LSU freshman makes first start, Leonard Fournette says seriousness was lacking as 'everybody was joking and playing' in practice _lowres

LSU head coach Les Miles sings the LSU alma mater with his players after an NCAA college football game against Eastern Michigan in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. LSU won 44-22. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Arden Key didn’t wait long to make his presence felt during No. 9 LSU’s 44-22 win against Eastern Michigan on Saturday night.

On the first play from scrimmage, the freshman defensive end read an option and helped bring down Eagles running back Darius Jackson.

Key made his first career start against the Eagles in place of junior Tashawn Bower, who suffered an ankle injury during the Tigers’ 34-24 win at Syracuse the previous week. He returned to that game and dressed out against EMU but did not play.

Key had already played significant snaps as part of three-man rotation with Bower and junior Lewis Neal. He entered Saturday with nine tackles and one sack.

Key’s classmate, Isaiah Washington, saw his first action of the season after missing the first three games with a hand injury he suffered in preseason camp.

Washington is the 12th true freshman to play for LSU so far.

Mills, Gordon out

As expected, injured seniors Jalen Mills and Dillon Gordon did not dress Saturday night.

Mills, a cornerback who injured his ankle during practice Aug. 19, is a week or so away from returning to action, LSU coach Les Miles said last week.

Mills has recently shed his crutches and walking boot and has begun running and cutting on his injured ankle. Gordon is out of his walking boot as well, which he wore following an Achilles injury he suffered against Auburn on Sept. 19.

Miles said Wednesday the tight end is “day-to-day” and is able to run on a treadmill.

First-timers

Heading into Saturday night, LSU was the only FBS team to not turn the ball over or allow a first-half touchdown.

Eastern Michigan changed that in a matter of 12 seconds. Sophomore running back Shaq Vann scored on a 6-yard rush with 2:48 remaining in the first half, and sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris threw an interception on the third play of the ensuing drive.

Harris was hit as he went to throw, and junior defensive end Luke MacLean snatched the ball out of the air and rumbled down to the Tigers’ 3-yard line to set up another Eagles score.

Purple power

The Tigers donned purple jerseys instead of their usual white ones Saturday night for the first time this season.

LSU wears purple for every nonconference home game that isn’t the season opener. In 1995, then-coach Gerry DiNardo reinstated the tradition of wearing white jerseys, which the Tigers always sport against Southeastern Conference opponents at home.

Mike absent again

Mike VI must have known how outmatched Eastern Michigan was supposed to be.

LSU’s live tiger mascot did not show up at Saturday’s game, marking the second straight home game he refused to attend. He missed the Tigers’ 45-21 win against Auburn two weeks ago.

Mike made his pregame rounds Sept. 5 before the McNeese State game, which was canceled because of lightning. The tiger didn’t make a single home game in 2014.

Lagniappe

The five flags lining the north end zone of Tiger Stadium all flew at half-staff Saturday as part of a federal mandate following the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, on Thursday. ... True freshman tight end Foster Moreau wore No. 84 instead of his usual No. 43. ... The temperature was 71 degrees at kickoff, which is 20 degrees cooler than it was at kickoff against Auburn. ... DT Quentin Thomas saw his first playing time of the season in the second quarter.

Small point spread

LSU's Leonard Fournette comments, "That's on the leaders on the team for not stepping up in practice while everybody was joking and playing," when asked about how serious the players were about taking on EMU.

Ross Dellenger contributed to this report.