BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU backup quarterback Danny Etling waved his arms to quiet the Tiger Stadium crowd — and that was before he’d done anything more than complete one first-down pass.
Frustrated fans in Death Valley, who had booed LSU’s offense on its first two possessions, were simply ready for a change. Etling gave them a measure of hope and likely secured himself a start when the No. 21 Tigers open Southeastern Conference play next week.
Replacing struggling starter Brandon Harris on LSU’s third possession, Etling opened with three straight scoring drives, and the Tigers pulled away for a 34-13 victory over Jacksonville State on Saturday night.
“I just think we have a nice team. I think we have a good team. They will rally around whoever tries to be the next man up. I think they did it for me tonight,” Etling said.
Etling completed six of his first eight passes for 100 yards, including a 46-yard scoring strike to tight end DeSean Smith to cap the quarterback’s first drive. Etling also had a 2 yard TD run.
LSU coach Les Miles said Etling’s night was “not perfect by any means,” but also said the transfer from Purdue “absolutely” put himself in the mix to start going forward.
Miles might not have much choice, considering how anemic LSU’s offense looks with Harris under center, not just against JSU (1-1), but also in a 16-14 upset against fifth-ranked Wisconsin a week earlier.
LSU (1-1) opened the game with 12 total yards and no first downs on its first two offensive series before Miles made the QB change.
The Tiger Stadium crowd came alive when Etling took the field for the first time. It was a full-on eruption when Etling’s long scoring pass hit Smith in stride down the left sideline, giving LSU a 6-3 lead.
“It was a pretty cool feeling. It was pretty nice, especially since we were down at the time,” Etling said. “It was nice to put ourselves in a position to succeed.”
Etling’s performance was not entirely unblemished. All six of his second-half passes were incomplete. He was intercepted by Reggie Hall on a long pass intended for Malachi Dupre in the end zone and later lost a fumble when he was sacked and stripped by Darius Jackson.
DELAY OF GAME
Kickoff was delayed nearly an hour because of lightning in the area.
Leonard Fournette did not play, getting the night off to rest his left ankle, which took a hard hit at the end of LSU’s season opener. Miles has said Fournette is not seriously injured and sounded optimistic that he’d be ready to play next weekend.
Derrius Guice started for Fournette and rushed for 155 yards, including a 4-yard TD and a 44-yard run to set up another LSU score.
Tre’Davious the closed LSU’s’ 27-point second quarter with a 60-yard punt return on which he retreated 20 yards to his own 20 before finding his way back up field for the score.
“I just had it in my head that either I was going to go for the touchdown or coach Miles was going to be mad at me,” said White, who had an interception return for a score a week earlier.
SLIPPERY SIGNAL CALLER
Dual-threat QB Eli Jenkins was once again productive for Jacksonville State, which entered the game ranked fifth nationally among teams in the NCAA’s second-tier Football Championship. He passed for 248 yards, including a 76-yard scoring pass to Krenwick Sanders, and rushed for 82 yards.
“It goes back to Eli’s experience,” JSU coach John Grass said. “He really looks like a four-year starter.”
LSU might move up slightly in the Top25 , but the Tigers are expected to win easily against FCS teams.
Jacksonville State: Jenkins has the ability to put up big numbers on any defense, meaning his FCS-level opponents will have their hands full. Jenkins is easily on pace to eclipse the 10,000-yard mark in career total yards by the end of this season. He entered the game already holding the JSU record for total yards with 8,688.
LSU: Barring an injury to Etling, Harris’ next snaps might come in mop-up duty. His numbers through his first two starts this season are 13 of 25 (52 percent) for 139 yards, one TD and two interceptions. He completed one of four passes for 8 yards against JSU.
Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks return home play Coastal Carolina — an opponent in transition to the top tier FBS — on Sept. 17.
LSU: The Tigers open SEC play at home against Mississippi State on Sept. 17.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org