BATON ROUGE, La. — Danny Etling and Austin Appleby are better off apart than they ever were together.
“I know we pushed each other to the last second for all the quarterback jobs we had,” Etling said Monday. “We would compete hard against each other. That can be tough in a quarterback room. I think we handled it both pretty effectively and I think we both were able to once we kind of separated from each other both appreciate that fact, that I pushed him and he pushed me and we made each other better quarterbacks.”
In a sense, that mutual respect shared between the two quarterbacks cannibalized the Purdue quarterback room. Both quarterbacks eventually transferred from West Lafayette, Ind. But this weekend, in what surely has to be a first, two former Purdue quarterbacks have the chance to start against one another when Etling and the LSU Tigers take on Appleby and the Florida Gators.
To Etling, the opportunity for this to come to pass is bizarre, but nonetheless exciting.
“That’s a pretty neat thing, I think,” Etling said. “It’s something that I don’t think either one of us thought when we went to Purdue. We definitely didn’t think we were both playing.”
Etling said that he received a text message from Appleby right after he was named the starter at LSU, to which Etling prophetically responded something along the lines of “your time is coming soon.” Later that week, Florida starter Luke Del Rio went down with an injury, pushing the job into Appleby’s hands.
However, Del Rio’s injury wasn’t the most severe, and many indications lead to the idea that he may be back this week, ruining any chance at an in-game Boilermaker reunion Saturday afternoon. Despite this, Etling said he would be happy to seek Appleby out on the field after the game on one condition: His team needs to win the game first.
The first en’gage’ment
Before last Saturday’s 42-7 win over Missouri, LSU wide receiver Russell Gage was a full-time practice player. Other than a few odd reps at the end of games, the junior from Baton Rouge didn’t have much significant in-game experience as a collegian. So he had to prove himself in practice.
“I prepare hard every practice, every week,” Gage said. “I know my number is going to be called. I’m going to go hard for my team every week no matter what. It’s nice to see that the opportunity is finally coming.”
The opportunity came Saturday night when LSU lined up in a four-wide set to start the game, an event that Gage described as even more shocking than the fact that he was one of the four wide receivers. Gage continued to play throughout the game, laying a couple of key blocks down the sidelines on long runs and laying out for a deep ball that Etling overthrew him.
That effort is consistent with how his teammates describe him. Gage is consistently commended for his willingness to sacrifice his body for the ball, something that coaches and teammates alike have noticed.
This was most notable during fall camp, when Gage famously hurdled a fully-upright Jamal Adams.
“It was in a scrimmage on a sweep play. Jamal had outside contain and there was really nowhere to go. So I hurdled him,” Gage said. “[My teammates] were more just in shock. It’s something you don’t plan to do. It just happens.”
Saturday’s game against Florida is scheduled to kick at noon ET from The Swamp. With that time difference, that means it will feel like the Tigers will be playing a game earlier than many players are probably willing to wake up for class.
But Ed Orgeron isn’t concerned about his players being lethargic for an early start time. He has a bit of a reputation for waking people up, after all.
“Well, I kind of have a knack for that,” Orgeron said. “I’m an early-morning guy.”
Orgeron explained that there’s a plan in place. Once the team gets off the bus, there’ll be no time for sleepwalking.
“First of all, it’s a business trip,” Orgeron said. “When we get to the hotel, we’re going to eat up supper, we’re going to meet, we are going to meet on special teams, we going to meet on offense, defense. We have a team meeting, they go to chapel, they go to bed. They [are] going to get up next morning, they have a meeting, they have a clap session, they eat pre-game meal, they get on the bus and get ready to go. That’s how we do things.”