Les Miles in 2005 was not the Mad Hatter, but instead a barrel-chested SEC n00b with a gigantic white hat who nearly plowed LSU into the dock in his second game as head coach. That would be the Tennessee game, the first home game after Hurricane Katrina moved LSU's game against Arizona State to Tempe and upset the general order of the LSU universe. At one point, Fats Domino was sleeping on Jamarcus Russell's couch, which is now even weirder in retrospect than it was at the time.
That was the game featuring Erik Ainge throwing an INT for a TD out of his own endzone, and then being thrown into his own goalpost. (The aftermath looked like this.) Despite the most awkward single play sequence by a quarterback ever, Tennessee used a "Rick Clausen" and won the game 30-27 in overtime. To recap: Les Miles became LSU's head coach, the biggest hurricane in the recent history of Louisiana happened, and then LSU lost to a replacement Clausen at home. Correlation is not causation, but it is a fun literary device from time to time.
Les Miles became "The Mad Hatter" over time, and took his biggest leaps in the evolution from The Replacement to The Hat against one team: Florida. The evidence follows:
- 2005: won 21-17 despite five LSU turnovers. Made Urban Meyer leak coaching fluid from his eye sockets in frustration. Established pattern of "If it's a game so ugly you have no idea who won, then the answer is always 'Les Miles.'"
- 2006: Jamarcus Russell finishes a 16 play drive by fumbling at the Florida two, and Jessie Daniels hands Florida another TD with a fumbled punt. LSU's offense out FD's Florida's by 22-14 and still loses 23-10 on the scoreboard. Rephrased: with Early Doucet, Dwayne Bowe, Jamarcus Russell, and Jacob Hester on offense, LSU puts together ten points. The offensive coordinator? Jimbo Fisher.
- 2007: Maybe the moment Les Miles ascended to mature Hatdom. At home, LSU scored a TD on the fake field goal, goes 5/5 on fourth down conversions, rips back from a halftime deficit to beat Florida, and struts on from there to win the BCS title despite two insane overtime losses on the schedule. It's the total Les Miles experience in a single game, right down to LSU hearing USC had lost to Stanford (YAAAAAAYYYY) and then immediately giving up a 37 yard TD to Cornelius Ingram on the next play (AWWWW shit.)
- 2008: The other side of the Les Miles experience is the 51-21 bear trap Les Miles saw on the ground, thought "ooh, shiny!" and stuck his foot in enthusiastically. Sometimes Les goes on a run and makes the dealer get a fresh stack of chips, and sometimes his cornerback almost intercepts Tim Tebow and watches the ball tip directly into the arms of a streaking 70 yard TD. Brandon Spikes prefers the latter.
- 2009: Crowton versus Addazio! Let's never speak of this game again, LSU.
- 2010: Just icing on the cake to call a bounce pass fake to set up LSU for a TD, but Les loves him some frosting on sweet cakey fake field goals. Everyone remembers that, and not the real perversity here: Jordan Jefferson, effective passing QB.
- 2011: Weeping and applauding the opponent at the same time is possible. We did it after this:
In summary: Les Miles' favorite casino is Florida Football, and he has both gone belly up and walked out with the deed after his visits. Even though LSU has not attempted a fourth-down conversion yet this year, we expect nothing less than the usual sleight-of-hand, madness, and clusters of statistical improbabilities from the Tigers this Saturday. We also expect record profits, since afterward we will take the footage, transfer it to a DVD, and then have that DVD ground to a powerful hallucinogenic powder. It will fetch $4,500 on the street easy, and $5K a kilo in clientele deliveries.