But last week, Mettenberger showed why so many people were high on him entering the season. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior, a transfer from Georgia, completed 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in a 21-17 loss to No. 1 Alabama.
Mettenberger brought LSU back from a 14-3 deficit, but the Crimson Tide pulled it out with a last-minute touchdown. While it was a bitter loss for ninth-ranked LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC), Mettenberger’s performance shined through like a beacon of hope for an offense that has been yearning for better QB play the past few years.
“I think the fans and media needed that kind of game to have confidence in me,” Mettenberger said. “I’m always going to be confident in my ability. I always knew I could play this game. It’s good to have that game under my belt for sure.”
For the season, he’s completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 1,717 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. The Tigers have won at times in spite of Mettenberger, who had completed less than 50 percent of his throws in each of the three games leading up to Alabama.
So what clicked? MSU coach Dan Mullen, whose No. 22 Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) travel to LSU this weekend, knew of Mettenberger’s talent back when the QB starred at Oconee County High School in Georgia. So he’s not surprised at last week’s showing.
“Watching Zach all the way back to the high school days, he was a very talented passer with a big arm,” Mullen said. “What you’re seeing out of him now is he’s getting comfortable within the offensive system. He’s getting comfortable with the speed of the game and being back out there playing in the Southeastern Conference.”
“When he was able to go out there and let her fly, he was pretty efficient,” MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said.
If Mettenberger can keep it up, LSU’s offense could become a real juggernaut. It already has a strong running game that averages 200.7 yards per outing, with a stable of running backs to throw at defenses.
LSU threw a season-high 36 times last week but still ran it 49 times. The Tigers average 43.1 rushes per game.
Mettenberger said LSU took some risks in the passing game because of Alabama’s tendency to blitz. He was sacked three times but stood in and made some tough throws.
“We put a lot on our offensive line’s shoulders to see that and adjust to it,” Mettenberger said, “and they did a relatively good job the whole game, and hopefully we can build off that performance.”