The passes are rather like the person throwing them.
They may not always be pretty to look at. They may not always be perfectly placed.
But what matters is that in the end they get the job done.
LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee turned in a workman-like effort against Mississippi State Thursday night in Starkville, completing 21 of 27 passes for 213 yards in the Tigers 19-6 win. In his past two starts, he has connected on over eighty percent of his throws. For someone who was once maligned for his accuracy and propensity to throw it to the other team, he seems to be finding the right one more often than not.
Lee was far from perfect, badly overthrowing Reuben Randle on a 4th quarter pass which resulted in his first interception of the season. However, it was also his first pick in over 130 attempts, a statistic which is good for second best in school history when it comes to keeping the ball in the hands of your own team.
The most revealing aspect about this game however was not the statistics or the records. It was the play-calling. Lee received a healthy dose of help from Spencer Ware and the Tigers' ground game which continually pounded and wore out Mississippi State’s defense. But it was not the type of dominating rushing attack (148 yards) which allows a quarterback to simply keep the defense honest by completing a pass every now and again.
Lee threw early and often, and one can tell there is a renewed sense of confidence in him by the coaching staff. On first down from the LSU five yard line—traditionally a running situation for a team with a questionable quarterback—Lee slung a 31 yard strike to Randle from his own end zone which indicated that he is no longer just the caretaker of the football.
He is now the man, and he has come a long way.
After a tumultuous redshirt freshman season in 2008 saw him throw 16 interceptions, Lee was virtually left for dead by a rabid fan base frustrated about LSU’s fall from a national championship to a 3-5 conference record. Assumptions were made. Judgments were passed.
He lacked moxie. He had no poise. He got scared.
Even those who might have forgiven Lee for his youth were quick to embrace true freshman Jordan Jefferson after an impressive bowl game performance to finish the season.
Yet despite the booing, the jeers, and being relegated to a backup role for seemingly the remainder of his career, Lee stayed the course. During a time in college football when players hungry for playing time are quick to transfer to other schools, he never wavered.
And so his senior year almost seems destined.
Had not two-year starter Jefferson been implicated in a Baton Rouge bar fight, Lee may have seen only situational action this year, much like last season when he made crucial throws in pivotal moments against Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama. Unfortunately, Jefferson is learning the hard way that innocent until proven guilty only applies to the courtroom.
So Lee, despite the presence of junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger, was handed the reins to the Tiger offense, and he has not looked back since.
He may not be flashy or put up gaudy numbers. He may not even complete half of his throws in a game. But when LSU breaks the huddle, there is no question who the leader is. He’s right there. Number twelve. And he’s been there for four years waiting for this opportunity.
You can bet that he won’t throw this one away.