man beloved by his fan base, a man that seemingly could do no wrong on the football field even when you got the feeling he was trying to, has found himself under quite a bit of fire. The bullets coming from every angle, whether nationally, locally, or even among his own players.

Miles was clearly out-coached by Alabama's Nick Saban in New Orleans. While a lot of credit must be given to the men -- not kids, men -- who make up Alabama's defense, an equal amount of blame must be placed at the feet of Miles and his coaching staff.

They say the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result each time. Well, if you thought Les Miles was insane before Monday night, you got your confirmation on the field.

Even though it was painfully obvious to those in the stadium or watching at home that LSU's offensive gameplan of trying to beat Alabama with speed to the edges wasn't going to work, LSU kept calling for the same speed option play repeatedly. It was as if Miles and LSU were playing this game on Tecmo Super Bowl and only had four offensive plays to work with.

Time and again Jordan Jefferson would take the snap and head to the right, running back in tow, and each time he'd be swallowed up by Dont'a Hightower or Courtney Upshaw.

To further frustrate matters, Miles played the entire season with two different quarterbacks in Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. Neither of which were perfect, but did have their unique strengths and weaknesses.

Jarrett Lee is known to throw a pick-six from time to time, but with it glaringly obvious that LSU wasn't going to be able to run the ball against Alabama, instead of substituting Lee in and trying to move the ball through the air, Miles stuck with Jefferson.

Even Lee himself seemed confused that he never had to strap on his helmet.

"I did feel like I'd get an opportunity tonight," Lee said after the game, "and I didn't."

LSU offensive lineman Will Blackwell expanded on Lee's feelings.

"Jarrett didn't get a shot. I felt like maybe he should have," said Blackwell. "He didn't, but that's not the reason we lost. Jarrett Lee not playing is not the reason we lost.

"Jarrett won nine games for us and we did very well in those nine games. He throws the ball a little bit better than Jordan, but Jordan runs it a little better. It's kind of a pick-your-poison kind of deal. Unfortunately, tonight we picked the wrong one."

Of course, it wasn't just Miles' players questioning his decision-making in the game. His players' fathers did as well. The very first question asked to Miles in his postgame press conference came from Bobby Hebert, a local radio host and former New Orleans Saints quarterback. He also happens to be the father of LSU offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert.

Bobby Hebert's question wasn't really a question as much as it was the post of an angry LSU fan on a message board somewhere, but his obvious anger no doubt reflected the feelings of many an LSU fan that night.

"Coach, did you ever consider bringing in Jarrett Lee, considering that you weren't taking any chances on the field?" said a frustrated Hebert, raising the eyebrows of the media members also in attendance. "Now, I know Alabama's defense is dominant. But, come on, that's ridiculous, five first downs. I mean, so it's almost an approach, I'll tell from you the fans' standpoint, that how can you not maybe push the ball down the field and bring in Jarrett Lee? So what if you get a pick-six? It seems like the gameplan that -- not pushing the ball down the field, considering it's like a Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham, Jr. I know the pass rush of Alabama, but there's no reason why in five first downs -- you have a great defense, LSU is a great defense, but that's ridiculous."

If Hebert's rant wasn't enough, there was criticism from the more established media in town as well, with the Times Picayune's Jim Kleinpeter saying that LSU's loss was a "monstrous nightmare" and that Alabama and Nick Saban has shown "who owns who in this rivalry."

Even LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard got himself in the mix, tweeting barely an hour after the game had finished "OMG I played 3 plays...." Shepard's frustration didn't end there, either, as he would return to his Twitter account on Wednesday night to announce that he was leaving school a year early to enter the NFL Draft. Shepard then further expounded on his reasoning by tweeting "Me having 14 catches for only 190 yards this year is not my fault people. I only dropped 4 balls all year. So whose fault is it now?"

While he doesn't come out and say it directly, it's pretty clear whom Shepard thinks is at fault for his lack of production in 2011.

All of which is entirely new for Miles, at least lately. After having nearly every questionable decision he made on the sideline in the last few years work to his benefit, and then leading his team through a dominant regular season, his decisions on Monday night -- or, to be more accurate, lack thereof -- have blown up in his face.

At the moment, all that goodwill is gone. It's hard to believe that this one loss would ever wind up in Miles losing his job at LSU, but, to be fair, crazier things have happened in the football-crazed world of the SEC.

Even if Miles isn't in danger of losing his job now, should things go wrong in 2012, when his team will once again be expected to play for a national title, the idea of his dismissal will start to pick up steam.

All it took for this dramatic turnaround was one game, one terrible game in the eyes of the Bayou Bengals. Sometimes that's all it takes.

It'll take much longer to bring it back.


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