BATON ROUGE — T.J. Finley made the most of his opportunity.
With starter Myles Brennan sidelined with an injury, the LSU true freshman was called upon to start at quarterback for the Tigers. Finley didn’t disappoint as the former Ponchatoula High star scored three total touchdowns as he led LSU to a 52-24 victory over visiting South Carolina on Saturday night.
With the win, LSU improves to 2-2 on the season.
How It Happened:
LSU opened up the game with a 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive as the Tigers were able to take 7:26 off the clock. The drive featured only one play for more than 10 yards — a 14-yard run by John Emery Jr. — and was capped with a one-yard touchdown run by Finley. The extra point was good.
South Carolina needed less than a minute to tie the game.
The Gamecocks started off the drive with a 36-yard pass from Collin Hill to Shi Smith. After a four-yard run by Smith, Kevin Harris took a handoff and scored a 45-yard touchdown. The extra point was good.
LSU then scored on its second possession as it put together a 10-play, 66-yard drive that took 4:35 off the clock. The drive would stall and the Tigers had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Cade York.
After a three-and-out by South Carolina, LSU scored on its third possession.
Finley found was stellar as he completed 8-of-8 passes for 64 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown to Terrace Marshall Jr. Early in the second quarter, LSU held a 17-7 lead.
South Carolina responded with Hill completing a pass to his wide open tight end Keveon Mullins for 44 yards. LSU’s defense though sacked Hill on the next two plays and the Gamecocks had to settle for a 54-yard field goal attempt which was short.
South Carolina’s defense would give the Gamecocks the ball right back.
Israel Mukuma picked off Finley and returned it 56 yards to the LSU 34-yard line. LSU’s defense held and South Carolina had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Parker White to cut the lead to 17-10.
LSU would answer with an offensive and defensive touchdown.
Finley would first find Marshall Jr. in the middle of the field and the Tigers’ leading receiver would break a few tackles on his way to scoring a 51-yard touchdown. Then LSU’s defense scored as Eli Ricks picked off Hill and returned it back for a 45-yard touchdown.
LSU held a comfortable 31-10 lead with less than three minutes before half and would keep that scored at the break after South Carolina missed a 34-yard field goal.
South Carolina opened up the second half with a nine-play, 74-yard drive highlighted by a 49-run by Harris. The drive was capped with a one-yard touchdown run by Harris.
LSU though would answer every time. LSU’s Trey Palmer muffed the ensuing kickoff but picked it up off the turf for a 93-yard return for a touchdown. The Tigers would then add a four-yard touchdown run by Tyrion Davis-Price and a three-yard touchdown run by Emery Jr.
Big Number: 277
Entering Saturday’s game, LSU was averaging 96.7 rushing yards per game which was ranked 73rd in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Tigers rolled up 277 yards on 53 carries against South Carolina. Davis-Price led the the way for the Tigers with 135 yards on 22 carries while while Emery Jr. added 88 on 18 carries.
Players of the Game: T.J. Finley & Trey Palmer
The true freshman quarterback completed 17-of-21 passes for 265 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Finley also had 24 rushing yards on eight carries with a one-yard touchdown. Palmer’s 95-yard kickoff return was the first kickoff return touchdown by LSU in Tiger Stadium since 1981 when Eric Martin accomplished the feat against Kentucky.
Up Next: LSU (2-2) returns to action on Saturday when it plays at Auburn. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.