QB Nussmeier, No. 13 LSU ready to launch post-Jayden Daniels era in ReliaQuest Bowl vs Wisconsin

Sun, Dec 31, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)

QB Nussmeier, No. 13 LSU ready to launch post-Jayden Daniels era in ReliaQuest Bowl vs Wisconsin

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - LSU quarterback Garrett Nussmeier is confident he can lead the nation's most prolific offense into the post-Jayden Daniels era.

The patient third-year sophomore will make his first college start, stepping in for the Heisman Trophy winner when the 13th-ranked Tigers (9-3) face Wisconsin (8-5) in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Monday.

Daniels, who threw for 3,812 yards and ran for 1,134 while also accounting for 50 touchdowns, opted out of the SEC-Big Ten matchup at Raymond James Stadium to prepare for the upcoming NFL draft.

"I wouldn't say I'm looking at it as an opportunity to build for next season. I'm more about this game right now," Nussmeier said. "The preparation that we've been putting together for this game. That's my biggest focus."

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Nussmeier, who turns 22 in February, has appeared in parts of 17 games over three seasons with the Tigers. He backed up Daniels for two years after the dual-threat Heisman winner transferred to LSU from Arizona State.

In five games this season, Nussmeier has completed 17 of 33 passes without an interception for 196 yards and one touchdown. Overall, he's 98 of 174 for 1,325 yards and eight TDs vs. six interceptions as a backup.

"Obviously, we feel very good about Garrett Nussmeier as a No. 2, and obviously he got the keys to the car moving forward in '24," LSU coach Brian Kelly said. "The offense, he knows it well. He'll be able to do the things that he needs to do. Run it, throw it, do the things that are necessary to be a championship football team."

Nussmeier's dad, Doug, is the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Chargers. They had a father-son chat last week.

"My job is not to be caught up with it (first start), just to go play football," the Tigers quarterback said. "He stressed to me it's the same game that I've been playing ever since I started playing. I've been playing quarterback my whole life, and nothing has changed. It's football. It's what I love to do."

Still, there's pressure following a Heisman winner.

"Obviously, me and Jayden are very different players. But both of us are trying to improve at all times," Nussmeier said.

Wisconsin safety Hunter Wohler, meanwhile, acknowledged the Badgers don't "know a ton" about the new LSU starter.

"Obviously, Jayden Daniels is one-of-a-kind. ... So not playing against him, it obviously is going make their offense a little less dynamic. But Nussmeier's good," Wohler said. "He's not a bad quarterback by any means. He's a starting quarterback (for) most teams., so he's going to pose challenges."

Kelly noted a talented group of playmakers surrounding Nussmeier are eager to do their part to help the quarterback make a smooth transition.

"He's got a lot of pressure on him. But that's why he's here," the LSU coach said. "He loves the bright lights. He kind of rises to that kind of occasion."

SHORT-HANDED BADGERS

Wisconsin will be without its top offensive star, too. Junior running back Braelon Allen declared for the NFL draft averaging 5.9 yards per carry and rushing for 3,494 yards and 35 TDs over three seasons with the Badgers. Despite injuries, he ran for 984 yards and 12 TDs in 2023.

TIGERS PLAY DEFENSE, TOO

With Daniels leading the way, LSU led the nation in total offense and scoring, averaging 547.8 yards and 46.4 points per game.

The Tigers defense hopes to use the ReliaQuest Bowl to establish a foundation for improvement moving forward. LSU ranked 101st in total defense, allowing 409.2 yards per game. The Tigers were 76th in scoring defense at 27.75.

"We didn't play the best football that we could play," freshman linebacker Whit Weeks said. "So, we've got a chip on our shoulder now. Starting this game, going into next year, we've got to be better than we were this year."

MOTIVATED BADGERS

Wisconsin, coached by Luke Fickell, is appearing in a bowl game for the 22nd consecutive year. The Badgers rebounded from a three-game losing streak to win its final two games of the regular season.

Safety Hunter Wohler said the team is motivated to play well on Monday.

"It's about who cares more when it comes to bowl games. Who wants it more, and who's going to do the stuff throughout the week to be ready for when the ball kicks off," said Wohler, adding it would mean a lot to beat LSU.

"Just what this group has been through. Obviously, a very rocky season. Not exactly the way we planned it," the junior said. "But it would mean a lot, it really would. It's a great way to send the seniors out, and then a great launch pad into the next year."

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