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SEC CHAMPIONSHIP

LSU keeps Miles, then stops Tennessee

December 02, 2007|From the Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Les Miles and Louisiana State can now focus on their future together. After being assured by Miles he would stay as their coach, backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and the fifth-ranked Tigers shifted their attention to No. 14 Tennessee. The result was a 21-14 victory Saturday in the Southeastern Conference championship game -- and still a chance to play for the national title.

Jonathan Zenon scored on an 18-yard interception return with 9:54 left to put LSU (11-2) ahead, then Darry Beckwith picked off another pass by Erik Ainge deep in Tigers territory to seal it.

Perrilloux was the MVP of the game, though Ainge certainly played an equally significant role with his ill-timed tosses.

The win sent LSU back home, with a spot in the Sugar Bowl at worst.

At best, the Tigers hoped losses by No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia later in the day might put them in college football's championship game, also to be held in New Orleans at the Superdome.

With speculation swirling that he would soon leave for Michigan, Miles did everything he could to put aside the distractions. He met with his players earlier in the day and told them he wasn't going anywhere.

After the victory, Miles said he never spoke to Michigan and didn't plan to.

"I will always root for the next head coach there," Miles said. "I will wear those colors when it comes down to the Ohio State-Michigan game. I'm going to root and pull for the Blue, and they will eventually win that game.

"There's a proud tradition, and they have to do the things they have to do. I'm for them, and if there's any way I can help them, I'd love to help them. But I'm not going there. It saddens me at times. I can't be at two places. I've got a great place. I'm home."

After winning their first SEC title since 2003, the Tigers hoped to head for bigger and better things. Miles hugged senior Jacob Hester, who barreled for 120 yards rushing.

"I'm just really happy for our seniors, our leadership," Miles said. "We had to put it together and we did that."

Miles had to be proud of his defense, too, for the way it stopped the Volunteers at the end.

Still no word, though, on whether defensive coordinator Bo Pelini will soon leave to become head coach at Nebraska as has been rumored.

Ainge played like a poised senior until his final few throws, when he tossed the ball to the wrong team.

Zenon stepped in front of a receiver making a square-in and had an easy romp to the end zone.

"I shouldn't have thrown it," Ainge said.

Tennessee (9-4) had its five-game win streak stopped. Now the Volunteers might wind up in the Outback Bowl.

"We had our opportunities," Coach Phillip Fulmer said.

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