LSU Football: An Appreciation of QB Zach Mettenberger

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 4, 2013

LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
LSU QB Zach MettenbergerKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The career of one of the SEC's most prolific quarterbacks in 2013 has come to an end one game too early.

LSU's Zach Mettenberger will miss the Tigers' bowl game with a torn ACL, according to Adam Caplan of Mettenberger injured his knee in the fourth quarter of LSU's 31-27 win over Arkansas last Friday afternoon.

LSU released a statement on Wednesday confirming that Mettenberger will miss the bowl.

“We are very disappointed for Zach,” head coach Les Miles said. “He’s been a tremendous leader for our team and he’s as a competitive a guy as I have ever been around. He’s had a great impact on our program."

Mettenberger was visibly emotional after the Arkansas win, which saw backup Anthony Jennings lead the Tigers on a 99-yard game-winning drive that culminated with a 49-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Travin Dural with 1:15 to play.

LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
LSU QB Zach MettenbergerChris Graythen/Getty Images

His career ended one game too soon, but his two-year stint as the quarterback of the Tigers ushered in a new era of LSU football.

When he took over before the 2012 season, LSU's offense was a disaster. A joke. The punchline to a bad joke on open mic night.

It didn't get much better during Mettenberger's first two months at the helm.

LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
LSU QB Zach MettenbergerChris Graythen/Getty Images

The Watkinsville, Ga., native completed only 56.6 percent of his passes during the first two months of his junior season and only topped the 200-yard mark twice—versus Idaho and Towson.

And then, it happened.

Against then-No. 1 Alabama and one of the nation's toughest defenses, Mettenberger completed 24 of 35 passes (68.6 percent) for 298 yards and a touchdown in the 21-17 loss. The solid performance on the big stage against a top opponent set the tone for a solid final month of the season in which Mettenberger threw for more than 215 yards in each November game.

"Last year I had a lot of ups and downs in learning," Mettenberger said in July at SEC Media Days. "I’ve learned a lot more getting comfortable with myself and with the team."

Indeed he did.

Mettenberger completed 192 of 296 passes (64.9 percent) for 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight picks during his senior season. It's just the third time in program history a quarterback has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in a season.

Zach Mettenberger Tale of the Tape
Passing YPG200.7256.8
Passing YPA7.410.4
Passing TD1222
Completion Percentage58.864.9

With the help of first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Mettenberger ushered LSU's offense into a new era. 

LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
LSU QB Zach MettenbergerScott Cunningham/Getty Images

No longer is talent at skill positions being wasted in Baton Rouge. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham each went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark, becoming the first two LSU wide receivers to do so since Michael Clayton had 1,079 receiving yards in 2003.

Cameron gets all the credit for turning LSU's offense around, but had it not been for Mettenberger's ability to adapt and implement his changes, LSU's program may not be going in this direction.

Zach Mettenberger's ability to rebound from a difficult start to his career and find success implementing Cameron's system has set the tone for the future of the LSU program and propelled Mettenberger to what will surely be a solid career at the next level.