TAMPA, Fla. – They call Les Miles “The Mad Hatter.”
And as far as Louisiana State football players are concerned, it’s a moniker that suites their coach just fine.
“Whenever he does pull off something, it kind of sparks up the media a little bit,” Tigers linebacker D.J. Welter said. “It kind of works in our favor, because they don’t know what to expect from him.”
Miles’ knack for chicanery will keep Iowa guessing throughout the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
Fake field goals are par for the course.
Down and distance won’t necessarily determine LSU’s next move.
And what some consider reckless, Miles calls a calculated risk.
“I think everything has a percentage play for victory,” Miles said after Friday’s practice. “And I think all those are specific to each game.”
Where does that leave Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz?
How do you prepare for a team that prides itself on pushing the boundaries of football logic?
“You better be sound,” Ferentz said. “Bowl games are like early-season games anyway, in that you just never know what you’re going to see.
“There are coaches who do like to use gadget plays and trick plays. He’s been very, very successful with those things. So we’ve got to be prepared for that.”
In Miles’ mind, success is a relative term.
Even if a play doesn’t work, it can plant a seed.
“At the end of the day, you never know what we’re going to do,” said Trai Turner, LSU’s starting right guard. “We don’t always know what we’re going to do.”
Perhaps you saw the Tigers’ run a tight end reverse to beat Alabama in 2010.
Maybe you remember when LSU converted five fourth-down chances in a 2007 win over Florida.
You can also find YouTube clips of holder Matt Flynn (now a Green Bay Packers quarterback) flipping the ball over his head to the kicker, who runs for a touchdown that stuns South Carolina.
Not everything, however, goes according to script.
Turner recalls a 2011 game against Florida, when punter Brad Wing received a snap on fourth-and-15, and suddenly bolted down the sideline.
“It wasn’t a planned trick play,” Turner said. “I guess they didn’t rush. So he kind of held it, then took off and ran.”
Wing made it to the end zone, but did not get a touchdown. Officials penalized him for taunting as he crossed the 10-yard line.
LSU went on to win 41-11.
“It’s kind of cool,” Turner said of the Tigers’ unconventional approach. “It fits our coach.”
It also has a way of making opponent a little paranoid, or at least prepared to counterpunch.
“They’ve got some tricks up their sleeve and so do we,” Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “We’ve just got to be focused on having our responsibilities every play.”
Mind games can take a toll on some, while breaking up the monotony for others.
“It’s definitely exciting to watch ESPN,” Welter said, “and see them talk about the Mad Hatter.”
Miles insists he has a very practical reason for being so unpredictable.
“I think there is some enjoyment with making a play that takes real skill to execute,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s the reason you put them in.
“The reason you put them in is for success.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football