No. 24 LSU Tigers will start QB Danny Etling vs. Arkansas Razorbacks

By Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 8, 2017 at 11:19 AM
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- No. 24 LSU statistically played toe-to-toe with No. 2 Alabama last week but lacked explosive plays at quarterback in a 24-10 road loss, a game in which coach Ed Orgeron lifted senior starter Danny Etling for freshman Myles Brennan in the fourth quarter in an attempt to ignite the offense.

When LSU (6-3, 3-2 SEC) hosts Arkansas (4-5,1-4) in a rare 11 a.m. CT kickoff at Tiger Stadium, Orgeron made it clear that Etling, not Brennan, will be behind center.

LSU has three SEC games remaining -- Arkansas, at Tennessee and Texas A&M -- and sweeping those would mean a 9-3 regular season and 6-2 SEC mark, its best conference record since 2012.

Running the table also would give LSU a shot at its first 10-win season since 2013.

"Danny is our starting quarterback," Orgeron said on Monday, "and Danny's done a good job for us. We're going to finish the season. Myles would have to beat Danny out on a play-by-play basis in practice. He'd have to play better than he would in a game. He hasn't done that yet."

Orgeron dismissed the argument that giving Brennan more playing time down the stretch would pay dividends next year.

"I would not give Myles the starting quarterback job just to get ready for next year," Orgeron said. "We've got a lot of things to play for. We're thinking one game at a time, and we want to have a very good year. For right now, Danny's our quarterback."

Etling committed relatively few mistakes against Alabama -- he threw one interception and completed 12 of 26 passes for 137 yards -- but his undoing was failing to connect on two deep balls to wide receiver D.J. Chark that could have tightened the game.

On the first throw, Etling sailed the ball over Chark's head on the right sidelines when the receiver had two steps on the Alabama cornerback. The second pass was an under-throw that Chark should have been able to catch.

Asked Monday if he considered Orgeron's statements about the quarterback position a vote of confidence, Etling said: "If coach is putting me out there, he has faith in me."

"I think there's still a lot to play for this year," Etling added. "We can still have a pretty successful season and still get a lot of wins, still make a pretty big bowl game and finish high in the SEC rankings. That's something this team can work toward and have a goal to play for."

Orgeron didn't rule out the possibility that Brennan, who has a stronger arm than Etling, could play more down the stretch.

"But he would play more because he is equal or better to Danny -- that's the reason he'd play," Orgeron said. "If Danny's in there, and he's hot and playing well, he's our quarterback. ... We're playing to win."

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has come under intense scrutiny in his fifth season at Fayetteville. He is 29-31 overall and 11-26 in the SEC. After coming off a 39-38 come-from-behind victory over Coastal Carolina, Bielema has not indicated whether 6-foot-7 freshman Cole Kelley or senior Austin Allen will start against LSU.

Kelley is 2-2 as a starter, but he sustained a turf toe injury on Saturday and played through the pain. Kelley has been wearing a medical boot. Allen, the Razorbacks' captain, suffered a right shoulder injury in a 48-22 loss to South Carolina and has not played in the last four weeks.

"Obviously, who we think is going to be the most healthy and give us the best chance at winning is going to get the majority (of practice reps)," offensive coordinator Dan Enos said.

Allen, the Razorbacks' captain, said after Tuesday's practice that Kelley was "a little bit limited (on Monday), but he looked good out there. ... Whatever they decide on Saturday, I'm going to roll with it. I've come a long way in four weeks. Just being able to go out there and throw again is something I didn't know if I was going to be able to do four weeks ago."

LSU is still scrambling with injuries to its offensive line. Both starting tackles -- Toby Weathersby and K.J. Malone -- missed practice earlier in the week. But the Tigers have gotten a big boost in the last two weeks with the return to form of running back Derrius Guice and pass-rushing defensive end Arden Key.

LSU has played the vast majority of its home games at night. This will be just the 12th game played in Tiger Stadium before noon since 1969. LSU is 8-3 in those 11 home games.

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