Louisiana quarterback Anthony Jennings is down to his final two regular season games of college football. Whether they’re the last two games of his career will be in no small part determined by this week’s critical game against Sun Belt-leading Arkansas State.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are 4-6 and need to defeat ASU and then travel to Monroe, La., and defeat the Warhawks in their season finale to achieve six-win bowl-eligibility. The Sun Belt has five bowl game tie-ins, and Louisiana is currently 3-3 and fifth in the conference.
Both victories are attainable for Louisiana. The Red Wolves are 6-4 overall, while ULM is currently 4-6. In both games, the Ragin’ Cajuns will rely heavily on the big-play talent of their 6-2 right-handed quarterback.
“He is a guy that’s been in some big games and made some plays,” head coach Mark Hudspeth told The Times-Picayune earlier this season. “Having experience at quarterback always helps because the moment doesn’t get too big for those guys and they can lock in on what needs to get done. I think that’s a really good value he brings to our offense.”
At times, Jennings has delivered on the big game promise that heralded his arrival when he transferred from LSU. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns in a 28-23 win over South Alabama on Sept. 17 in Lafayette. In that game, he tossed three touchdowns, including 71 and 38 yarders in the third quarter, to help his team separate from USA. Running back Elijah McGuire added 223 yards rushing, including a 68-yard touchdown jaunt.
Two weeks ago, in a key road win over Georgia Southern, Jennings threw for over 200 yards and rushed for 96 more in the 33-26 victory.
“Anthony was really sharp; I thought he threw the deep ball extremely well,” said Hudspeth after the game. “I was really proud of him there.”
Last week, Jennings faced an old SEC foe, Georgia, in Athens and helped his team compile 465 yards of offense by rushing for 93 yards and three touchdowns. His three first-half interceptions, however, were part of the reason that Louisiana fell behind 21-7. The deficit proved too much to overcome in what was ultimately a 35-21 loss.
In 2014 at LSU, his last season of extensive action, he threw for 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions while compiling over 2,100 yards of combined offense. In a memorable 23-17 road victory against Texas A&M, Jennings rushed for 119 yards and hit on a perfect pass to receiver John Diarse that staked the Tigers to their first lead. This season he has 505 rushing yards and 1,841 yards passing. With two games left, he has nine aerial scores against 10 picks.
That modest touchdown-to-interception ratio is what makes the final weeks of this season so critical for the Marietta, Ga., native if he is to move up on the draft boards of potential NFL suitors.
His team needs two productive Saturdays from its veteran leader. Jennings needs two productive Saturdays to help dispel turnover concerns.