'Calm,' 'relaxed' TJ Finley earns win in first start for LSU

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TJ Finley’s teammates said the true freshman was very calm ahead of the first start of LSU career.

They didn’t notice much change in his demeanor as Saturday night progressed, and after the 6-foot-6, 242-pound threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns as he whelped guide LSU to a 52-24 win against South Carolina.

“For a freshman, coming in and just balling like that… that was unbelievable,” said LSU running back John Emery Jr. “For him to just stay composed, I have a lot of words for that, but it was sensational for him to come in and just be so calm.”

Finley said he was very relaxed heading into Saturday night’s game and credited his coaches for helping him feel prepared for Saturday’s matchup.

“Coach Steve Ensminger was amazing in prepping me for this game,” Finley said. “A lot of preparation went into this game. Coach Russ Callaway did an amazing job of preparing me for the Blitzs, the pressures and things of that nature.

“So I would say I didn’t have many pregame jitters but if I did it was very quick.”

This time last year Finley was suiting up for Ponchatoula high school, and said he never though about when his first start would come for LSU but said he prepared each week as though he would be the starter.

“I just focused on preparing every week like I was going to be the starter competing with Myles in practice to make him better. He made me better,” Finley said. “Like I said, every quarterback in the quarterback room as the ability to go in the game and win the game.”

Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron said he was really proud of Finley.

“Strong arm, very confident,” Orgeron said. “I thought Steve had a game plan that he knew that TJ could operate in he never blinked. TJ showed us a lot of confidence throughout camp. He lost some weight. I thought he did a tremendous job of leading the team today and you see he has a tremendous arm, he can scramble, made some plays on the run and made some good decisions.”

Orgeron said Finley moved well and the quarterback rushed for 24 yards and touchdown and credited the weight loss for part of it. Finley said he lost roughly 20 pounds since arriving at LSU and said his weight loss was a key part of his success.

“I was huge,” Finley said with a laugh. “And a lot of the guys messed with me and said I would moved to D-tackle. So I kind of took that to heart so when quarantine hit and when COVID hit I took it upon myself trim down in weight and it’s paying off well.”