BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — In a joyous, raving, almost delirious rant, Les Miles gushed over his team's inexorable determination and urged LSU fans to put their arms around his players and "give them a big kiss on the mouth."
Miles is known to get a little loopy and emotional at times, so his comments hardly seemed out of character after a classic contest with historical rival Ole Miss that even evoked memories of Billy Cannon's famous Halloween night punt return in 1959.
Jeremy Hill scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard plunge with 15 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a 41-35 victory over relentless but mistake-prone Mississippi on Saturday.
"I'm proud of those men," Miles said of his team. "How easy it could of have been to say it was (Ole Miss') night. Spectacular group of men. You go find them, throw your arms around them and you give them a big kiss on the mouth, if you are a girl. Wow! What a game!"
The game included seven turnovers, numerous momentum swings and long touchdowns, perhaps none better than Odell Beckham Jr.'s 89-yard punt return for a score that evoked memories of Cannon's famous return against the same team, along the same sideline, for the same yardage.
"That was maybe the biggest momentum changer in the game," Miles said, adding giddily, "Is it Halloween night?"
Beckham eluded numerous tacklers, slipping one as he traversed the field, then broke away from pursuers down the right sideline toward the north end zone while teammate Jarvis Landry waved him along with a windmill motion.
"Everyone had their block, everyone had their man and everyone covered their assignments," Beckham said. "I saw a crease and I just hit it. ... It was an amazing experience and definitely changed the momentum."
Beckham's return tied the game at 35, but LSU (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) still needed clutch back-to-back sacks by Anthony Johnson and Lavar Edwards to drive Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) out of routine field goal range later in the fourth quarter. Bryson Rose then pushed a 53-yard kick wide right, setting up the winning drive.
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace passed for 310 yards and two TDs and ran for two scores, but also was intercepted three times. His touchdown passes went to Donte Moncrief, the first for 56 yards and the second for 30. Wallace's first score came on a 58-yard run.
"I've been coaching a long time, maybe not at this level, but this here is one of the most difficult locker rooms to be in this year," first-year coach Hugh Freeze said. "Our kids just fought for our university and our fans and they should be proud of that. We just can't seem to get that stop when we have to have one, or that touchdown when we have to have one."