After a good 2004 season with Oklahoma State, Les Miles officially joined LSU as their head coach for the 2005 season. To say that he hit the ground running is an understatement. He dominated from the start, but first let’s go back a bit.
Hurricane Katrina ravaged the gulf coast of Louisiana shortly before the 2005 college football season began, and having listened to and examined the character of Les Miles, I’m not sure there is a better person who could’ve led a program in the face of such destruction and devastation (to the area and the lives of much of the fan base). His personality and persona seemed to work perfectly at the most necessary time in that region’s recent history. Take a minute to read and watch some of these links:
Miles on Katrina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a9Fw7etQBE
From SB Nation’s ‘And the Valley Shook’: https://www.andthevalleyshook.com/2015/8/26/9208035/hurricane-katrina-les-miles-at-10-still-weathering-the-storm
New Orleans paper: https://www.nola.com/lsu/2015/08/lsu_les_miles_hurricane_katrin.html
Before the Tigers even took on heated rivals Alabama, LSU jumped out to a 7-1 record with wins over ranked Arizona State, Florida, and Auburn. Their only loss was an overtime thriller against #10 Tennessee. So, when the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa on November 12, 2005 and a number five ranking attached to their names, many saw that game against the number four Crimson Tide as a National Title preview. That didn’t happen (yet) but the game was still one of the best of the college season.
Alabama took a 10-0 lead into the half thanks to a stout defense and an eight-yard touchdown pass from Brodie Croyle to DJ Hall. LSU returned the 10-0 favor in the second half though a field goal and a one yard TD run from Justin Vincent. It stayed that way until the first overtime.
In the first overtime, LSU’s defense held Alabama to a field goal attempt. They made that 34-yard attempt, but the Tigers still had one possession to take a rare road win at Alabama.
After grabbing a first down and moving the ball to the 11 yard line, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell found Dwayne Bowe in the endzone for the game winning score.
Neither team could really hang their hat on their respective offensive performances, but Les Miles’ reputation for being a great defensive coach might just have cemented itself in that game. The LSU defense held Alabama to 284 total yards and forced two fumbles. The Crimson Tide only converted five third down opportunities the entire game (out of 17 attempts) and the LSU defense got to Croyle multiple times, sacking him on five occasions.
Despite going on to lose the SEC championship game to Georgia, Les Miles instantly secured his legacy in Baton Rouge after beating Alabama on the road and finishing his initial season 11-2. But knowing Les, he probably secured it already with the way he handled an absolutely tragic situation before the season even started.