LSU picks off Aggies in Cotton Bowl
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Surrounded by his LSU players, coach Les Miles
loudly and proudly sang the school fight song and savored the
celebration of the Tigers' first Cotton Bowl victory in 45 years.
It might have been a farewell to the
Bayou. Nobody knows for sure with Miles likely a leading candidate for
the coaching vacancy at Michigan, where he played and was an assistant
When asked immediately after the game if
he'd be back next season, there was an extended pause before Miles
responded, "It's a wonderful place. I love it here." He said he has not
be contacted by his alma mater.
Amid the uncertainty of Miles' future,
Jordan Jefferson threw three touchdown passes to Terrence Toliver and
ran for a score to help the 11th-ranked Tigers rally for a 41-24
victory over No. 18 Texas A&M in the 75th Cotton Bowl on Friday
"We trust Les Miles and we trust his
word," Jefferson said. "His word was he's not going anywhere and he'll
be our coach next year."
In the days leading up to the Cotton Bowl, Miles said his focus was on his Tigers and that he enjoyed where he was.
But LSU (11-2) has now completed its
fourth season with at least 11 wins in Miles' six years. The Tigers had
only two 11-win seasons in their history before that.
"I don't want to talk about me. This is
really about LSU," Miles said. "I told (the players) I have not had any
conversations with Michigan at this point. And if I did, I would
communicate with them very effectively."
Texas A&M (9-4) led 10-0 in the first
quarter, including a field goal after Jefferson threw an interception,
but had its six-game winning streak snapped.
It was the 50th game between the
border-state schools, but the first since the 1995 opener. Texas
A&M had won the last five games in a series that likely will not be
renewed in the regular season any time soon.
Jefferson was 10 of 19 for 158 yards
with scoring passes of 42, 2 and 41 yards to Toliver, who had only two
TD catches in the regular season.
LSU went ahead for good when Stevan
Ridley had a a 17-yard TD run, jumping over a defender near the line
and then sweeping right untouched into the end zone for a 21-17 lead
with 4:43 left in the first half.
Ryan Tannehill, who had been 5-0 since
taking over as the Aggies starting quarterback, then threw two
interceptions in a span of three throws -- after 127 consecutive
attempts without a pick. The second interception was by Eric Reid, who
returned it 34 yards to the 2 to set up Jefferson's short TD pass to
Toliver for a 28-17 halftime lead.
"I feel bad for my teammates. ... Kind
of dropped the ball. It's a tough feeling," said Tannehill, who was 22
of 35 for 204 yards with three interceptions and two TDs. "You never
want to do that to the guys you love and the guys you work so hard
Miles was considered a top candidate for the Michigan job three years ago, during LSU's national championship season.
In an unusual pregame news conference
before the 2007 Southeastern Conference championship game, Miles
expressed his intention to stay at LSU and later signed a contract
extension through 2012. Michigan eventually hired Rich Rodriguez, who
was 15-22 when he was fired this week.
There was no pregame talk from Miles
before the Cotton Bowl on Friday, after Stanford coach and former
Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh agreed to a five-year deal to go to
the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.
Before that, Harbaugh had appeared to be
at the top of a short list with Miles and San Diego State coach Brady
Hoke, also a former Wolverines assistant, as candidates to return to
Ann Arbor and replace Rodriguez.
Regardless of what Miles does, Jefferson
and LSU will be back in Cowboys Stadium for its 2011 season opener --
against Oregon, which plays Auburn for the BCS national championship on
Ridley, who wasn't sure he'd even get to
play until the NCAA reinstated him this week after an unspecified
"one-time" academic violation, had 24 carries for 105 yards. Spencer
Ware ran for 102 yards on 10 carries as LSU got its first Cotton Bowl
win since beating Arkansas 14-7 in the 1966 game.
After a three-game losing streak that
included a loss to Arkansas in Cowboys Stadium, Texas A&M earned
its Cotton Bowl berth with its longest winning streak in 12 years. The
six-game surge included victories over Big 12 division winners Oklahoma
and Nebraska, along with archrival Texas.
"When you don't finish it off like we
wanted to finish it off, there's great disappointment," coach Mike
Sherman said. "At the same time, when you look at the body of work that
the guys put in this year collectively, the stretch run that they had,
I think we'll be able to bounce back from this."
Uzoma Nwachukwu had two TD catches for
the Aggies to match his regular-season total. He caught a 6-yarder from
Tannehill and a 14-yarder on a halfback pass by Cyrus Gray, who also
had his seventh consecutive 100-yard rushing game -- 100 yards on 20
Coryell Judie help set up A&M's two first-quarter scores.
Judie returned the opening kickoff 69
yards to the 31, setting up Nwachukwu's first TD. It was the first time
all season that LSU's defense gave up a score on the opening drive.
After the Tigers' opening offensive
drive was extended by a roughing the punter penalty, Judie had a
one-handed interception near the end zone when he leaped and fully
extended his right arm. That led to Randy Bullock's 39-yard field goal
for a 10-0 lead.
When LSU got the ball back, Oliver had
both arms stretched over his head when he caught a 42-yard touchdown
pass. He had the 41-yarder on the opening drive of the second half.
The Tigers took their first lead on
Jefferson's 1-yard TD run early in the second quarter after Bullock
missed a 52-yarder. On that drive, Ware had a 24-yard run when he spun
to avoid a tackler at the line and shed two different defenders before
being driven out of bounds and Jefferson converted a third-and-11 with
a 13-yard scramble.