TAMPA — Anthony Jennings had played before, but usually just for a snap or two at the end of games that LSU already had in the bag.
Because of that, the drive-and-a-half the freshman led against Arkansas in the absence of the injured Zach Mettenberger on Nov. 29 is the only substantial game video Iowa has of LSU's new starting quarterback.
So in the days preceding today's Outback Bowl matchup with the Tigers, the Hawkeyes dug a little deeper.
"I did watch his high school highlights," linebacker James Morris admitted. "I was a little desperate."
LSU knows Iowa has one of the best defenses in Division I-A. Iowa knows the Tigers have some of the best weapons around at the skill positions.
What the Hawkeyes aren't totally aware of, however, is just how to prepare for perhaps the most important weapon of all.
Watching Jennings' highlights from his days at Georgia's Marietta High School might help the Hawkeyes today, but coach Kirk Ferentz said he doesn't need to look much further than Jennings' winning touchdown drive against Arkansas to know that his team is in for a challenge.
"That's really the only wild card for us is that we don't have much tape on him," Ferentz said. "The job of any quarterback, regardless of his style or his age, is to move the team. He moved them in about as extreme circumstances as you can possibly dream up."
Jennings entered that game against the Razorbacks with less than seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter and LSU trailing 27-21. He had played in seven of the previous 11 games, scoring on a 1-yard sneak against Florida, but he had only two pass completions, 11 rushes and 46 total yards to show for it.
With Mettenberger out for good with a season-ending knee injury, Jennings entered. After a field goal made it 27-24, Jennings drove the Tigers 99 yards for the winning touchdown.
Mettenberger and Jennings are different quarterbacks. Jennings, coach Les Miles said, is more mobile in the pocket than his predecessor. But having a different body under center, Miles insists, isn't going to change the game plan.
"I think if they've watched what we've done this fall, I think they'll be ready for us," Miles said. "There's no mystery at this point."
Iowa defenders might disagree, but now they're doing their best to overcome the challenge of the unknown.
Morris and fellow linebacker Christian Kirksey said comparing Jennings to quarterbacks they've faced in the past has helped them know on what aspects of defending him to focus. Both agree that Jennings is much like Braxton Miller, the Ohio State quarterback who threw for 222 yards and ran for 102 more in the Buckeyes' 24-14 win against the Hawkeyes on Oct. 19.
Miller and Jennings, Kirksey said, both have the ability to hurt defenses with their feet and their arms. But they also know that no two quarterbacks are the same. So until kickoff, it'll continue to be a guessing game.
"We've got a little bit of experience, but this guy is his own player, so we need to prepare for what he brings," Morris said, "and we just don't necessarily know what that is at this time."