The 2014 LSU spring game was a resounding success as fans from around the state descended on Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge to get a first look at the future of the program while White defeated Purple, 42-14.
Gone are the days of Zach Mettenberger tearing up the Tigers secondary with weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. In their place Saturday was a fresh quarterback duel largely dominated by the defensive side of the ball.
Said defense flustered the quarterbacks all day long, as linebackers Deion Jones and Kwon Alexander tallied interception returns for touchdowns. The signal-callers in action swapped sides multiple times, but the White squad emerging victorious was a forgone conclusion with so many potential starters on that side.
The nation also finally got a look at the school's new helmet decal, via LSU's Sports Information Director, Michael Bonnette:
Several important names were in attendance, such as major signees like Malachi Dupre, according to 247 Sports' Shea Dixon:
Even New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan made an appearance, as captured by Sharief Ishaq of WDSU-TV:
Fans themselves came out in droves, via ESPN's Gracie Blackburn:
Despite the scope of the event, coach Les Miles said beforehand that it was not something that would cement any positional battles.
"Not really, to be honest with you,” he said, per Scott Rabalais of The New Orleans Advocate. “We’re going to watch the competition. It’s a key scrimmage. But there’s also a lot of time left before we get to playing time.”
Let's see if any of Miles' players changed his mind on Saturday.
In typical spring game fashion, things starting in a boring manner. The game utilized a make-it, take-it approach with different clock rules to boot:
After a couple of punts got things started, the major storyline came into focus—the battle for the No. 1 spot on the quarterback depth chart between freshman Brandon Harris and sophomore Anthony Jennings.
As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee points out, Harris entered the spring game poised to steal the gig:
Jennings did little to help himself in the early going. Leading the White team—composed mostly of starters—he tossed an early interception that the Purple's Jones took to the house for a touchdown.
Defense predictably ruled the opening quarter, as LSU's strong stable of defensive backs and rushers flustered both signal-callers. The sides combined for less than 75 total yards of offense, and the numbers from the quarterbacks were simply ugly, via ESPN's David Ching:
Harris would respond later in the second quarter with a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end DeSean Smith. He quickly followed that up with an impressive 41-yard scramble before he found fullback Connor Neighbors for a five-yard touchdown pass.
Jennings' response? Another pick six, this time by Alexander to give the White a 21-7 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter.
Smelling blood in the water, Harris beautifully orchestrated one final drive in the second half and threw his third touchdown, with Travin Dural the recipient from 21 yards away. For those keeping count, Harris threw three scores in one quarter of action to stake his claim:
After the break, Jennings came out determined and hooked up with Dural for a 13-yard score on the first drive to make it 35-7 in favor of the White.
The good vibes ended quickly, as Harris took little time to hit Rob Bolden for a gain of 37 yards and John Diarse for another 33 before taking it in himself from four yards out on a designed keeper.
Harris was then pulled from the contest so Hayden Rettig could get some reps. After promptly fumbling the first snap, he smoothly recovered and hit Dural for a 47-yard gain:
By then it was clear—Dural is set to have a major impact for the Tigers next season.
Running back Kenny Hilliard rumbled into the end zone shortly after to make it 42-14, the final score as the running clock expired shortly thereafter.
Ross Dellenger of The Advocate revealed the official spring awards list:
Looking back, it's easy to get very excited about LSU's chances in the SEC next year. It'll clearly be a team that relies on its defense to win games, but the allure of Harris winning the starting gig and making big plays in tandem with Dural while backed by a stable of quality runners is hard to ignore.
On the flip side, an elite pass rush led by defensive end Danielle Hunter—who tallied half a dozen pressures overall and two sacks in the first half—looks to have what it takes to contend in the SEC in 2014.
Note: Statistics courtesy of LSU's Twitter account and The Advocate's Dellenger.
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