TAMPA — It was the first play from scrimmage, the moment the world would see the starting debut of LSU's Anthony Jennings, the true freshman quarterback who had been a mystery to the Iowa defense in its Outback Bowl preparations.
Jennings wound up being rattled all day by the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes defense and struggled at times to move the usually pass-heavy Tigers offense. But in that first moment, seconds after kickoff, running back Jeremy Hill proved that having an inexperienced leader wouldn't get the best of them.
On first and 10 from the Tigers' 23, Hill rushed up the right side for 42 yards, establishing early a run game that fueled LSU to a 21-14 win against Iowa at Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday.
Hill ran for two touchdowns — including a 37-yarder to give LSU a two-score lead with 2:02 remaining — and a career-high 216 yards, third most in Outback Bowl history.
"We hit a couple of things we knew were going to be good early on in the game and pressed them, stayed with them," Tigers coach Les Miles said. "He's one of those backs that, you give him the opportunity to close out a game, he knows what to do."
Iowa (8-5) struggled to move the ball in the first half, gaining 72 yards, and LSU (10-3) went into the break with a 14-0 lead thanks to 2- and 14-yard rushing touchdowns from Jennings and Hill, respectively.
In fact, Iowa's only two scores were on 1- and 4-yard drives, set up by a 71-yard interception return from defensive back John Lowdermilk and a 96-yard kickoff return by Jordan Cotton.
As usual this season, Iowa needed to win with its defense. Hill wasn't about to let that happen.
"I thought that for maybe 80, 85 percent of the runs, we did a good job making it tough, making it sticky," Hawkeyes linebacker James Morris said. "But as running games go, somebody's out of position, we don't have a guy where we need him, and he pops one. That's frustrating."
Hill, the Outback Bowl MVP, accounted for 216 of LSU's 302 yards of offense. Wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, who each came in with 1,100-plus receiving yards, combined for just 56.
Jennings finished with 82 yards on 7-of-19 passing.
With inexperience under center — Jennings came in with just one substantial drive under his belt after replacing an injured Zach Mettenberger — Hill said he knew he needed a big day for his team to succeed. LSU's first 12 plays were rushes, eight by Hill.
The Iowa defense eventually caught on to that strategy, especially after halftime, and held the Tigers to 19 yards rushing in the third quarter.
But as soon as Iowa's offense began gaining momentum, Hill took charge in LSU's final, 92-yard scoring drive — rushing for 87 yards, a decisive score and, most important, an Outback Bowl victory.
"As the game went on, they started adjusting, and it just became a chess match," Hill said. "And I think we won the last one, the last drive. We got a checkmate."