LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings throws a pass as Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers rushes during the second half of a game last season in Baton Rouge. LSU beat Arkansas 31-27. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, November 29, 2013 10:35 PM
BATON ROUGE — In this world of over-egoed cocksure athletes full of posturing, chest-beating and often in-your-face self confidence, it was a little refreshing to hear from Travin Dural Saturday.
So, Travin, what exactly were your thoughts at that big moment? You know, that instant you and the rest of Tiger Stadium realized that, as a freshman, you were wide-acre open and another untested freshman, Anthony Jennings, had just lofted a pass that, at the top of its arc, it was obvious it was going to hit you perfectly in stride with the game on the line?
“I was thinking, please don’t drop it, Travin, please don’t drop it,” the youngster said. “I waited all my life for this. I just wanted to make a play.”
He didn’t. Hauled it in slick as a whistle around the 10-yard line and trotted in for the winner.
And there was Jennings, who might have made the biggest, most impressive first impression in Tiger Stadium history.
“Nerves,” Jennings said. “There were nerves. But I thought I was prepared for it.”
And the far more wisened Les Miles, who’s seen just about every wild and nutty thing in his Mad Hatter coaching days at LSU?
“No way,” Miles admitted of the scenario that LSU faced to, in effect, avoid one of the most embarrassing upsets in his often wacky nine-year tenure. “I’d have said no way.”
Way, coach, way.
No, it didn’t make much sense.
Basically, freshmen bailed out LSU on Senior Day.
Jennings even took the snap from true freshman center Ethan Pocic, one of two reserve offensive linemen forced into action, to throw a perfect pass to Dural for a 49-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 to play to save the Tigers, something like 31-27.
And that, really, was the easy part.
Moments earlier, the Tigers, minus four offensive starters all told, including born play-maker Odell Beckham, started the game winning drive inside their own 1-yard line with just a hair over 3 minutes to play.
Starter Zach Mettenberger wasn’t available. And there was no way at tat point to hide Jennings, who previously this year had run a few quarterback sneaks and done some light mop-up work.
It wasn’t a surprise he was playing late against Arkansas — the Razorbacks were and are winless in SEC this year — but it wasn’t supposed to be under these dire circumstances.
LSU needed 99 yards, miraculous under any circumstances. And there was nowhere to hide Jennings at that point.
Good luck, kid, sink or swim.
“If you had told me that was the scenario, I would have said no way, “ Miles admitted. “That team led by Anthony Jennings went 99 yards … and (Jennings) was just cool and calm and comfortable as there is.
“We have to give him great credit. His demeanor, his poise … I would have said no way.”
Again, coach, way.
“Credit to him,” Miles said. “This group, there’s just something about them.”
Jennings, who set up the game-winning 49-yard touchdown with a pair of completions and a 21-yard scramble, must have looked calmer than he felt.
“I thought I threw it good,” he said. “But I had to check to make sure he could haul it in,”
While you’re marveling about this glimpse into a suddenly brighter future for the LSU offense, however give some credit to wide receiver Jarvis Landry. He helped instigate to freshmen takeover.
Landry made the catch of the year on the play that injured Mettenberger.
With Beckham out since the first quarter, he was becoming the Tigers’ passing game.
But for several offensive series he’d been lobbying for “tsunami-right” as the dagger play he was sure would work for the Tigers when not a lot else was.
He kept telling the coaches to call it for the game-winner even though he’s basically a decoy on it — the attention he attracted going to the opposite side of the field was what left Dural wide open.
By the time Jennings scrambled the Tigers to midfield, everybody on the Tigers’ sideline was convinced the play was about to work.
They might have informed what was left of Tiger Stadium’s crowd, which didn’t really perk up until the final minutes after watching LSU fiddle-faddle around most of the day.
“You got your money’s worth, didn’t you,” Miles said.
• • •
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org