OU football: Les Miles was a Sooner antagonist before — and hopes to be one again some day
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Les Miles became known for his quirky quotes and his wacky witticisms, even prompting a website dedicated entirely to Les-isms during his LSU days.
But in Sooner circles, he is remembered not for funny words but rather fightin’ ones.
As Oklahoma State's coach, Miles was an Oklahoma antagonist.
“We should have won by more,” he famously told boosters in 2001 after a stunning 16-13 Bedlam win.
And that was only the beginning.
On Saturday, Miles will face OU for the first time in 15 years. He left OSU for LSU after the 2004 season. He experienced the highest of highs, winning a national title in 2007, and the lowest of lows, being fired a month into the 2016 season.
Now in his first season at Kansas, Miles hopes to one day stir the Big 12 pot again, but his Jayhawks aren’t there yet. Even though they got the program’s first Power 5 road win since 2008, they also got their doors blown off by a so-so TCU team.
Miles has been quite complimentary of OU this week. Called quarterback Jalen Hurts “a tremendous player.” Said Lincoln Riley had “done a great job taking the reins from a great coach in Bob Stoops.” Miles even praised the Sooner offense for being innovative and “on the cusp of college football.”
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Sooner fans must wonder if Miles’ body has been taken over by aliens. When he was at OSU, he’d just as soon coach without his hat as say something nice about OU.
The Monday before the 2003 Bedlam game, he was asked about the matchup.
“Next Saturday, two teams are going to play,” he said. “One is maybe the best team in college football and the other one is a darn good football team.
“We’re going to play to figure out which one is which.”
But Miles wasn’t done.
“They’re the best team in college football … we’re told,” he said that same day.
Right before kickoff that Saturday in Norman, Miles was interviewed by then-ABC sideline reporter Lynn Swann and proclaimed his team ready to “Let ‘er rip.”
OU rolled 52-9.
Still, Miles had gotten under Sooner skin. Not just the fans’ either. There was a moment in the second half of the beatdown when then-OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops stepped onto the field and motioned toward Miles with a want-some-more-of-this gesture.
Thing was, Miles hadn’t just said things to fire up Sooner Nation. He had done something, too.
He beat OU.
Miles won Bedlam twice in his four seasons at OSU, the first time knocking the Sooners out of national title contention, the second dominating thoroughly. Even though the Sooners exacted revenge in 2003 and 2004, only one of the four matchups during Miles’ tenure was a crimson-and-cream rout.
“I think there was a great competitive group of young men at Oklahoma State at that time,” Miles said earlier this week. “I think we played (OU) very well … every game but one.”
Even losing Bedlam could fire up Miles.
“My football team … I’ll take them around and I’ll play any sucker in this country,” he said after a narrow loss in 2004. “I like this team. I like the fight in this ballclub. I like the resolve.”
Miles practically spit out his words. It was press conference gold.
There were no such nuggets this week.
“You know, I kind of melded back into college football and watched Oklahoma do some very, very special things in the last couple of years,” Miles said. “I recognize a dominant football team when I see one. And they’re very, very capable.”
Maybe one day Miles and his team will again antagonize the Sooners. While that day seems far away, it seemed similarly distant in his early days with the Cowboys. Then came an upset for the ages.
Miles, by the way, he isn’t ruling out such a result Saturday.
“I can tell you that certainly I respect that team,” he said of OU. “Very, very capable. Advanced in their strategy. I recognize that we’re going to have to play well to win.”
Those might not be fighin’ words, but clearly, Les Miles still has a fighting spirit.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.