The LSU Tigers won their home opener against Jacksonville State on Saturday 34-13. It wasn’t easy and at times, it wasn’t pretty. The good thing for Les Miles and the Tigers was they had a backup plan.
Brandon Harris and the Tiger offense went 3 and out on their first two drives of the game. Harris went 1-4 for 8 yards.
After the second punt, social media (myself included) was calling for Harris to be benched.
Les Miles could be seen on the sidelines trying to console Harris as he tried to push for another chance to lead the offense.
Miles had to be thinking to himself: “it’s my job kid, or yours.”
Sep 19, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles celebrates with quarterback Brandon Harris (6) after a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers during the first quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Harris was benched and on came number 16, Danny Etling. Etling, a transfer from Purdue, looks the part, but is for the most part unproven.
The first series leads to a first down.
Hey! We have progress. Let the kid play!
Etling throws a 46 yard touchdown pass to Desean Smith and Tiger Stadium explodes!
Turn out the lights folks, LSU has found their savior!
Etling would lead the Tigers on two more touchdown drives in the second quarter going 6 for 8 in that span. This was the offense that everybody expected to see from the formerly 5th ranked Tigers. It seemed that the offense rallied behind Etling.
And they did for the most part. Well, sort of anyway.
He was the spark that the other play makers needed to get them going. Etling’s stats could have been slightly better if he had some more help from the likes of Malachi Dupre — who had the dropsies multiple times during the game.
Sep 10, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Danny Etling (16) runs the ball into the end zone for a touchdown in front of Jacksonville State Gamecocks linebacker Quan Stoudemire (35) during the second half at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Jacksonville State 34-13. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
The second half was very lack luster for the offense, as Etling went a dreadful 0-for-6 on pass attempts. Back-up RB Derrius Guice put together a solid performance in the absence of Leonard Fournette, rushing for 155 yards on 19 carries.
The defense and special teams both showed improvement over the previous week versus Wisconsin. The punting game still leaves a lot to be desired, and Jacksonville State Quarterback Eli Jenkins was more than a handful when he decided to scramble.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda still has some work to do; with both the linebackers and secondary needing to drastically improve in the areas of coverage assignments as they still give up big chunk plays too often.
It felt good for this team to get the win, but it was way more stressful than it should have been.
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Other teams are putting up 50 burgers on lesser opponents; and LSU is having a mid-life crisis against Jacksonville State two games in to the season.
The Tigers start SEC play at home this upcoming Saturday Night as they host the Bulldogs of of Mississippi State in an early SEC West divisional showdown.
Mississippi State Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald broke a school record by rushing for 195 yards and also passed for 178 yards and two touchdowns last week in a win over South Carolina. LSU’s front seven will need to find a way to contain these mobile QBs if they want to continue their winning ways.
Les Miles would not come out and say that Etling will be the starter against Mississippi State, but he knows deep down that Harris’s ship has sailed.
Sep 10, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles and the LSU Tigers make their way to Tiger Stadium prior to kickoff against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
He needs to hitch his wagon to Danny Etling and ride it out for the rest of the season. This team needs to gel and gather some continuity in preparation for contests against Florida, Ole Miss and Alabama.
This team is a long shot to be a title contender, but Etling may give them a chance to have a respectable offense.
If the defense plays the way we know they can, a mid level offense can do just enough to win games (see Matt Mauck, Matt Flynn).
This team will be a giant question mark from here on out and we will have to see if “The Mad Hatter” has enough tricks up his sleeve to salvage this season………