The tempers between Florida and LSU got a little carried away before the game ever started, leading LSU running back Leonard Fournette to suit up on a day he was not expected to be available. It turned out Fournette served as nothing more than a decoy to start the game for the Tigers. Fournette has carried the football five times for 25 yards as the defenses for the Gators and LSU are setting the tone in this one. LSU leads Florida at the half, 7-3.
LSU scored the lone touchdown of the half on their first possession of the game. Derrius Guice punched it in from the one-yard line at the end of a 12-play drive covering 80 yards. With the Tigers once again sniffing a touchdown in the second quarter, Guice had the ball knocked out of his hands, allowing Florida to come up with a much-needed turnover. With the Gators lacking any offensive punch though, the turnover yielded nothing more than changing the field position.
Florida can clinch the SEC East Division with a win in Baton Rouge. If the offense cannot score points today then Florida will have to hope Tennessee loses either one of their final two games this season in order to book a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
Two games into the college football season, LSU head coach Les Miles needed to switch things up on offense. That meant pulling quarterback Brandon Harris off the field and sending Purdue transfer Danny Etling out to see what he could do with the Tigers. It seemed to work quite well, albeit against Jacksonville State from the FCS ranks, but Miles is not ready to proclaim any change in his team’s quarterback status just yet.
“We’re not turning our back to competition in any way,” Miles said, according to Gridiron Now. “At that position, I will not name a starter until I talk to my team.”
Etling is entering some familiar territory it would seem. At Purdue, Etling experienced what it is like to both take another player’s job and lose it, so he certainly knows how Harris must be feeling after a frustrating start to the season. Fans may be clamoring for the former Boilermaker to come in and save the season for LSU before a shot at a SEC title and playoff appearance slip away, but there is no guarantee Etling will be able to run the offense as smoothly as he did at times Saturday night once LSU enters SEC play. Jacksonville State may be one of the better FCS programs, but they are a long way from the likes of Alabama and Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
Miles has come to the defense of Harris already this season, so his perceived reluctance to declare a quarterback change at this point is not to be unexpected. Miles has suggested Harris has a problem knocking off some rough moments in a game but continues to trust Harris can do some good things for his offense. What remains to be seen is whether or not Miles allows Harris many more opportunities to prove he can still run the offense before the pressure to give Etling more snaps reaches a boiling point.
The last thing Miles can afford to do is let quarterback indecision drag on to a point where it takes a season off track before it ever truly is given a chance to roll. LSU may already have a loss, but there is still time to recover, so long as Miles figures out what to do at quarterback before it is too late.
When LSU needed a spark on offense, Les Miles handed the offense over to Purdue transfer quarterback Danny Etling. Etling wasted little time taking advantage of the opportunity, and Miles may find it difficult to take it back in hopes of seeing Brandon Harris getting off to a good start again. Sure, it was only one game against a (very good) FCS opponent in Jacksonville State, but Etling was cheered when he came in and deemed a hero when he left the field after leading LSU to a 34-13 victory Saturday night.
Taking a job away from a starter is nothing to be worried about in college football, because it is what every player should aim to do. Etling, however, knows what it is like to be a starter losing the job after constant struggles, so he has a unique perspective on what Harris is experiencing right now.
“I empathize a lot with him,” Etling said after the game Saturday night, per ESPN. “It’s not a fun position. It’s terrible and it’s something that maybe only quarterbacks can understand, and it’s something that I definitely understand. I really wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.”
Etling was once the starting quarterback at Purdue, taking the job from Rob Henry in October 2013 after the Boilermakers struggled on offense and took a loss against Northern Illinois. Etling had come in to replace Henry in that loss and Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell made the decision to stick with Etling moving forward in Big Ten play. A year later, after being named the starting quarterback for the season, Hazell benched Etling and replaced him with Austin Appleby. Appleby went on to be named Purdue’s starting quarterback for the 2015 season as well, while Etling saw the writing on the wall and was granted a release from his scholarship to pursue other opportunities. After weighing his options, the decision was made to attend LSU. After sitting out the 2015 season, Etling is now taking advantage of his second chance in college football, for now at least.
Miles said after the previous week’s loss to Wisconsin that Harris can struggle to knock off a shaky start. Whether Miles gives Harris another chance remains to be seen. For now, Etling should be the quarterback for LSU’s offense until proven otherwise. LSU opens SEC play this week at home against Mississippi State.
Helmet sticker to ESPN.
LSU should be counted on to play good defense this season. The running game should still be strong as well. The one constant weakness in any team coached by Les Miles appears to come at the most important position there is in football; quarterback. Despite a rough opener on the road against Wisconsin, LSU head coach Les Miles is still giving off a public showing of support for his starting quarterback Brandon Harris.
That’s important too. When a quarterback struggles, it is stressful for the team. The quarterbacks shoulders much of the blame for a loss. It comes with the territory, no matter how skilled you are. Harris has taken his lumps from time to time as LSU’s quarterback, and this week has been no different after tossing an interception to help seal a Wisconsin victory in Lambeau Field over the weekend. Asked about his quarterback, Miles came to his defense.
“He’s talented and capable [of] decision making and really relaxing and letting the game come to him,” Miles said Wednesday. “At times he struggles there.”
Harris has a knack for getting off to a slow start and never really catching up. Slow starts have been a problem for Harris and LSU, and it may have helped contribute to a loss in Wisconsin over the weekend. Miles knows Harris has trouble at times, but he is not ready to put him on the sideline just yet, because he feels Harris can still get on track. Miles also isn’t putting all of the blame on his quarterback.
“It was at least early in the game, and I said, ‘OK, now relax and just realize it’s the same throw that you’ve been making. Just calm down.’ I recognize that he’s got to still come,” Miles said. “We all do. And he doesn’t have a lifetime to do it, and there are other quarterbacks to go to.”
As Harris has struggled, LSU fans have clamored for Miles to make a switch and go with former Purdue quarterback Danny Etling. Etling has plenty of starting experience at Purdue and may be a breath of fresh air for the Tigers should it come to that point for Miles. The question is how long is the leash Miles has Harris attached to. Would a sloppy performance against FCS Jacksonville State be enough to make a switch and see what Etling can do? There is no guarantee the offense will run better with Etling at quarterback, of course. LSU’s offensive line struggled against the Badgers and this unit will be tested in division play with Ole Miss and Alabama and Texas A&M. It might not matter who is under center for LSU because of that.
But like any top-paid coach, Miles has to figure out what to do at quarterback if LSU is going to rebound and still have a chance of making a run at the SEC title and perhaps a spot in the playoff before it is too late.
Purdue will be hoping experience is the key for its new starting quarterback. Austin Appleby was named the starting quarterback for the Boilermakers by head coach Darrell Hazell. Appleby started seven games for Purdue last season, and he took the lumps that came with them. Purdue was 1-6 in games started by Appleby, but there was plenty of blame to go around with Purdue’s struggles last season. Appleby beat out redshirt freshman David Blough for the job.
Appleby was Purdue’s leading passer last fall after replacing Danny Etling. Appleby passed for 1,449 yards and 10 touchdowns but was intercepted 11 times and completed just 52.9 percent of his pass attempts in 10 games. He was more reliable inside the red zone, completing 16 of 26 pass attempts and tossing five touchdowns with zero interceptions. If nothing else, that should give Hazell something to build on with his new starting QB. Protecting the football has been a key in camp for Purdue.
“He did a good job, in my opinion, of taking care of the ball throughout fall camp,” Hazell said after announcing his decision. “That’s what we asked him to do. He made enough of those makeable plays that we asked him to do. That’s why we’re going with Austin.”
Purdue will open the season on the road against defending Conference USA champion Marshall.