With 1:31 left in the first half, Jarrett Lee threw a terrible interception. Terrible doesn't even do it justice. Auburn's 11th defender was running onto the field at the snap and some of his wide receivers were completely uncovered. Lee never saw them. Instead, he stared down his receiver, double clutched, and then lofted the ball into a sea of blue shirts. As Lee walked back to the bench, it seemed unlikely he was going to see too many more meaningful snaps for the rest of the season.
His line: 0 for 5, for 0 yards, and 1 INT. If anything, he was even worse than his stats suggest. The Auburn defense was pinning their ears back and suddenly Charles Scott couldn't find a hole. His last four rushes of the half were for a total of six yards. Hatch was LSU's starter by default.
Then came the concussion. Lee came back into the game, and every Tiger fan held their breath. On 3rd and 4, I think everyone in the stadium expected Lee to hand the ball off to Scott to get him back into the rhythm of the game. Instead, Lee hit Dickson with a strike for a 16 yard gain. His next three snaps? All passes. OK, two were incompletions, but the fourth pass was a 39-yard pass to Mitchell. Lee was a different quarterback.
What happened to this guy? How did a guy who looked so awful in the first half, come off the bench in the second half slinging the ball all over the field? In a strange way, I believe Hatch's injury liberated Lee.
Lee was no longer trying to win the job with every pass. He was the guy, if only by default. Lee wasn't looking over his shoulder after every mistake. Really, what did Lee have to lose? He was already benched. He had lost the job pretty emphatically. And now he was thrown out there without a net. Knowing that he was the guy regardless what happened, Lee finally settled down and played like he was capable.
Was he unstoppable? Well, no. 11 for 17 for 182 yards and 1 TD is a good half though. But it's a lot easier to put up those kind of numbers when you get to hand the ball of the Charles Scott. It's also easier when the offensive line doesn't ever allow you to get sacked (both sacks allowed were 1st quarter sacks against Hatch).
Lee won the quarterback job last night, So long as he doesn't go back to being the guy he was in the first half. Or maybe we're just going to have to hire a guy to follow Hatch around and give him a concussion whenever Lee regresses.