LSU vs. Georgia: Grading Zach Mettenberger's Return to Athens
An LSU quarterback has never looked as good in defeat as Zach Mettenberger did in a 44-41 loss to Georgia.
Mettenberger must have a taste for theatrics. In college football's best game of the season thus far, he was a storyline within a storyline.
The Tigers defense couldn't stop Aaron Murray and Georgia's passing attack even if they had Miley Cyrus swinging with a wrecking ball in the secondary. For LSU fans, watching the defense struggle was reminiscent of watching Cyrus' "twerking" at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. It was demoralizing.
Meanwhile, Mettenberger rallied his offense to scores that kept the Tigers in the game. While the outside viewer watched LSU try to match score-for-score with Georgia, the informed observer dialed into the best storyline of the year—Mettenberger redeeming himself in Athens.
He was even a "Google hot trend."
After getting kicked off of Georgia in 2010, Mettenberger walked a long, hard road to earn a shot against his former team. He responded with the greatest performance of his LSU career.
To quote Odell Beckham after the game, courtesy of NOLA.com's Jim Kleinpeter, Mettenberger was "putting the ball on the money."
He completed 23 of 37 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns. The most notable stat of the night might be his zero interceptions.
Throughout the contest, Mettenberger found soft spots in the zone and placed balls where only his receivers could catch them when faced with man-coverage situations.
Mettenberger wasn't perfect, though. Near the end of the game, he had a few balls sail on him, which were a result of pressure by the defense.
While carrying the team on his back, Mettenberger's accuracy helped LSU produce 41 points against an SEC defense. His performance allowed him to produce enough yards to move up to No. 9 for most passing yards in school history.
Arm Strength/Reads: A
I could watch Mettenberger throw line drives to wide receivers all day. In Saturday's contest against Georgia, the nation watched him do just that.
Simply put, his arm strength was on full display against Georgia, with his fourth-quarter pass to a diving, helmet-less Jarvis Landry being the most impressive pass of the ball game. The word "impressive" doesn't give justice to staring down Landry threading the ball through two defenders near the goal line.
Mettenberger's passing groove was helped by Cam Cameron giving him easy reads early in the first quarter, like a mismatched Jeremy Hill releasing out of the backfield.
The senior quarterback built off of those early reads, though.
As the game progressed, Cameron's offense featured a receiver "stack" that saw Landry come across the field wide open. Mettenberger threw first down after first down with the route, and when Georgia's defense concentrated on Landry, Mettenberger threw the seam route to an open Beckham.
All in all, Mettenberger's examination of the defense and gifted arm allowed him to scorch Georgia's defense through the air.
Mettenberger really showed what he was made of in Athens.
He was rocked by a Georgia defensive lineman, heckled by Bulldog fans and analyzed under college football's microscope all week long. Before the game, he downplayed the game and told the media he "can't wait for Sunday." After seeing the mainstream coverage, it's understandable why.
None of that seemed to matter after kickoff though.
When push came to shove, Mettenberger hung tight in the pocket, found open receivers and spun tight spirals to them.
LSU may not have walked away with a victory, but moving forward, Mettenberger's confidence has to be gleaming. He knows he can carry the Tigers on his back, and though the game will show a loss for the Tigers, it's a win for LSU's ever-improving quarterback.
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