BATON ROUGE – LSU returned to practice Monday evening as the 14th-ranked Tigers begin their preparations for the New Year’s Day game against Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
LSU will practice seven times in Baton Rouge before taking a three-day break for Christmas. LSU departs for Tampa on Dec. 26 where the team will have five workouts and a walk-thru before facing Iowa at noon CST on New Year’s Day.
LSU is making its school-record 14th consecutive bowl trip, but it’s playing in the Outback Bowl for just the second time and the first since the 1988 season.
“First practice so we knocked off the cobwebs and ran them a little bit,” LSU coach Les Miles said after the workout. “Everybody was back and excited to practice. I think this will be a very competitive game. Iowa is a very good football.
Monday’s workout was also the first practice where true freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings took the majority of the snaps with the No. 1 offense. Jennings was thrust into the starting role when senior Zach Mettenberger was knocked out of the Arkansas game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Mettenberger will miss the Outback Bowl and Jennings will take over as LSU’s starting quarterback.
“Anthony (Jennings) had a good practice,” Miles said. “One thing about it is he is getting more reps, and he is going to come of age very quickly.”
“The good news is that it’s the post season, and we have had him in place as the second team quarterback all season so he’s gotten practice reps all year. These 12 bowl practices will have the focus on him and we expect him to respond and play well.”
Jennings came of age quickly against Arkansas as he directed the Tigers on a game-winning 99-yard scoring drive to beat the Razorbacks 31-27 in the season-finale. Jennings connected with Travin Dural on a 49-yard TD pass with just over a minute left to complete the comeback win.
Against Iowa, the Tigers will face a Hawkeye team that has won three straight and goes into the game with an 8-4 record. Three of Iowa’s losses have come to teams with just one loss as they fell to Northern Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State. Iowa’s other loss came to Wisconsin.
Miles said that the Tigers should have little trouble getting motivated to play the Big Ten opponent. The two teams met in Orlando in the 2005 Capital One Bowl where the Hawkeyes posted a 30-25 last-second victory in the only other game between LSU and Iowa.
“If they don’t get fired up about playing in a quality bowl game against an opponent like Iowa, there is something wrong with them,” Miles said “They aren’t getting that from me. They have a big running back that runs hard. They have an offensive line that is very disciplined and will block you. We will have to fight. They are a good football team. Honestly, this is exactly what we need- to end the season with a challenge.
“I promise you these Tigers are going to have to fight for victory, and it is going to be a wonderful competitive contest. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want to go. I think it is a great place to play.”
Tickets for the LSU-Iowa game are still on sale through the LSU Ticket Office or over the internet at http://www.lsutix.net/.