By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
The Tigers finally return back to Tiger Stadium hosting the South Carolina Gamecocks, in desperate need of a win. After having an unscheduled bye last weekend due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Florida football program, Coach Ed Orgeron is hoping the LSU defense would show some kind of improvement against the Gamecocks, and that they did. The defense did their part to help take pressure off of the offense on a night that starting quarterback Myles Brennan would be out due to an injury.
The chilly Baton Rouge night belonged to true freshmen quarterback T.J. Finley who got his first start of his LSU career. Finley would play with the pose of an experience leader. Matter of fact, I can't remember a first time freshmen starter at quarterback play that calm and collected at LSU since Tommy Hodson had his first career start against Texas A&M in 1986, a 35-17 LSU victory. An Outstanding performance by #11 in the purple and gold tonight as LSU would beat South Carolina 52-24 to improve their record to 2-2.
Let's highlight the performance of both freshmen quarterbacks during their first ever game action as a LSU Fighting Tiger.
T.J. Finley showed no sign of having jitters or being nervous during his first start as a Tiger. On the opening drive of the game he looked calm and cool as he lead the offense on a scoring drive, going 75 yards in 16 plays while eating 7:26 off the game clock. Finley would score his first career touchdown to finish the drive with a one yard quarterback sneak into the end zone...
On the Tigers' second drive of the game, Finley would drive the offense down into the red zone, but penalties would kill the drive and LSU had to settle for a Cade York 27 yard field goal.
Finley would finish the 1st quarter going 5-7, for 60 yards passing, and would add 18 yards rushing on 6 attempts, with a rushing touchdown.
Max Johnson would only see action for one play after Finley would lose his helmet the play before. On his single snap, Johnson handed the ball off to John Emery for a short gain.
Finley would continue his outstanding play into the second quarter, driving the LSU offense down the field, completing some nice throws between successful running plays. On this drive he would end up throwing his first career touchdown pass as a Tiger, finding Terrace Marshall in the far corner of the end zone from seven yards out.
Finley would then make his first rookie mistake of the game on the next drive as he would under throw a pass that would be intercepted at the Gamecocks ten yard line and returned 56 yards down to the LSU 34. Finley would actually do a great job making a touchdown saving tackle on the play along the sidelines..
On the Tigers' next offensive possession, Finley would hit Terrace Marshall across the middle who would take it the distance for a 51 yard touchdown.
T.J. Finley would finish the first half impressively going, 14-18, 216 yards passing, 2 touchdown passes, 1 interception, with 18 yards rushing on 6 carries, 1 rushing touchdown.
Max Johnson didn't play in the second quarter....
T.J. Finley would only attempt one pass in the 3rd quarter and competed it to Jaray Jenkins for a 14 yard gain.
Max Johnson did not play in the quarter...
The Tigers continued to dominate the line of scrimmage, as they would eat up yardage
while running the clock. No need to air it out... Finley would only attempt two passes in the 4th quarter, completing both for a total of 35 yards.. He would finish the night going, 17-21, 265 yards passing, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, while adding 24 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown.
Max Johnson was finally inserted into the game at the 7:39 mark. Johnson would help lead the team on the game ending drive. He would not attempt a pass, but did manage to rush for 19 yards on two carries. his first scramble was good for a seven yard gain, then on a 3rd and four, would run the ball for a 12 yard pick up and a first down. The drive would go 61 yards in 11 plays, ending with Johnson taking a knee at the Gamecocks' 27 yard line to end the contest.
T.J. Finley had a fantastic night for the Tigers and now gives LSU other options on offense,
especially on short yardage and on goal line situations. Look for Finley to be a part of that type of package for the remainder of the season. I think everyone would have liked to see Max Johnson get a few more snaps, but I feel that Coach O did the right thing by leaving a red hot Finley in the game with the offense executing at a high level. The future looks very bright at the quarterback position for LSU. One more season for Myles Brennan. T.J. Finley and Max Johnson. Then the addition of Garrett Nussmeier and Walker Howard in 2021 and 2022 recruiting classes.
I would have to grade T.J. Finley's performance with a very happy, satisfying 'A'........