Welcome back to Rewind Monday, where we take a closer look at one of the weekend’s top storylines in college football. This week, it’s Les Miles and Kansas, which just earned its first Power 5 road win in more than a decade.
The last time this happened, Les Miles was 48-years old and in his first job as a college head coach. The memory is nearly two decades old, but the feeling is tough to forget.
His Oklahoma State squad entered a game at big brother Oklahoma as a 28-point underdog. The Cowboys were 3–7 and had lost five of their last six. The Sooners were 10–1 and ranked No. 4 in the nation. Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma 16–13. Not since that day, Nov. 24, 2001, had Miles felt like this. But here he was, now the 65-year-old head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks taking his team on the road as 18-point underdogs and romping to a historic victory: Kansas 48, Boston College 24.
Week 3 of college football provided its share of entertainment and intrigue, but no result turned heads quite like this one, a stunner that swept the nation on a Friday night, no less while being broadcast on the new ACC Network. It didn’t matter that millions of fans couldn’t watch the game. It only mattered that it was Les Miles, the Les Miles, the former championship-winning LSU coach, the wanna-be movie star, the beer commercial actor, the quirky guy who butchers the English language like no other, that Les Miles, in his third game as coach of major college football’s doormat.
What made it even more unbelievable is that his team six days before had lost at home to Coastal Carolina by the score of 12–7. Making it even more unfathomable is that Kansas hadn’t won a road game against a Power 5 program in 11 years, a stretch of 48 straight losses that dates back to the days of the very first iPhones. Walking off the field after the win over the Eagles, a KU staff member handed to Miles a message on his phone noting the streak. The coach turned to athletic director Jeff Long, walking alongside him. “I said, ‘Jeff, did you know this?’” Miles says. “He says, ‘Yes, but I didn’t tell you everything when I hired you.’”
Miles cackles retelling the story a day later during a Saturday afternoon interview with Sports Illustrated, during which he is reminded of his whereabouts just one year ago (starring in Dos Equis commercials) and two years ago (sending audition tapes to New York City for movie roles). Next week will mark the three-year anniversary of his firing at LSU and the start of his 26-month furlough from football. A day after the rousing win over Boston College, his wife, Kathy, reveals to SI that his time away from the game did not only include those on-screen activities. Les Miles seriously contemplated entering the law-making realm as a politician (we’ll get to that later).
But now, after such a gratifying win, he realizes why he returned to the game. “I’ve had a great time. Life has presented me with some great opportunities away from football,” says Miles. “I’m thrilled to have met some of those people and thrilled about being a part of some of those projects, but the size and scope of college football and the enjoyment of being with a group of guys fighting for victory, that’s kind of what I was made to do.
“Was it worth it? Absolutely. Are you kidding me? Here’s what you want to do. You want to practice a team, take a team to the field and chase victory. I’ve been fortunate to have some very significant wins. That one certainly approached a very significant win for me.”
He’d later say that it was, in fact, a significant win, one that parallels the 2001 victory over Oklahoma. No Miles-coached team has ever been a bigger underdog than that one. The next season, the Cowboys were a 25-point dog in a game against Texas (they lost). Seventeen years passed before oddsmakers made a Miles team such a longshot again. It came Friday night at Boston College. In explaining the win, Miles delivers a Miles-ism, a nonsensical quote that is clearly missing multiple nouns. “We didn’t want to be a team that could not,” Miles says. “We wanted to be a team that could.” Above anything else, he attributes his team’s performance to quarterback Carter Stanley. “He came to life, understood his responsibilities and did some special things,” Miles says. Read More