In Anthony Jennings, LSU at least have someone competent at the quarterback position, which helped them overcome a 17-point deficit to come away with a 28-24 win over Wisconsin, who might have the best running game in the nation thanks to Melvin Gordon and the offensive line, but also have to deal with the deficiencies of Tanner McEvoy.
McEvoy was the second worst quarterback in the nation when it came to deep throws last season, and there was no change as the two ranked teams clashed to open the season in Houston. He was only 1-of-13 for passes thrown 10 or more yards downfield, intercepted twice. He finished the game with 8-of-24 for 50 yards. Even with a running game that gained 268 yards and reached the end zone three times, that’s just not enough from a quarterback of a team that has plans of winning some big games along the season.
Not that LSU had things going their way. Anthony Jennings completed just 9-of-21 passes, but he did finish with two completions for a touchdown and 239 yards, 116 of those yards coming as Jennings connected with Travin Dural and John Diarse for the scores. The offense needed a lot of time to start clicking, which is surprising considering Wisconsin had eight new starters on the defensive side.
LSU had only 14 plays called for a run in the first half, but more than double that number in the second half. They had seven plays that gained more than 15 yards in the second half, including Kenny Hilliard running for 28 yards to get the winning touchdown with 9:41 left before the defense took care of the rest. Hilliard finished with 110 yards on 18 carries, 87.3% of the Tigers’ output on the ground.
Wisconsin had their way in the running game, especially through Melvin Gordon, one of the two best running backs in the nation along with Todd Gurley. Gordon ran for 140 yards on 16 carries, including one touchdown and one rush for 63 yards. The Badgers got 268 yards on the ground as McEvoy added 40 himself on six carries, but the two costly turnovers from the Junior meant that Wisconsin had just a bit too much of ground to cover up with just their running game working.
LSU keep on beating opponents on opening games, winning their last 46 nonconference games and under Les Miles have the best record in College Football when it comes to fourth quarter comebacks, the only team with an above .500 record in that situation since 2005. Still, with a shaky offense and a defensive line that might struggle against certain teams, setting their hopes and aims at a playoff appearance might be a bit unrealistic.