By Trey Mongrue
When Ronald Martin came down with the interception to seal LSU’s 10-7 win over third-ranked Ole Miss, Les Miles stretched both of his arms firmly into the air with little expression on his face.
You can only imagine what was going through his mind at that very moment.
As cliché as it may sound, what occurred at Tiger Stadium last Saturday was not just a mere meeting between two ranked Southeastern Conference Rivals. No, LSU’s victory was something much, much more.
Whether it was the record crowd, LSU’s 95-yard fourth quarter touchdown drive or the chaos that was the final minutes of the game, there were a lot of Hallmark moments to choose from. But, in this humble writer’s opinion, the most memorable of them all was when LSU coach Les Miles paid tribute to his mother, Martha, who had just passed away the night before.
“Martha Miles, this is a great night, considering,” Les said after the win, his hand firmly gripping the game ball that was presented to him by the team.
“I miss you, Ma.”
In the ten years that Miles has been the head coach at LSU, he has been described and characterized as many different things, both good and bad. With that one comment to open his postgame press conference, all of those characterizations quickly went out the window, and he morphed into a grief-stricken son who simply missed his mother.
The fact that Miles was even able to wake up that Saturday morning, let alone coach in a marquee SEC matchup with pretty big implications, is simply unfathomable and a true testament to his character.
Of the nine games now under LSU’s belt in this 2014 season, the performance that the Tigers put on for display last Saturday was the finest to date. The offense, particularly the rushing attack, willed its way forward, while the defense was stifling.
Keep in mind that this is the same team that was run off the field in Auburn less than a month ago.
Sure, much of that may be due to a young team gaining confidence and experience, but there was a little something extra that the Tigers played with on Saturday night. They were a team not just playing to win, but they were also playing for their head coach.
“We wanted to win it for him,” said quarterback Anthony Jennings. “Just the thought of doing it for him was what got the guys going. We knew that we could never give up, and we didn’t.”
Miles learned of his mother’s passing just before a Friday evening team meeting. He was then faced with the difficult task of relaying the sobering news to his player.
It was certainly emotional. Just ask Leonard Fournette, who took his coach’s words immediately to heart.
“I was hurting for him,” said the LSU freshman running back. “He’s a true man, the definition of a responsible man. He had to get the news in the hospital and then he came back twenty minutes later and tell us.
“I respect that man and he’s leading us in the right way.”
Of his 102 wins at LSU – that includes two SEC championships, five bowl wins and a national championships – I’m not sure there has been one that was more sweeter than last weekend’s.
That was all but confirmed by Miles following the game’s end.
“After the game, I can’t tell you the number of young men that threw arms around me and said, ‘Love you, Coach,’ which is as touching as anything I’ve had happen,” he said. “They handed me the game ball, which I only accept on behalf of a great team.”
For a coach that always seems to have his players’ backs, no matter the scenario, Miles’ team certainly returned the favor last weekend.
I’m sure Martha is proud.