LSU Quarterback Zach Mettenberger Talks Tiger Football
At the time it felt like everything was lost. Major goals put forth prior to the 2012 season were unattainable. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger walked off the divot-filled turf inside Tiger Stadium for the first time after a loss. But it wasn't just any loss. It was one in which the Georgia native had his best game to date in purple and gold but watched his defense stocked with future NFL talent give up a 72-yard touchdown drive in just 43 seconds late in the forth quarter. LSU lost 21-17. Tiger Stadium was rocking, and Mettenberger gave the largest crowd ever to watch a game in the venue their money's worth. "I think we feel like we won the game for sure but just not on the scoreboard," Mettenberger said.
It was the coming out party for a guy who entered the season as the quarterback Tiger fans hoped could not only get LSU back to a national title, but they hoped he'd have the tools needed to win it. Those dreams were all but shattered. But there were plenty of bright rays of hope under the then-dark Baton Rouge sky. The former Georgia Bulldog and JuCo signal caller flourished under the bright lights against the nation's top defense. He threw for 298 yards, 14 of those came on beautifully thrown fade route to Jarvis Landry for his lone touchdown toss. It wasn't enough.
After 10 weeks of football, LSU sat at 7-2. Alabama sat in the drivers seat to represent the SEC West in the conference championship game and a clear path to the BCS National title game. Those things Alabama controlled, LSU envied and would need a miracle to get back. It would have been easy to pack up the bags and mail it in right?
"We still have a shot to be a 10-2 team, and that's a lot better than a 7-5 team," Mettenberger said just days following the loss to the Crimson Tide. Though non-BCS bowl games shouldn't be taken for granted, Mettenberger's team and their fans had Miami on their mind since the late hours of Jan. 9, 2012. There was still plenty to play for. "I'd be very proud to go to a BCS bowl or something like that rather than the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl," Mettenberger joked. Allowing the season to turn into a downward spiral was not an option.
For Mettenberger, the Alabama performance was something to grow on. For the first time, all season, the offense clicked on all cylinders. Many feared the strong-armed, long-haired 21-year-old had the talent to spend just one year at LSU and bolt for the NFL. Although the glimpse of professional talent was there throughout the season, the growing pains were just as evident. He needed more time.
The leap from running an offense at Butler Community College and one in the Southeastern Conference was a big one. Through his first six games as the starting quarterback at LSU, the "Mettsiah" had thrown just six touchdowns. But the more glaring stat was turnovers. Though the Tigers went 6-1 during the opening stretch, Mettenberger threw four interceptions and had four fumbles. That issue had some fans calling for a change behind center. Things sure changed in the next three-game stretch, and it was against three of the top teams in the SEC. Against Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State, Mettenberger didn't turn the ball over once and tossed four touchdown passes. "With experience, you get more comfortable back there and it's slowing down and it seems to be easier," Mettenberger said following the Nov. 10 Mississippi State win.
Call them growing pains if you will. But in today's society it's all about instant gratification. Sometimes that's asking too much. But over the course of time, LSU fans may get what they want. For now it will be about finishing strong. "We still have a lot to prove and a lot to play for," said Mettenberger. From his early season struggles to being dismissed from the Georgia program, Mettenberger knows all about adversity. One day he hopes his hard work and determination will pay off. The reward many hope to see is him bringing a championship to Baton Rouge.
Should Mettenberger shock the Tiger nation and try his chances professionally, Les Miles would have to turn to the next guy in line. That's something he wouldn't do even through Zach's toughest times early on. "We like Zach, he's our guy," Miles said following one of Mettenberger's least impressive games. LSU fans should hope for one more year — "Mett" will be their guy.