HOUSTON — LSU fans waited seven months for the events that unfolded Saturday night.
Since February, the hype surrounding incoming freshman running back Leonard Fournette created an aura around Baton Rouge. It was one of great expectations and wild comparisons.
Meanwhile, all of Tiger Nation watched and waited for the moment when No. 7 would touch the football for the first time in his collegiate career.
After the pregame coin flip, that moment came in a matter of seconds.
Fournette became the first Tiger to touch the football in 2014, fielding the opening kickoff in front of veteran Terrence Magee and returning it 13 yards to the LSU 15-yard line.
The New Orleans native was solid in the return game, finishing the game with five returns for an average of 23.4 yards per run-back.
Fournette wasn’t as impressive in the backfield, though, where he had nine carries for 10 yards.
That being said, a number of other underclassmen made their own marks for four quarters.
Redshirt freshman receiver John Diarse made the greatest impact, reminding fans of former LSU wideout Jarvis Landry on numerous occasions. On third-and-7 at the Wisconsin 45-yard line in the third quarter, sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings fired to Diarse for the receiver’s first career reception and a first down gain.
One quarter later, Jennings found Diarse again. This time, the Monroe native snagged a pass on third-and-21, broke three tackles and sprinted 36 yards for a score that brought LSU within one possession.
“I saw him coming out of his shell,” sophomore receiver Travin Dural said. “We all knew he was a great player, it just took time for him to come out. He got a chance, and he made a play like we knew he could.”
Freshman wide receiver Trey Quinn also was on the field starting from the Tigers’ first possession and found himself at the line of scrimmage on every offensive play.
Quinn’s dream was finally realized with roughly 7:30 remaining on the clock in the second quarter. On a pass fired behind Quinn, the Lake Charles native reached back with one hand, cradled the pass and rumbled forward for an 11-yard gain.
Quinn even converted a two-point conversion after Diarse’s score.
The Tigers converted with a simple pitch and catch from Jennings to a wide-open Quinn.
“He brings a lot to this offense, and he has so much that he’s going to show and prove this season,” Dural said. “This game, he caught a couple passes, but that didn’t nearly show what he can do.”
Quinn also received a handoff earlier on an end-around from fellow freshman Brandon Harris, who entered the game on LSU’s eighth drive after Jennings’ early struggles.
Harris struggled in his Tigers’ debut, getting sacked twice and failing to throw a pass in his lone first-half series.
It was his only opportunity of the game as Jennings returned to take the reins.
Defensively, freshman safety Jamal Adams saw limited time, lining up at strong safety next to junior Jalen Mills.
Freshman defensive tackle Davon Godchaux also saw action, lining up next to sophomore Christian LaCouture early and often. He recorded his first career tackle in the fourth quarter.
“He’s so physical, and he provides great depth for the defensive line,” senior linebacker D.J. Welter said. “That’s huge for a freshman to step in this early in the season. He was so poised.”
Freshman place-kicker Cameron Gamble also contributed, making his first appearance on kickoffs in the second half.
Gamble finished with five kickoffs, three of which were touchbacks.