The 1974 Orange Bowl ended a promising season for LSU. The Tigers started out 9-0 led by a loaded defense and QB Mike Miley before falling to Alabama, Tulane, and Penn State.
Notables for this game were Penn State’s John Cappelletti, who came into the game as the ’73 Heisman trophy winner and LSU’s Mike Miley. Miley was a super-talent and by today’s standard was a freak. A prolific talent out of Metairie’s East Jefferson High School, Miley was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds but choose instead to play for LSU. Just to give you an idea of the talent this kid possessed, Miley was a switch-hitting shortstop, who could go yard, drafted in the first round, yet was a highly recruited quarterback that had college coaches like Bear Bryant drooling.
Though LSU would lose this game, the Tigers lead in total offense 275 – 185 and first downs 18-9. LSU entered the game a 7-point underdog to Paterno’s undefeated Nitty Lions. As usual, LSU was loaded on defense with the likes of Warren Capone, Bo Harris, Gary Champagne, Steve Cassidy, Kenny Bordelon, Thielen Smith, and notable pros A. J. Duhe and Mike Williams (first black player). LSU would limit Heisman winner Cappelleti to 50 yards, in spite of losing Champagne and Harris early in the game to injuries.
LSU had switched to more of an option-type offense this same year to counter the success of the wishbone, and to take advantage of Miley’s running. But in big games, LSU would be plagued by mistakes and fumbles. To complicate matters, McClendon had an automatic substitution system, instead of substituting on a need-basis. This may have worked on lesser teams but when faced with better teams, it failed. LSU and Miley could never gain the offensive consistency they needed to go along with its great defense. No more evident of this failed strategy was the Alabama game when McClendon replaced Miley early (as usual) in the game with its second-string QB Broussard, whose first play-pitch was fumbled deep inside LSU territory. Alabama then would score its first touchdown forcing LSU to play catch-up the rest of the game. That game was a night game in Tiger Stadium and was nationally televised. Both teams were 9-0. On a national stage, LSU was facing arguably the best team in the country with its own phenom in Miley. Then for no reason Miley is taken out the game, go figure that one.
Miley was more suited to today’s spread offense as he had a great arm and quick feet. With the option-offense, LSU typically ran two plays before throwing on 3rd down. This defeated all that Miley had to offer. Miley was more suited to throw when unexpected with the option to run. And that’s exactly what he did at EJ, making him a highlight reel. Miley, a junior spurned his senior year and the Tigers signing and playing shortstop with the California Angles. Miley’s frustration with the LSU offense and McClendon’s substitution policy lead squarely to him leaving the team (my opinion). His tragic death in ’77 ended a promising career in the Major Leagues. Airline Playground in Metairie today is name after Mike Miley. LINK
This post was edited on 3/3 at 7:18 am