BATON ROUGE, La. – Les Miles actually said this: "I think the scoring of points has nothing to do with victory."
By now, though, LSU players understand how to tease out the meaning from their coach's curious quotes.
In this case, Miles was responding to the odd fact that LSU has shut out Saturday night's opponent, Northwestern State, in all 10 previous meetings. The coach's message was that he doesn't want his players thinking about LSU's historical dominance of this series, particularly when they haven't met since 1942.
Miles doesn't even want the Tigers considering how much playing time backups, such as highly touted junior college transfer quarterback Zach Mettenberger, might see in what could be a lopsided matchup with a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
"Never before victory," Miles said when asked if he'd considered getting a better look at some players who did not get into LSU's season opening 40-27 triumph over Oregon last weekend.
There are reasons Miles might want to minimize key starters' exposure to injury when LSU (1-0) hosts the Demons (1-0), one being that the Tigers will be right back in action on Thursday night at No. 16 Mississippi State.
Yet, if Miles has entertained such thoughts, he wasn't about to reveal it.
"I don't think about it, don't give vision to it, try not to plan that way," Miles said. "Honestly, I look at one thing. I look at how my team's playing and how the plan is for that game. I do not go to the next opponent. It just would not be something I would allow."
Miles also wants to see LSU improve in several areas this weekend, including in the passing game. Senior Jarrett Lee was promoted to starting quarterback only two weeks ago after Jordan Jefferson, who took first-team snaps throughout spring and most of August, was booked on felony battery charges stemming from a bar fight and suspended indefinitely.
Miles did, however, acknowledge that if his team has a comfortable lead, he would then — and only then — look to get a better sense of his reserves.
"If that opportunity presents itself, certainly that would be something that we would look forward to doing," Miles said. "There's a lot of guys in this program that deserve that kind of consideration. Again, that's not something I'm spending a lot of time on. That comes together very effectively later."
The question is, how much later?
Given how strong the second-ranked Tigers look on defense this season, not to mention the fact that Northwestern State was shut out for a half by Division II Delta State last weekend, the Demons' scoreless streak against the Tigers could very well continue.
"LSU might be as good a team as there is in the country right now, so it's a big challenge — to say that's an understatement," said Northwestern State coach Bradley Dale Peveto, a former defensive assistant under Miles at LSU from 2005-08.
While LSU's passing game was inconsistent against Oregon, its running game was dominant. Sophomores Spencer Ware and Michael Ford each surpassed 95 yards rushing and got in the end zone. Miles also could look to get sophomore running back Alfred Blue or redshirt freshman Jakhari Gore more involved this week.
Northwestern's ability to score its first points against LSU will hinge on quarterback Brad Henderson. Against Delta State, he did not start but wound up leading the Demons to four scores in their first five offensive series of the second half, completing his first 13 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. The performance helped the Demons overcome a 17-0 halftime deficit for a 24-23 win.
Henderson is slated to start this week after junior quarterback Paul Harris, who started the season opener but struggled, was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. Peveto has not said when Harris will be reinstated.
What matters to Peveto most this weekend is that his players relish the experience of playing in Tiger Stadium, compete hard, get better — and stay healthy with their entire Southland Conference schedule still to play.
"If you're a football player that grew up in Louisiana, or anywhere, really, in the Southeast, you understand SEC football and LSU football. So it's going to be a great opportunity," Peveto said. "I can try to describe it, but until our guys hit that field and experience the thrill of Tiger Stadium, what I say won't do it justice.
"Hopefully, we can earn their respect with the way we compete."