Miles Previews West Virginia at Press Conference

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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Miles Previews West Virginia at Press Conference

BATON ROUGE — LSU head coach Les Miles spoke with the media at his weekly “Lunch with Les” press conference on Monday. Watch on-demand video now, as the head coach previews this weekend’s 8 p.m. CT contest against No. 22 West Virginia in Tiger Stadium. 

TRANSCRIPT OF LSU COACH LES MILES’ WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE

Opening statement…
“Our football team so enjoyed going into Tiger Stadium after two games on the road. I can tell you that there was a marked difference in the enjoyment of our team to play in Tiger Stadium. It is interesting; I guess every coach talks about defending his home turf and how important it is in front of your friends, family and those people that love you that you perform well. This is also Tiger Stadium, and the idea that 20 years from now someone will turn to you and ask where you played football, and if you say LSU the next question will be ‘What was it like?’ I think our team has really chosen to make that experience very special and play to that, so when they have to answer that question years from now, they will answer it as it was unbelievable and spectacular. Wow, how wonderful it was this weekend.

“I felt like we improved. We are not there; we are not in any way happy at the position we are at. We are doing the things that we need to do to ensure victory. We are playing great defense and making sure we are doing the right things with the ball on the offensive side and playing quality special teams. I think we are improving. I think our quarterback played better and continued to do the things we asked him to do. Our special teams, I think we could have arguably played better and had a couple of returns for touchdowns, but we are getting better there as well. I think this team has a fundamental ‘teammanship’ to it, or in other words, the enjoyment of team. You can see it with Brandon Taylor, when Morris Claiborne intercepted a pass and Brandon Taylor got in front to block. Sam Montgomery on an interception gets two blocks for his teammate. The togetherness in our locker room with both offense and defense playing for one another, it is pretty special, and I enjoy that. Our team is growing there as well.

“Anytime that you have five turnovers and you get five interceptions, you should dominate that game. Frankly we scored on seven of our nine possessions. It was a lot of short fields, and there was not a long field to go. If our defense continues to play like that and we continue to get turnovers, our football team will have the kind of year that we will all look forward to. Defensively, I think there are a lot of young guys playing. You look at freshmen, you see the script and you want to go look at numbers in the program to see who it is because they are making a quality play. That is the way it is supposed to be, and we are enjoying the fact that young players are playing and they are making special plays.

Drake Nevis was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the second week in a row, and he made one of the most unusual plays and, as he would have described it, a ‘chocolate chip cookie.’ It is hard for me to say ‘Drake, that was a heck of an interception.’ I think what he did prior to the interception was more athletic. I think what he did with the ball was he caught a ‘chocolate chip cookie.’ That defense playing the way it is, if we do the right things with the football and run it and move it when needed and throw it a little better, we will win a lot of football games.

“I recognize that we are playing a very talented West Virginia football team who is also undefeated. They are ranked No. 21 nationally, and they will be very well prepared by Bill Stewart in his third year there. The offense is averaging 28 points and 446 yards. They are rushing it 180 yards a game, and Noel Divine is a tremendous running back, and when you look back on the year, you will see that he was one of the best that we have played. Geno Smith, their starter at quarterback, is a very athletic guy and can throw the ball well. He has thrown for 800 yards and seven touchdowns so far in a very short season, so they are very talented. We are going to be challenged. They have a number of quality defenders that make it sticky to move the ball. I remember seeing the score and Marshall, and then recognized how they came back. Then, when I saw the film I saw that it was a quality Marshall team being beaten by a quality West Virginia team. We will have to prepare very well, and it will be a challenge to our team. There will be differences in offense, defense and special teams and characteristics we will have to acquire in this game week. Then we have to take it to the field in Tiger Stadium, and we are looking forward to it.”

On the defense’s ‘Mustang’ package…
“It’s probably best suited for Mississippi State’s style of attack, but I think it’s something we may dabble in a little bit each week. It really factored very well into the Mississippi State game plan.”

On West Virginia RB Noel Devine…
“I think it will be an interesting matchup. We’ll have to play very disciplined. We’ll have to obviously play our blocks well and realize where our help is. A defense that understands where its help is knows where it’s supposed to make the play. If they play like that, we’ll be fine, but he is the kind of guy that with a move, he can make a little space a lot of space. Again, it will be a great test.”

On how feasible it is to play at a championship level leaning this heavily on defense…
“I have always had teams that won games at different times in the year with each phase. I felt like at times the defense carried the torch. I felt like at other times a two-minute drive or a last-minute drive had to be won by the offense. You send a special teams unit on the field late on the road to kick it off or receive it. You better make sure that all three phases are ready to do that. I think that certainly we would like to have a characteristic of a defense that gets a lot of turnovers – that turns the ball back to us or plays like our defense has been playing. Our offense is preparing to answer the call based on the need of the game, and certainly based on the need of last Saturday’s game, it answered that call very well.”

On how much competition there is between the young guys to play on special teams…
“I want our best players on special teams. To me, any time you turn the ball into the air with a kick and you have the opportunity to change the field by 40 yards, the responsibility should be to our best players. Currently some of our best players are some of our younger players running down there. Tyrann Mathieu made three tackles on kickoffs. With that being said, what’s happened here annually is there’s always been that newcomer or three that has stepped into a special teams role and made big plays. Those veterans enjoy that. I don’t think there is competition necessarily with the veteran in as much as the veteran counts on those young guys to make their fair share of plays as well. I think you’ll always see a smattering of our best veterans and our best young guys on our special teams.”

On how Patrick Peterson has shaken off the cramping issue from Week 1…
“He’s the kind of guy that when he’s on the field, he just multiplies your opportunities in defending and getting turnovers. There’s just a little bit more excitement on that side of the field. I think the cramp issue many times can be anxiety for a first game or the opportunity to be on the road in a first game. Those things happen. I don’t know that we’ll expect him to have those from this point forward. I think we do a wonderful job preparing our guys to take the field and hydrate and how we hydrate our teams is pretty good. I would like to think we are done with his in and out of the game.”

On the injury statuses of RB Richard Murphy and TE Deangelo Peterson
“Both will practice in this week.”

On the free safety position…
“I like the opportunity to play three guys or the best player, and to me, I think Karnell Hatcher made a nice statement in the last week. I think you’ll see that we’ll rotate those guys pretty routinely.”

On QB Jordan Jefferson‘s growth this past weekend…
“That’s what he’s been doing. For us at practice, that’s how we would expect him to play. That’s what he looks like on a regular basis. That’s how he looked last week at practice. That’s how he looked last Thursday. That’s how he looked during pre-game. That’s how we expect him to be from this point forward. I think his want to compete is very strong. I think his ambition for this team as well as the team (in general), is to do something special. It’s not just ‘Let’s just win a couple of games. Let’s play late in this year for a significant opportunity.’ With that in mind, we would expect there would be no difference and approach in this game week or difference in play.”

On the back-to-back touchdown drives…
“Any time that the offense is going down the field, it’s based on these things – the idea that the quarterback is managing the offense, dealing the ball appropriately, some good calls, the right stuff and he’s executing. Certainly, obviously his passes were on the money. He had a nice run for a touchdown. My guess is if he would have put a little bit tighter of a grip on a couple of those balls, we would’ve thrown for even more yards.”

On West Virginia’s offensive style…
“I think that there is a greater emphasis on a certain segment of what West Virginia does best as opposed to what Mississippi State does best. I think it’s based on personnel, but they will still spread the field. They will still attack you, not only vertically, but up the middle and with width.”

On if he prefers to run the ball from the shotgun or behind center…
“The ones that work are the ones that I have the greatest preference for. I think you’ll find that many times in the lineup or in a gun position, the defense might see that as a passing spot, so the opportunity to run from there might be an advantage. The opportunity to get the ball out of your hand quickly or in your hand quickly from an under-the-center snap also is an advantage at different times. We have the ability and the flexibility to attack a team with both. I don’t know that it’s a one-snap game anymore. I think that there are points and times where it’s just a little greater advantage that the ‘A’ gap is not at risk with sitting in the gun and letting them have a comfort of a ball that’s coming back in front of him as opposed to an ‘A’ gap if in fact it is penetrated, you’re right there with an under-snap center. We’ll use both.”

On veteran defensive backs Ron Brooks and Jai Eugene and getting them to commit to valuable roles on defense and special teams…
“The plays that they make are the important ones. I don’t know that there is any set number of plays that makes anybody happy. In other words, if I play 27 plays, is that the number? I guess the issue becomes the quality of the reps that you get and your contribution, and I just think that Ron Brooks and for that matter, Jai Eugene are contributing, and they are doing the things that the team needs them to do, whether it is playing defense or whether it is playing special teams.”

On the young players’ progression on the offensive line…
“I think they are progressing. I think they are getting better. I think they need to continue to. They’re still young, but they are gaining momentum, and I look forward to seeing what they look like in a couple of weeks.”

On placekicker Josh Jasper
“Think about what he did for us. He came out and put our first four scores on the board. He kicked off. He pooch-punted. He really is doing exactly what his team needs him to do. When you have that reputation of, ‘Just ask me, coach, and we’ll get it done,’ it’s a very confident one. I have no problem sending him onto the field to kick long and whatever we would ask him to do, and that’s who he is. He is a center-cut, special teams guy. He’s dead center on this team. Everybody enjoys him. Everybody respects the work and the contribution that he’s made to this team. We expect that his contribution will continue to be a very significant one throughout the season.”

On the late kickoff and if it’s an advantage to play that late against an east coast team…
“I have no idea. If they allow us to put extra guys into the game, that would be an advantage. I don’t think they’re going to do that. I think you’ll find that having played in some of those games, a young body or a young man is just resilient. They just step up and play, and if it just happens to be later, it’s later. Generally speaking, those guys don’t go to bed until midnight anyway, so when they’re up they’ll have some energy, and I don’t know that there will be some great advantage or disadvantage there one way or the other.”

On the aggressive play of Tyrann Mathieu
“Those guys that interpret football like he does, with speed and aggressiveness, he’s going to play for a long time. We’ll look forward to putting him on the field. Don’t get me wrong; he has things that he is going to get better at. He’s going to develop. We’re going to test him, and he’s going to work through and progress, but he starts with a lot of understanding of football. He has good, quick feet. He understands angles. He looks forward to making a big play. Those are some neat things. Those are great characteristics.”

On West Virginia playing without DB Brandon Hogan last week and sophomore QB Geno Smith…
“I think their quarterback is a very, very talented guy. I think that he gives them every opportunity at success in the offense that they are running. I’ve always thought that their secondary was very talented anyway, and we looked at those guys through summer study. We would expect that their secondary would possess coverage skills and the ability to make tackles. It’s going to be a very competitive game.”

On his opinion of the ending of the Notre Dame-Michigan State game the other night…
“I can tell you that it was a great call obviously. Those that work are all great calls. The idea that it was a field goal that he really didn’t think he could make made the call easier. I wish him the very best because after the game, he (Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio) had a medical issue that we certainly all want him to get better from. Hopefully the two were not related. In that case, if they were related, I would not want to make that call.”

On how he divides the reps at running back…
“We try to give them those things that we feel like they’ll be successful with. Sometimes certain sets benefit certain guys and certain experiences similarly. I think you’ll see more of Michael Ford. I keep saying that, and I mean it. It’s not that I’m not seeing that. I would like to get Michael Ford on the field for some carries here as we go forward.”

On how he improves the red zone offense…
“I think we address red zone and tight zone every week. It’s a part of our weekly schedule. We go down there, and we work hard at it. We use our opponents’ strategies down in there, and we try and attack them as best we can. We threw a couple of balls in the red zone that may well have or should have turned into seven. I don’t think that will change. I think we will do the same things, and hopefully we’ll execute it better.”