BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — If anyone knows how quickly the landscape can change in a college football season, it is LSU coach Les Miles.
So the 11th-year Tigers coach is trying to impress upon his players quickly this week that there is life after losing to Alabama, as hard as it may be to stomach a fifth straight loss to the rival Crimson Tide.
"If you stay once-beaten, you just can never tell what will happen," Miles asserted. "This is a really good team with a lot to play for. Putting that (Alabama) game behind us is a necessity. This football team will put itself in a position to play another game of significance."
In Miles' third season as Tigers coach in 2007, his team lost in overtime to Arkansas on the final weekend of the regular season for its second defeat that year.
Yet nine days later, after a Southeastern Conference title game victory against Tennessee, there was LSU being named one of the two teams playing for the BCS championship. One month later, the Tigers were national champions after defeating Ohio State.
That's the reason Miles stressed Monday that this season is far from over for No. 9 LSU after losing 30-16 at Alabama on Saturday night. The defeat dropped the Tigers into a tie for the SEC West lead with the Crimson Tide, although third-ranked Alabama owns the tiebreaker.
However, if LSU (7-1, 4-1) wins its last three games — against Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M — and if Alabama (8-1, 5-1) loses to either Mississippi State or Auburn, the Tigers would be the Western Division representative in the SEC title game and back in the College Football Playoff picture.
"We didn't play our best against Alabama and the players and coaches know it," Miles said. "But, win or lose, there's a 48-hour window. ... Letting that game define us is something I am not going to let happen.”
The Tigers have lost four straight regular-season games on the first Saturday in November to the Crimson Tide. In the previous three years, LSU has won six of its seven remaining regular-season games after losing to Alabama. The one defeat came a year ago against Arkansas, its opponent this Saturday.
Miles said he understands LSU fans' frustration and disappointment after another loss to the Tide, but added, "Nobody is more hurt than the guys who wear the purple and gold. The fans are not by themselves. The need to improve at every level is the task at hand. Our (locker) room understands that it's all about the next week."
Miles received some help in getting that message across to his team from senior defensive back Jalen Mills. In the locker room following the Alabama game, Mills made a passionate speech to his teammates.
"I was very emotional after the game and I am not really like that," Mills said. "I told the team that we had to keep fighting. We needed to show the world that this team has a lot of football left in it. We are not out of it. We just have to do our job this week against Arkansas and come out with a win."
Mills was a freshman in 2012 when a veteran teammate made a similar type of fiery talk in a locker room following a tough loss.
"I remember (current San Francisco 49ers safety) Eric Reid making a talk like this after we lost the Florida game my freshman year," Mills said. "He told us that we were not out of it and to keep fighting until the season was over."
That LSU team won two straight games before suffering 21-17 loss to Alabama. The Tide drove the length of the field for a last-minute touchdown to end the Tigers' SEC title hopes.
"We have to come together and stay as hungry as we were when we were 7-0," Mills said. "We are not out of the race. The focus is to win out. We want to win in a way that people realize that LSU still has a reason to keep playing."
Notes: Miles said he expects fullback J.D. Moore, who went down with an apparent leg injury at Alabama, to miss the remainder of the season. Moore had been trying to come back from a knee injury several weeks earlier against Carolina.
"One of our best fullbacks is no longer with us, but the good news is that Bry'Keithon Mouton is coming on," Miles said, also mentioning Dave Ducre as another option at that spot. "We'll have a well-manned position."
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Posted on Tue, November 10, 2015
by BRYAN LAZARE Associated Press