On film, even when replayed over and over, the play that ended LSU starting quarterback Myles Brennan’s 2020 season – but incredibly not at that very moment – isn’t obvious to the naked eye.
The situation: Oct. 10, Game 3 at Missouri, tie game at 7-7, second-and-goal at the Missouri 2-yard line, ball on the short side of the field.
Brennan takes the shotgun snap from center Liam Shanahan and begins looking for an open receiver.
Missouri safety Martez Manuel comes around left end unblocked.
Brennan senses it, takes a few quick steps to his right and throws a touchdown to Terrace Marshall who’s cutting underneath the defense just as Manuel dives, wraps himself around Brennan’s waist and lands on Brennan.
“I remember my right knee got stuck in the ground, that was the first thing that (hit),” said Brennan on Thursday speaking for the first time with media since his injury. “He landed on me with his body and I felt everything tear apart at that point. He stretched my abdomen, like half my body was going toward the ground and the other half was getting hit from the back. I came to find out with the MRI I’d ripped a few muscles and torn a few ligaments.”
After the hit, Brennan got to his feet relatively quickly and walked to the sideline. The clock read 2:45 left in the second quarter.
But 52 offensive snaps later, after he completed 22 more passes in 40 more attempts for 312 more yards and two additional TDs to end a 68-snap day completing 29 of 48 for 430 yards and four TDs in a 45-41 loss, Brennan was done for the afternoon and the final seven regular season games.
“Adrenaline did have a lot to do with it, but I wasn’t going to give up on those guys (his teammates),” Brennan said on why he finished against Mizzou despite the serious injury.
What transpired after Brennan’s final game-winning pass attempt to Marshall, knocked down at the goalline, was a three-month medical journey Brennan termed “crazy.”
“It’s probably the strangest injury I’ve had,” Brennan said. “I saw a lot of doctors. We sent the MRI to (doctors from) NFL teams, professional baseball teams, pro golf coaches, tennis. . .anything with the torquing of the lower abdomen just to see if they had any advice. No one had ever seen an injury like this in this exact spot that I had it.
“My doctor I met with in Baton Rouge said I pretty much had two options. I could let my body heal it on its own and take it literally a day at time to see if my body would heal on its own. And if not he said, `We can do surgery but I’ve never done surgery on this, so we could name the surgery after you if you want.’
“I didn’t feel that comfortable with that. So, I was going to give my body time to heal and if worse comes to worse go the surgical route. It was very frustrating, it needed time because the healing process was very, very, very slow.”
The fact Brennan rehabbed the injury daily didn’t speed the healing process, but it was steady.
“I would heal in increments of five percent at a time,” Brennan said. “Five, 10, 15 (percent), then I’d be able to flick my wrist and throw a ball. It was a very difficult process.”
It was late December and early January between semesters when Brennan started feeling like his old self as he took a break from rehab.
“I’ve been back in the weight room since we got back in January,” Brennan said. “I feel 100 percent. I feel strong. I feel healthy and I’m ready to go.”
In his three starts last year, Brennan attempted fewer passes than freshman QB TJ Finley did (140) in his five starts and freshman Max Johnson (150) in his two starts. He also threw more yards (1,112) than Finley (941) or Johnson (1,069) and had 11 to 3 TD to interceptions ratio compared to Finley’s 5 to 5 and Johnson’s 8 to 1 ratios.
Yet, Brennan, a redshirt senior who is now learning fifth offensive concept under his third offensive coordinator and third passing game coordinator, finds himself again in an open competition for the starting job.
Not only does now-salty sophomores Johnson and Finley return, but there’s also feisty freshman signee Garrett Nussmeier.
“You would have never thought LSU would have as strong a quarterback room as we do now,” Brennan said. “I’m excited to go out there every day and compete with them and make each other better.
“This spring, I’m focused on getting myself better. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out with the team, getting to jell with guys again. It felt really good to be out with a helmet on and a football on Tuesday.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he liked what he saw from Brennan in Tuesday’s first spring practice.
“Myles looks 100 percent to me,” Orgeron said. “I don’t know if he is, but he did everything in the Fourth Quarter (LSU’s winter conditioning program). He ran some bootlegs today, he threw the ball well. He’s not complaining about anything, he hasn’t missed one workout.”
Brennan said new Tigers’ offensive coordinator Jake Peetz has brought energy to the program and has done a good job connecting with players.
“He calls me twice, three times a day, just to check in,” Brennan said. “It’s beyond football, it’s about life and parents and school and this and that, which is very nice. I’ve never had that from a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator.
“The biggest thing he’s done is he wanted to learn our offense rather than him bringing in an offense and making us learn it again. He has made some additions that are going to help us tremendously. We have a lot of veterans who have bought in.”
Brennan said that now he’s back in action, he’s not going to play tentative because of his injury. He was told by his Baton Rouge doctor than once the muscle scars that it has reattached. From there, Brennan can continue to work the strengthen the muscle.
“Injuries happen in football,” Brennan said. “I can’t play scared. If a freak thing happens and that same spot gets injured again, then it was meant to be to get injured again. I just can’t let that affect the way I play.”