There's little to suggest Les Miles sees LSU's game Saturday against Tulane the way many do, as a glorified practice or scrimmage. That's not a term many coaches want associated with them, especially in the world of the virtual bulletin board.
Two years ago -- before LSU played Louisiana Tech, if memory serves -- a student reporter stumbled through a question that had the tone of assuming Miles viewed that matchup as such a game, a chance to empty the bench, and not necessarily as late as the fourth quarter.
Miles rejected the question with extreme prejudice, deflecting and dismissing it with a passion the guy sitting shotgun in the Sonic commercials -- who slaps away his friend's Tater Tot -- would have admired. Video Link
The reporter tried again, trying to do an end run with semantics, and Miles pounced again, candidly telling the young man he'd asked a bad question, then followed it with another bad one, essentially the same bad question disguised in cheap clothing.
Miles said, as he had many times before and as he would many times after, that you play for victory, and if victory is secured, then you think about getting some reserves from playing time. Where that line is, of course, is left up to the coach's discretion.
LSU defeated Louisiana Tech 58-10. Ryan Perrilloux replaced Matt Flynn at quarterback with 1:38 left in the third quarter and the Tigers leading 44-7.
There is a time-tested tradition of onlookers questioning a coach for leaving in his starters too long. How long is too long? That depends.
The general rule is, if a player gets hurt, then the coach should have taken him out one play sooner. Actual mileage can vary.
You know the rule about hindsight.
Miles' five seasons at LSU feature examples of him mildly substituting when others thought it should have happened en masse, and often the piece here and the piece there add up by the end of the game. It's not as striking as when a fresh 11 jogs onto the field as a group.
It's understandable Miles was a bit prickly about anything having to do with even the perception of calling off the dogs or easing up on the throttle during a game. On Nov. 6, 2004, his last Oklahoma State team lost 56-35 at Texas after having a 35-14 halftime lead.
It was 35-7 at one point.
Vince Young and Cedric Benson led a dazzling comeback. Texas scored touchdowns on six consecutive second-half drives. In the third quarter, the Longhorns outgained Oklahoma State 266 yards to minus-5.
Less than two months later, Les and Kathy Miles were taking a tour of Tiger Stadium as LSU convinced them to leave Stillwater for Baton Rouge.
At halftime of his first game in that same stadium, LSU led Tennessee 21-0 at halftime. Miles went into conservative mode with his second-half game plan on offense, and one thing led to another until the Vols left town with a 30-27 overtime victory.
Wounds like those leave scars.
While the periphery of the program is chatty with the substitution possibilities awaiting LSU in its Saturday matchup against Tulane, Miles is going about his business. Tucked fairly deep inside a long answer about quarterback Jordan Jefferson was a subtle but noticeable comment about the importance of playing time for a developing young player.
"There's no ability for a coach to take you beyond experience," Miles said, noting he would like to see how Jefferson plays once he's well into double-digit college starts.
Right now he's at nine.
"You need as many snaps as you can get," Miles said, and then, it helps him translate those plays in a game more effectively, especially for a guy that has the talent that he has."
Of course, every snap a starter gets comes at the expense of experience a backup could be getting, but Miles is the type to make a commitment to a player and stick with him. When he had the choice between JaMarcus Russell and Flynn, Miles said he'd start using two quarterbacks when college rules allowed teams to play with two footballs.
It's a sliding scale at times at other positions, and because Miles enjoys being deceptive with his game-week comments -- his best trickeration if often what he sees on Wednesdays about the upcoming Saturday -- no one outside the football operations facility is all that sure about what to expect when LSU plays Tulane.
Two years ago, a few weeks before that homecoming victory against Louisiana Tech, LSU went down to New Orleans to play the Green Wave in the Superdome. Tulane led 9-7 late in the first half.
The Tigers regained the lead, 10-9, just before halftime, and finished strong for a 34-9 victory. USC's unimpressive 27-24 victory against Washington that night opened the door for LSU's first No. 1 ranking in the AP poll since 1959.
I suspect you've heard a little about how that LSU team got to No. 1. What happened 50 years ago this weekend kept the Tigers at that spot for one more week. Saturday is the golden anniversary.
The AP voters didn't rank another LSU football team No. 1 until 2007, after the Tigers struggled for one half against Tulane.
That Green Wave team, featuring Matt Forte at running back, finished 4-8. The Tulane team that will visit Tiger Stadium this weekend is 2-5.
Don't expect Miles to pull his starters for good until LSU secures victory. Don't expect anyone but Miles to decide when that time has come. .
has written or blogged about LSU since 1999. During his first season in Baton Rouge, the Tigers celebrated the 40th anniversary of Billy Cannon's famous punt return against Ole Miss. It's hard for him to believe the 50th is this weekend. You can contact him at carl1061 'at' gmail.com.