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Where Does LSU Football Go With Quarterback Decision?

Big week of practice ahead for Max Johnson, TJ Finley

With No. 1 Alabama coming to town, LSU faces its biggest question mark of the season at the quarterback position. Since Myles Brennan went down with an injury against Missouri on Oct. 10, the quarterback room hasn't been more up in the air than it is this week with the Crimson Tide visiting Death Valley.

In large part the decision that coach Ed Orgeron must now make is predicated on what transpired Saturday in College Station. Freshman TJ Finley earned his fourth start of the season and after two games of solid production and one dud against Auburn, which version of the Ponchatoula native showed up against the Aggies would be extremely telling. 

While the protection was horrendous and the running backs couldn't find any space to operate, Finley was still way off the mark against Texas A&M, completing 9-of-25 passes for 118 yards and two interceptions in the 20-7 loss. After three straight drives that went for a total of 10 plays and 40 yards including two three-and-outs, Orgeron made the switch to Max Johnson for two series. 

The reasoning was to catch A&M off guard with Johnson's mobility but that plan didn't work either. Following an egregious pick six in the third quarter that essentially ended the game, Finley was benched for Johnson, who was able to move the ball late in the fourth quarter. 

Finley's interception was the final straw as Johnson came in to finish the game, tossing for 118 yards and leading LSU on its only scoring drive of the game, an 81-yard drive capped off by a touchdown to Terrace Marshall.

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"I just told him to protect the football," Orgeron told Finley after the interception. "Don't throw the ball away like that. It was a freshman mistake but I wanted him to learn that's not acceptable and just take the sack. Don't the football away."

"Inconsistent, very inconsistent. I thought the offense was inconsistent all day. It's not all of the quarterbacks fault, he was running for his life all day, both of them were."

The back-and-forth nature of this game at the quarterback position leads to believe that after six weeks of no Brennan behind center, LSU has no clue of which quarterback will step up on any given Saturday. Finley's proven he can win games over a fourth quarter stretch but mistakes and inconsistency have kept him from taking over the starting job.

Which is why this is likely the biggest week of practice for Johnson this season. With that final drive coupled with Finley's inconsistency, there's a window for Johnson to prove he can be the guy for the Tigers against the No. 1 team in the country. However, outside of that one touchdown drive, the offense didn't run very smoothly with Johnson at quarterback either as the Tigers combined for seven three-and-outs throughout the evening. 

His mobility might be an increased reason to throw him out against the Crimson Tide first but as we saw on Saturday, there were way too many times when he was flushed out of the pocket and dropped for a minimal gain or a loss. Johnson seemed to find a rhythm with Marshall throughout the game but with Marshall no longer with the team, finding that chemistry with a few other players all of the sudden becomes a major goal for both quarterbacks.

It'll be an important week of practice for both young freshmen quarterbacks, who are both deserving of first-team reps this week and should be in for a highly competitive few days on the field.