There was a call for celebration at Les Miles’ weekly press luncheon Monday.
Sure, his Tiger team handily defeated conference foe Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference), 37-17, and Miles spent plenty of time lauding his team’s performance. But as No. 8 LSU (8-2, 4-2 SEC) prepares for Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4 SEC) this week, there was revelry of the annual order.
Miles opened with thanks for the many well wishes of his birthday, which he celebrated with the win against the Bulldogs on Saturday. He also led the media twice in a collective “Happy Birthday” for Ted Castillo, the longtime Advocate sports writer who turned 88 over the weekend.
“It would be only appropriate that we might all say in a very short way, ‘Happy Birthday, Ted,’” Miles said to a room filled with laughter. “And not necessarily the whole song. You guys good with that? OK, good. On cue now, 1, 2, 3…”
Miles sang the praises of junior safety Craig Loston, who was selected as co-SEC Defensive player of the week after making six tackles and returning an interception 100 yards for a touchdown to seal the game.
Loston is finally making a heavy contribution as a starter after waiting behind a stacked secondary for three seasons. He laughed as he recounted the interception Monday, saying all he could hear was the “rah-rah-rah” as he ran, and that he wanted the score so badly he never considered slowing down.
“That’s a good deal,” Loston said of the honor. “Out of all the players we’ve got in the SEC, for me to be [awarded], I appreciate that.”
While it was opportunistic Saturday, the secondary gave up 304 yards, its most all season. It now allows 165.7 yards per game, which is still good for No. 3 in the NCAA. The Tigers were No. 2 in passing defense entering the weekend and were leapt by Nebraska by a margin of 1.3 yards.
Miles said he spotted specific things while reviewing Saturday’s game tape that the defensive coaches could work on this week during practice.
“This is a youthful secondary and a youthful team, and there are those times that that happens,” Miles said. “We’re going to correct that.”
The older players will get their own attention this weekend with Saturday’s game against Ole Miss being designated “Senior Day.” Miles was particularly asked about receiver Russell Shepard, who some labeled as a bust coming in as a top athlete in his recruiting class, and said his contributions transcend the field every Saturday.
“Sometimes it’s not actually translated into touches,” Miles said.