Miles responds to fans' backlash

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Between the shutout loss to Alabama, the apparent discontent from veterans like Russell Shepard and the decommitment of touted recruits Patrick Miller and Gunner Kiel, it hasn’t been the best week for LSU football.

Despite all of that, LSU coach Les Miles painted a positive picture of his program at Tuesday’s season-ending press conference -- even if it was a viewpoint some fans aren’t ready to embrace.

“I don’t bemoan the want to have finished well in that last game, but we won 13 straight,” Miles said. “The opportunity for us to approach that style of team and exceed is certainly before us.”

Those words will undoubtedly ring hollow for many LSU fans, who feel the Tigers’ dream 2011 season was turned into a nightmare by the team’s final performance against Alabama. LSU became the first BCS Championship Game participant to be shut out, and the Tigers could not muster 100 total yards of offense.

The degree of the team’s ineptitude in New Orleans has stirred up rumors of player discontent, both before and during the game. Stories detailing fights between players and arguments with the coaching staff have attempted to explain for the Tigers’ apparent listlessness against the Crimson Tide.

Miles squashed the conspiracy theories without a second thought when asked about them.

“We took the field just like we always have for every game since I’ve been here," Miles said. "There’s never been any issues prior to any games. If I’m a player that didn’t play in that game, I’d be sick, because you had the feel and the want to make a difference. But I have to be very honest with you, there has never been any player-coach interaction that was negative, in my mind, really before or after the game.”

It’s hard to believe that such a malaise could rise around a program that’s just removed from a conference championship and a national title game appearance. But when asked about it, Miles said he hasn’t taken notice.

“I don’t know the negativity. I operate with an arm’s length with newspaper and media,” he said. “There cannot be anybody more critical of this program than myself. So, am I taken back by it? Like I said, I don’t understand it.”

That appeared pretty evident at the end of the press conference, when Miles was asked to assess if the program was on good footing. Miles gave a look of incredulity, but given the way the last week has gone, nothing much can come as a surprise.

“The proof is in what was our past season,” he said. “The strength of this team is we know how to compete to win, and we’ll call and play that team that gives us that best opportunity at victory.”