BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Les Miles rode across the Tiger Stadium field on the shoulders of his players while fans chanted his name.
It would have been quite a send-off, except LSU's administration doesn't want him going anywhere after all.
Minutes after LSU closed out the regular season with a 19-7 victory over Texas A&M, athletic director Joe Alleva said Miles will remain the Tigers' coach. The announcement capped more than a week of speculation that Miles was on the verge of losing his job after his first three-game losing streak in his 11 years at LSU.
"I'm looking forward to working with Coach Miles as he leads this team to a bowl game and another great recruiting class," Alleva said as Miles' wife, Kathy, and their four children looked on. "Les and I have talked. We have talked about this program and we are committed together to working to win and compete at the highest level."
LSU's administration had allowed speculation about Miles' status to fester by refusing to comment on the matter last week, but Alleva stressed that he was only following his policy of waiting until after the season to comment on a coach's future.
Indeed, Miles said he did not know for sure whether he'd just coached his last game on the home sideline of Death Valley until after the game. He said LSU President F. King Alexander informed him first, followed by Alleva.
"We're a talented football team. We seemed to undershoot our mark this year," Miles said. "I agree with Joe. Winning championships is something Joe wants to work toward fully and I'm right with him. It's not enough to win occasionally. You have to win all the time. I get that."
LSU players didn't find out until word began circulating about Alleva's announcement. Tigers senior right tackle Vadal Alexander said he found out when he got a text from his parents and just smiled.
Victory over Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4) did not come easily for the Tigers (8-3, 5-3), who trailed until Derrius Guice's 50-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
Leonard Fournette ran for 159 yards and a touchdown. He finished the game owning LSU's single-season rushing record at 1,741 yards, surpassing the mark of 1,686 yards set by Charles Alexander in 1977.
"It has been hard, not just with (speculation about) coach Miles, but with us having lost the last three games," Fournette said. "These last three weeks will help this team grow and help us grow in life. I can say this has been one of the longest three weeks in my life. It was hard for everybody."
Kyle Allen passed for 161 yards and one touchdown for the Aggies, but had a pass intercepted by Donte Jackson inside the final 2 minutes, all but sealing LSU's victory.
Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said his team's turnovers and problems protecting Allen tipped the game in LSU's favor.
"It is kind of hard when the quarterback can't set his feet and move the ball down field," Sumlin said. "LSU played very well on defense."
As the game ended, fans chanted, "Keep Les Miles! Keep Les Miles!"
And they got their wish.
Throughout game day, Miles' biggest fans made sure they were seen and heard.
During the "Tiger Walk," from the team busses to the stadium, Miles was greeted like a hero as he waved to the crowd, at times pausing and turning around as if to soak it all in. Many fans held up signs expressing support for the embattled coach, some urging LSU to give him at least one more season.
Inside Death Valley before kickoff, the crowd roared when Miles was introduced during Senior Day ceremonies. The coach tipped his trademark baseball cap to acknowledge the crowd, raising the volume a little more.
Miles overall record improved to 111-32. LSU could have had a nine-win regular season if not for lightning canceling the season opener against heavy underdog McNeese State.
Yet, some of the very aspects of LSU's game that have bothered Miles' critics showed up again.
There were a handful of pre-snap penalties and the passing game was largely ineffective. Brandon Harris was 7 of 21 for 83 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. A number of his passes sailed over intended receivers or skipped off the grass short of their mark. Most of his receptions came on check downs to running backs, including a critical third-down swing pass to Fournette for a 17-yard gain that sustained the Tigers' final scoring drive.
It didn't help that kicker Trent Domingue, who'd missed only one field goal all season coming in, missed three against the Aggies.
When the Tigers finally produced a big play to take a 13-7 lead, it came on Guice's long run.
The Aggies, who led 7-6 at halftime, scored their lone TD on Allen's 8-yard, third-down pass over the middle to Ricky Seals-Jones.
The Aggies squandered a chance to widen their lead when Allen was sacked and stripped by Kendell Beckwith on the LSU 13, with the Tigers' Devon Godchaux recovering.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted on Sun, November 29, 2015
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer