It would’ve been a safety had Andre Anthony been permitted to drive Lowell Narcisse into the Tiger Stadium turf, but that fact did little to dampen the enthusiasm after the most exciting play of the LSU Spring Game on Saturday night.
Narcisse, playing with the first-string offense, fired toward the left sideline as Anthony breezed by his back. Justin Jefferson snatched the wobbly pass with one hand, managed to spin outside of Greedy Williams and was off to the races for a 94-yard touchdown.
Jefferson’s long catch-and-run was certainly the highlight of a spring game in which LSU allowed all three of its quarterbacks to chuck it all over the field to varying degrees of success.
All three quarterbacks rotated in and out with both the first- and second-team offenses, seeing nearly equal playing time with each. Justin McMillan led four touchdown drives to Narcisse’s three while Myles Brennan, the presumed favorite to win the starting job, managed just one.
“I think you’ve all seen tonight what I’ve been telling you about the quarterbacks,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “Sometimes they’re doing well, sometimes they’re not. I thought Justin McMillan had a good game. I thought he extended plays with his feet, and we moved the ball when he was in.”
McMillan was far and away the steadiest of the bunch, seemingly legitimizing the rave reviews the veteran of the group has gotten from coaches and teammates this spring. He finished 13-of-27 for 182 yards, including a 33-yard scoring strike on a jump ball to Drake Davis.
Narcisse wasn’t particularly accurate throwing the ball, but he made his completions count by virtue of two big plays. Narcisse hooked up with Derrick Dillon on a 63-yard bomb in the first half thanks to an acrobatic midair adjustment from Dillon to haul it in. He finished 6-of-13 for 205 yards.
Brennan, not quite as mobile as his fellow challengers, struggled to evade a persistent pass rush. Outside linebackers like K’Lavon Chaisson and Anthony had a field day flying around the outside as LSU finished the spring without its starting tackles.
“You have to (be able to escape pressure), especially in this league with the rush,” Orgeron said. “Our protection needs to get better … We have to get better, but it is an advantage that those guys can extend plays with their feet. You saw it tonight.
“That’s a huge factor. No question.”
Brennan struggled out the gate, completing only 5-of-13 passes in the first half, and it didn’t immediately get better. The sophomore came in with the first team in the third quarter and was intercepted by John Battle when he overthrew a ball into double coverage.
Having watched his competitors lead the offense up and down the field all night, Brennan salvaged things a bit in the fourth quarter. He led the second-string offense down the field before finding tight end Jacory Washington for a five-yard touchdown strike. He finished 11-of-21 for 125 yards.
It’s been an up-and-down spring for all three by all accounts, with a different signal caller seemingly taking the lead every practice. Orgeron didn’t feel that Saturday night was any different, though he is placing some additional stock into how guys performed in front of a crowd.
“We’d all love (to have one quarterback),” Orgeron said. “It’s just not there. If we had a quarterback who was dominant all spring and could be that leader, we’d name one, but we haven’t seen that. We have guys that are coming. We saw that tonight underneath the lights.
“Justin played the best tonight. That’s a fact. But the quarterback competition will stay open and we’ll see who plays best in camp.”
Saturday’s glorified scrimmage seemed to affirm that the quarterback competition itself isn’t empty lip service meant to keep two backups from transferring. It also made clear, as Orgeron has hinted all spring, that Jefferson will be one of the primary options for whoever ends up winning said job.
Jefferson capped of a strong spring with a monster showing in the spring game, leading all receivers with five catches for 127 yards thanks in large part to his long catch and run.
The performance didn’t come as a surprise to Orgeron, who has listed the sophomore among LSU’s trio of starting receivers since the first week of spring practices.
“Jefferson can catch the ball,” the coach said. “He’s smooth. He runs routes well and he has a great knack for getting yards after the catch. He’s a good player. That’s what we’ve been seeing all spring. That’s what Jerry (Sullivan) loves about him. He’s a playmaker.”