LSU Vanderbilt Football

LSU quarterback Myles Brennan looks for a receiver in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Myles Brennan’s improvement became obvious late in the third quarter Saturday night against Vanderbilt. LSU ran a flea flicker, and as Brennan grabbed the toss back to him, he subtly moved to his right, extending the play a split second.

Brennan unfurled a 29-yard arc as a defender sprinted toward him. He took a hit the moment he released the pass, but the ball landed in the arms of wide receiver Jontre Kirklin along the back line of the end zone.

Brennan made similar plays throughout LSU’s 41-7 win inside Vanderbilt Stadium. He released decisive throws and climbed in the pocket, clearly improving the two areas coach Ed Orgeron wanted Brennan to work on after LSU’s season-opening loss to Mississippi State.

“I thought Myles made some excellent plays,” Orgeron said. “He missed some plays, but he did very well.”

Debate had swirled around Brennan throughout the week before No. 20 LSU played Vanderbilt. Brennan broke LSU records for completions (27), attempts (46) and yards passing (345) by a first-time starter in his debut, but he sprinted outside the pocket when he faced heavy pressure and second-guessed decisions when defenders dropped into short throwing lanes. He struggled to spark LSU’s offense in the upset loss.

After the game, Orgeron said Brennan needed to make quicker decisions and improve his pocket presence. He wanted Brennan to climb through pressure like Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Brennan returned to LSU’s facility last Monday determined to improve, teammates said. He drilled daily with offensive analyst Russ Callaway on stepping up in the pocket, feeling the rush and delivering a catchable pass. His development was evident against Vanderbilt.

Brennan stepped into his throws Saturday night, completing 23 of 37 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns, a stat line that might have looked more impressive if not for several dropped passes.

Brennan didn’t play a perfect game. In the second quarter, he sailed a pass behind his intended target. Vanderbilt picked off the throw, setting up the Commodores’ only touchdown. Brennan also missed a few throws, including one to Kirklin in the end zone early in the third quarter. LSU settled for a field goal on the drive.

“Obviously, that interception was not a good decision,” Orgeron said. “There was two or three times he could’ve made better decisions, but he threw some good balls.”

Brennan responded on LSU’s next possession after the interception. With LSU on its own 49-yard line, Brennan faked a handoff to running back John Emery. He dropped three steps as the play developed.

Vanderbilt created pressure on Brennan’s blind side. An outside linebacker sprinted around Emery, but as he reached Brenan’s feet, the quarterback stepped into a throw, whipping a pass 22 yards downfield. The ball smacked into the hands of wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., who ran past four defenders for a 51-yard score.

“Myles delivered,” Orgeron said.

Despite the handful of mistakes, Brennan’s improvement, combined with an effective running game, kept LSU’s offense on track throughout. He completed passes to 11 receivers. He stepped up in the pocket instead of scrambling to his right. He delivered sharp passes over the middle of the field. He was patient.

“It wasn’t perfect by any means,” Brennan said. “We’re going to continue to get better. But I definitely saw improvement.”

Email Wilson Alexander at walexander@theadvocate.com