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"Bring in Danny": LSU defeats Jacksonville State, 34-13, with Danny Etling under center

"We figured we'd bring in Danny": LSU defeats Jacksonville State, 34-13, after calling up redshirt junior backup quarterback Danny Etling in the first quarter.

Six offensive plays in, boos rippled through Tiger Stadium.

Starting quarterback Brandon Harris led LSU to two-straight three-and-out drives.

LSU fans had enough. LSU coach Les Miles did too.

"Went a couple series and felt like Brandon [Harris] wasn't comfortable," the coach said. "So we figured we'd bring in Danny [Etling]. He was certainly productive right away, so we decided to let him stay."

In came Danny Etling — a 6-foot transfer gunslinger from Purdue with a calming presence in the pocket.

Five passes later: a touchdown.

"That was a pretty cool feeling," Etling said. "It was pretty nice, especially because we were down at the time. It was nice to put ourselves in a position to succeed.”

On his first drive in Tiger Stadium, Etling — a redshirt junior — completed three passes for 65 yards. He finished with six completions on 14 attempts and one interception.

But most importantly from Etling was a 46-yard touch pass to backup tight end Desean Smith. Smith, a senior, trotted into the end zone. Etling followed.

Etling galloped to celebrate. After all, it was his first touchdown pass in 721 days when Purdue defeated Southern Illinois, 35-13, on Sept. 20, 2014.

The journey from Purdue to LSU wasn't the smoothest for Etling, nor is this — his first appearance as a Tiger — what he envisioned when he was recruited to transfer to LSU.

Etling was replaced as the starting quarterback in 2014 at Purdue. He said he knew what Brandon Harris felt Saturday night, as raining cheers exploded throughout Tiger Stadium upon his debut.

Etling didn't know why exactly he lost the starting job as a Boilermaker. Maybe injuries, he reclaimed. Maybe he simply wasn't ready for collegiate football, he added.

Regardless, he sympathized with Harris after Saturday's win.

"I emphasize a lot with him," he said. "It’s not a fun position. It’s terrible. It’s something maybe only quarterbacks can understand. Something I definitely understand and I really wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. We’re definitely going to need him this season to keep improving.”

Etling, stoically, said he's come a long way since his time at Purdue, where he called himself "a young kid."

He's had to grow up a lot, he said.

Etling: “Football. It’ll bring you to your knees sometimes. It’ll be sad, it’ll knock you down. If you don’t love the game, you can’t really bounce back. I was a young kid at Purdue. I’ve grown up a lot this year. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. It’s never fun. This position, it’s one of criticism, it’s one that will bring a lot of attention as well. Obviously, take it with a grain of salt and keep rolling."

Etling hadn't competed a collegiate pass since 2014, either. Saturday's near 50-yard scoring play was the 17th career touchdown pass for Etling, but his first as a Tiger.

He commanded the offensive huddle, starting tailback Derrius Guice said.

"Danny was great in the huddle," Guice said. "He got the signals, calls from [offensive coordinator] Cam [Cameron] and we executed it."

Leonard Fournette, the feature tailback behind Brandon Harris, was sidelined Saturday for a lingering leg injury he re-aggravated against Wisconsin. Fournette did not dress against Jacksonville State and was sidelined in street clothes.

Derrius Guice, a suitable, physical backup, found out he was starting right before the game, he said. The Catholic High, high-energy alumnus replaced the potential Heisman candidate with a career-high 19 carries, 155 yards  — six shy of another career high — and one touchdown.

"[Leonard] told me to not be nervous," Guice said. He said, 'you know the plays, the blocking scheme.' Do what you do and don't be nervous."

Fournette's status for next week against matchup Mississippi State remains unclear, but Miles remains optimistic Fournette will be able to return.

"We should certainly see him back pretty quick," he said.

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