There’s an old football adage that says, “if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.”
In Saturday night’s 33-29 win over Florida, LSU found that to be far from the truth.
Despite disgruntled fans that called for The Jarrett Lee Show from start-to-finish, the recently-ice cold Jordan Jefferson started the game under center. Just as it was against the Volunteers the week prior, Lee stepped in for the third series and the pair moved on to share snaps from that point forward.
There were high and low moments for both, though the latter came few and far between – a far cry from the dismal passing performances the Tigers had mustered in weeks prior.
Jefferson’s 26-yard strike to tight end Deangelo Peterson helped LSU jump out to a 3-0 lead on their opening possession, but a second-drive interception - for the second week in a row - set the Gators up 17 yards from the goal line after a 47-yard return from linebacker Jelani Jenkins. Five plays later, the ballgame had a new leader.
Lee’s opening drive also finished in points - though they came from the legs of Jefferson.
Lee opened 3-of-3 passing for 19 yards, and a handful of rushes from Stevan Ridley helped move the ball inside the Florida redzone for the first time. Faced with a 4th-and-1 from the three-yard line, Miles called Jefferson off the bench and back into action.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder drove his way past the line of scrimmage and moved the chains. When Ridley couldn’t get into the endzone on first down, Jefferson took a busted, second-down play up the middle for the 10-7 lead.
It wasn’t Denard Robinson-like athleticism, but Jefferson’s legs were proving to be enough to balance LSU out at quarterback. Coupled with Lee’s ability to strike at any moment (see the 38-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Toliver on the second play of Lee’s second drive), the offense was keeping the Florida defense on their heels.
Jefferson took the reigns on four of the first-half drives compared to Lee’s two, and each recorded a touchdown. Jefferson also led the team on two field goal drives, the second coming on a four-play effort that saw Jefferson pick up 23 yards with his feet just before the half.
When the Tigers got back to the red zone in the third quarter, offensive coordinator Gary Crowton again put the ball into the hands of Jefferson – despite the fact that Lee and running back Stevan Ridley had gotten the offense down inside the 10-yard line.
Once more, the call paid off.
Jefferson faked the halfback dive and kept the ball up the middle for the touchdown – a score that gave LSU a 26-14 lead just seconds into the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion that followed failed, but the damage had been done.
Unfortunately, the cushion didn’t hold for long.
Andre Debose took the ensuing kick back 88 yards for a Florida touchdown, and the Gators took a seven-point chomp into LSU’s 12-point lead.
When Florida scored again to take the 29-26 lead, the Tigers were left 62 yards from the goalline with 3:21 on the clock.
Just like last week, the two-minute drill belonged to Lee.
On 2nd-and-11, Lee found Toliver for an 18-yard pickup. After a pair of runs by Richard Murphy prefaced a two-yard loss by Ridley, the Tigers sent out the field goal unit. When the play clock winded down too quickly for comfort, LSU called their final timeout.
Not one to sit on an opportunity late in the game, Miles changed the call to a fake. Holder Derek Helton tossed the ball over his right shoulder to Jasper, who caught the throw off the hop and ran five yards for the first down.
Florida was deflated – and Lee wasn’t done.
Two plays later Lee found Toliver again, this time for a 28-yard pickup that moved the ball to the three-yard line. Without a timeout, Lee hurried the offense up to the new line of scrimmage and spiked the ball with 15 seconds left.
Giving the ball to Ridley – the SEC’s leading rusher headed into the night – or Jefferson – who had already scored two touchdowns on the ground – would have been the ideal call, but coming up short of the goalline and unable to stop the clock could spell the end of the game.
So Crowton put the ball back into the hot hand at quarterback, and Lee put it back into the hot hand at receiver.
On second down Lee tossed a fade to Toliver in the left corner of the endzone, but cornerback Jeremy Brown was draped all over the Tiger receiver. On third down, Lee went right back at Brown – and this time Toliver grabbed the ball and put one foot down.
The replay was sent to the booth but the call came back the same as the fake field goal. LSU – in enemy territory and with their backs against the wall – had come away with a big play from their quarterback to take the 33-29 decision.
The only result that matters is the win, but the stat line – and how it all played out - is in the least encouraging.
Jefferson finished 7-of-12 passing for 100 yards and an interception, the first time the junior has eclipsed the century mark since week one. On the ground, Jefferson was second to only Ridley with 42 yards on 11 carries, and his two touchdowns led all rushers. In his second extended appearance on the season, Lee finished 9-of-11 passing for 124 yards and two touchdowns, including the winning score.
Jefferson/Lee might not have been perfect, but they were damn strong – and they bring LSU home from The Swamp with another check in the win column.