LSU quarterback Danny Etling didn’t take a step backward, but rather forward, in his second outing for the Tigers against Mississippi State. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown.
Many would look at those and consider them average numbers, and for most schools, they are. For LSU the past two seasons, those numbers were the missing link. Hidden beneath the stats is Etling’s previously unknown athleticism and ability to extend plays. It’s really a quite simple formula. With so many play-makers surrounding him, Etling does just enough to get the ball to them, and in turn, that’s just enough to move the chains. Turning those broken plays into first downs was an area the Tigers previously struggled in.
“I think the coaches trust me,” says Etling. “And I think the players trust me. Whatever the defense gives me, I’ll take it whether it’s airing it out or taking a check down here or there. You’ve just got to be patient and take what they give you.”
“I think our guys are doing a really good job of extending plays beyond a scramble,” says head coach Les Miles. “The receivers that are out on routes are really looking for the Danny Etling style of throw. I think it’s good for our offense. It allows for ad-libbed plays that make first downs.”
But now comes a true rivalry on the plains of Auburn, and the Tigers have posted signs that read the score of “41-7” around the football operations building as a stern reminder of what happened in Jordan-Hare Stadium back in 2014.
“They’re a very talented team,” says Etling. “We know we have to take them very seriously. We’re playing at a tough venue when we go into their place. We’ve got to get off to a fast start and really execute the game plan.”
The irony of the situation is that two years ago, Brandon Harris was in a nearly identical situation. He “out-performed” then-starter Anthony Jennings and took his position in their first SEC road game of 2014. Now it’s Etling getting his shot.
In typical Les Miles fashion, he wouldn’t name Etling the outright starter for the rest of the season, but when asked if Etling had to be worried about being pulled for making a mistake, Miles answered with a strong, “No.”
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