First things first, it’s just Jacksonville St. The Gamecocks are a very good FCS team, but still, they are an FCS team. You don’t get sprinkles on your donut because you beat an FCS team, no matter how good they are.
No one cares about your damn caveats.
The offense looked like it was headed for another terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day. The first two drives resulted in just seven yards, three incompletions, and no first downs. Miles was left with no choice but to break the glass and go to the emergency backup QB, Danny Etling.
And then LSU scored four straight touchdowns in the second quarter. So… good call. For the first time all year, the offense didn’t just look competent, it looked good. Cameron could open up the playbook past the safe calls, and LSU showed off multiple looks, and even spread the football to seldom used backups. Hell, Justin McMillan ended up with more passing yards than Brandon Harris.
The backup QB came in and threw a TD to the backup tight end and handed the ball off to a backup fullback for the score. This was a day for the 2’s to finally have their day under the big lights. It clearly lit a spark in the team, and suddenly, everything started to work.
The first quarter issues extended past Harris. Guice couldn’t find any space to run, the line still couldn’t lock, and Malachi Dupre couldn’t catch. The problems extended to the defense, as LSU gave up over 80 yards of offense and near 13 minutes of time of possession in the first quarter. This was a total team effort.
Heck, even when something good happened, it turned into something bad. Donte Jackson returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, only to have it called back by a holding penalty. That was the last play before Etling took the field, and suddenly, the black clouds parted.
Surprisingly, Etling came out firing. Instead of handing the ball off and getting his feet wet, Cameron dialed up a pass on the first play. It was incomplete, but it immediately showed a different attitude at the position. There was no fear, and the team responded.
Derrius Guice, who had struggled to that point, found that extra gear. He opened up a 32 yard run to start the next drive, which would eventually end with him carrying the ball over the goal line. He would end the game with 155 yards on 19 carries.
It wasn’t all good news. The defense responded to having an offense by promptly giving up a 76-yard touchdown pass. Malachi Dupre still couldn’t catch anything. And the Etling magic started to fade in the second half.
Danny Etling went 6/14 for 100 yards. He also threw a pick and fumbled the ball. Those are pretty awful numbers, to be honest. They just felt huge because of the context (also the decision making and pocket awareness). After that big start, and Tre White’s absurd punt return for a touchdown, the offense came crashing back down to earth. Etling ended up with fairly poor numbers against an FCS team.
It didn’t matter. It felt like hope.