Miles says situation will dictate who plays
Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson will continue to share LSU’s quarterback position, though it’s unclear whether their roles will change in the wake of the Tigers’ 9-6 overtime victory against Alabama on Saturday.
Lee has started every game for the top-ranked Tigers, and he led the Southeastern Conference in passing efficiency before last week’s game. He dropped into second place — one-tenth of a rating point behind Georgia’s Aaron Murray — after throwing two interceptions and completing just 3-of-7 for 24 yards against the Crimson Tide.
Those interceptions and Jefferson’s ability to run contributed to coach Les Miles’ decision to hand over the offense to Jefferson, who had spelled Lee in the previous four games, after Lee’s second interception came midway through the third quarter. Jefferson didn’t fare a whole lot better passing — 6-of-10 for 67 yards — but he didn’t turn the ball over, and he gave the offense a lift by running 11 times for 43 yards.
“We have two quarterbacks that have contributed significantly to this point in the season. I think that will continue,” Miles said Monday at his weekly news conference. “I think we will need two and will go forward without making any real determinations at this point.
“It is not significant to me to name anyone anything. It is always about, in this series of the game, which quarterback gives us the opportunity at victory. I expect that both quarterbacks will play (against Western Kentucky on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium), and it is not important to me to name anyone (the starter) on Monday.”
Jefferson was expected to be the starter until he was arrested and suspended eight days before the season opener. Lee stepped in and led the Tigers as they ascended to the No. 1 position in the country. When Jefferson was reinstated Sept. 28, Miles immediately started working him into games but regularly said Lee was still the starter, something he did not say after the game Saturday or during the news conference Monday.
Lee’s biggest attribute had been that he had thrown just one interception before last week, and he was a primary reason the Tigers had gone five games without any turnovers. Lee now has three interceptions among LSU’s five turnovers this season.
“We cannot turn it over, and we understand that,” Miles said. “It has not been a characteristic of our offense and will not be.”
The two interceptions against the Crimson Tide are the only significant blemishes on Lee’s otherwise stellar season.
“He’s got 13 touchdowns and three picks,” guard Will Blackwell said. “Show me a pro quarterback who has a better ratio than that besides maybe Aaron Rodgers (of the Green Bay Packers). Jarrett’s done a great job all season, and we don’t really care who’s back there. We’re going to block the same and continue to win with both of them.”
Neither quarterback was available for interviews Monday.
“They both have their different talents in different situations,” Blackwell said. “That game didn’t necessarily call for Jarrett to come in and throw as many passes as we would have liked. We needed to run the ball to the outside a little more. We felt like that was how we were going to gain momentum in the game, and obviously Jordan’s a little better at running the ball.”
On LSU’s first possession of the game, the Tigers got two first downs, the second coming when Jefferson replaced Lee and sneaked 2 yards on third-and-1. The second possession ended with Lee throwing an interception after dropping a snap in shotgun formation.
Jefferson started the third series, and LSU got one first down before punting. On the fourth series, Jefferson guided the Tigers to five first downs and a field goal by Drew Alleman on the last play of the first half, tying the score at 3-3. The biggest play on that drive was Jefferson’s 34-yard completion to Russell Shepard, LSU’s biggest gainer of the game.
Jefferson started the second half, and LSU got one first down on its first possession before punting. Lee started the next possession, and on his first play he threw his second interception, which set up a Crimson Tide field goal for a 6-3 lead.
That was the end of the night for Lee. The Tigers got three first downs on their next possession before punting. They didn’t get any first downs on the next possession, but Alleman tied the score at 6-6 thanks to a Morris Claiborne interception that gave LSU the ball at the Bama 15 to start the possession.
The Tigers went three-and-out on the next possession. On their final possession of regulation, Jefferson scrambled 18 yards for the second of two first downs on the possession, which ended with a punt.
After the Tide failed to score on the first possession of overtime, the Tigers got one first down before Alleman kicked the game-winner.
“I think both of them do a great job,” running back Michael Ford said. “I don’t think one does better than the other. It just happened that what we did for that game worked for Jordan the best. He came out on top.”
It appears the division of snaps will continue to evolve on a weekly basis.
“Jarrett led us great on the first eight games of the season,” tackle Alex Hurst said. “Our pass efficiency is up. But when you play this game long enough at quarterback, you’re going to throw a pick every now and then. Nobody’s perfect in this game. But I’m sure Jarrett wants to bounce back from it, and hopefully this week he can go out and redeem himself.”