By Glenn Guilbeau
BATON ROUGE, La. –– The most dramatic moment of LSU freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings’ career — before Nov. 29, 2013 — happened with five minutes to go in the second quarter against Florida.
With the Tigers leading the then-No. 17 Gators 7-3 on Oct. 12, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron inserted Jennings for a first-and-goal play from the Florida 1-yard line. Jennings scored on a sneak for 14-3 lead, and the Tigers held on for a 17-6 victory.
Jennings’ next action came at Ole Miss a week later on third-and-1 from the Rebels’ 8. He got two for the first down, and LSU scored a touchdown two plays later.
“I was kind of the designated sneaker,” Jennings said after he threw a 49-yard touchdown to wide receiver Travin Dural with 1:15 to play to beat Arkansas, 31-27, on Nov. 29. “I guess you could say that. That was about all I did.”
The true freshman from Marietta, Ga., will be expected to do much more in Wednesday’s Outback Bowl when the No. 14 Tigers (9-3) play Iowa (8-4), which is No. 7 in the nation in total defense and No. 11 against the pass. With regular starter Zach Mettenberger out with a knee injury, Jennings will start.
Entering the Arkansas game, Jennings was all of 2-of-3 passing for 23 yards and had 23 yards on 11 carries with the touchdown.
But LSU coach Les Miles already thought a lot of Jennings from the way he practiced during spring drills. A December graduate of Marietta High, Jennings enrolled at LSU in January of 2013 as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, according to Rivals.com. He received the most improved newcomer award after spring practice.
“I believe Anthony Jennings might be that guy,” Miles said in July at a speaking engagement in Baton Rouge. “He’s a very fast, very bright, very accurate passer. He gives us mobility.”
Jennings entered the Arkansas game with LSU down 27-21 in the fourth quarter after Mettenberger tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee.
“You could see it in his eyes he was ready,” offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins said. “You didn’t have to worry about it. No butterflies at all as far as I could tell. He was straight to the point. He said to just give him time.”
On his second series, he was at the 1-yard line again. Only for the first time in his LSU career, it was his 1-yard line, and his back was to the end zone. A sneak would not cut it. There was only 3:04 to play.
“I said, ‘Let’s go. It’s time to go 99 yards.’ There was no doubt in my mind,” he said.
He rushed for a 2-yard gain, hit tight end Dillon Gordon for 16, then found wide receiver Jarvis Landry for 11 to the LSU 30. From there, he scrambled for a 21-yard gain to the Arkansas 49 with 1:46 to play. After an incompletion and a pass to Hill for no gain, it was third and 10 with 1:22 to play.
“He was calm, cool and collected,” LSU offensive guard Vadal Alexander told reporters in Tampa this week. “He took control of the huddle. He’s a very mature guy.”
Jennings hit Dural down the LSU sideline for the 49-yard bomb and the win.
“I was calm and relaxed because I knew my teammates around me had my back,” Jennings said. “I’ll always remember this because this was my first significant playing time, and I executed.”
Jennings has been held out of all interviews since the postgame of Arkansas as Cameron has been giving him a crash course on being a starting quarterback and adjusting the playbook with him.
“There’s not going to be any pieces of what we do that he won’t be able to do,” Miles said. “He’s going to come of age very quickly. We expect him to play well.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football