When he saw his former quarterback Anthony Jennings pressed into service late in the fourth quarter with the ball on LSU’s 1-yard line, he said he got nervous.
A few plays later, Burton was reminded of the special player who threw for 6,103 yards and 59 touchdowns in his three years as Marietta’s starter.
Jennings led a 99-yard, game-winning touchdown drive. He capped it with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural to give LSU the lead with 1:13 to play. The reason Jennings was in the game was because starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on the previous drive.
“When the (Arkansas) punt was down on the 1-yard line, I thought the odds were stacked against Anthony and LSU,” Burton said, “but he stayed poised.”
Now, Jennings, who was expected to become the Tigers’ starting quarterback next fall, will make his first collegiate start today against Iowa in the Outback Bowl at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium.
The 6-foot-2, 211-pounder was named SEC Freshman of the Week as a result of his game-winning drive against the Razorbacks. He completed 4-of-7 passes for 76 yards and rushed three times for 26 yards, including a 21-yard scamper that set up his long touchdown pass to Dural.
The Jennings era at LSU is set to begin and he’s had more than a month to prepare for it.
“He’s obviously made a great first impression (against Arkansas) and having three weeks to prepare for tour first start as good of situation as anything,” said Burton, who is making the trip to Tampa to watch his former quarterback play. “He really likes to work at it. He does all that is required and much more. I’m sure that he will play well and in 2014, you can count on him to lead the football team.”
A dual-threat quarterback, Jennings chose LSU prior to his senior season in 2012 over 40 schools that include Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Oregon, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Mississippi and Mississippi State.
His father, Will Jennings, was a defensive line for Georgia in the early 1990s.
Jennings, competed for the starting quarterback job right away and ended up as the top backup behind Mettenberger. After graduating early last December, Jennings wasted no time getting to campus. After going through spring practice, he won the Newcomer Most Improved Award after throwing for 98 yards and running for 26 in the LSU spring game. With limited playing time during the regular season going into the Arkansas game, Jenningsm who had been utilized as a short-yardage runner, had just 23 passing yards and 23 rushing yards.
“I really felt like he made a great decision,” Burton said. “Being a No. 2 quarterback against SEC defenses gives you a distinct possibility to be a No. 1 because of the injuries that occur.”
Although Jennings can throw the ball and run with it, Burton describes Jennings as a quarterback who throws the ball first, which should bode well in his future with LSU.