Cameron says offense, Mettenberger can improve

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger throws during the second half of Saturday's game in Starkville, Miss. LSU won 59-26.
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger throws during the second half of Saturday's game in Starkville, Miss. LSU won 59-26.

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Cam Cameron descended the steps leading down from a humid visitors locker room with a message that might invite skepticism.

Thirty minutes earlier, No. 10 LSU wrapped up a 59-26 victory over Mississippi State, turning a tight three-point lead early in the third quarter into a route behind on a warm night where a revamped offense piled up 563 yards.

“We can still get a lot better,” Cameron said. “He can still get a lot better.”

The individual in particular stood 20 feet away, where fifth-year senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who threw for 240 yards and a two touchdowns on 25 of 29 passing, ticked off the same theme touched on by his able tutor in Cameron.

“If we keep our mind in the game, keep executing, we can put up 59 points every night,” Mettenberger said.

The mind meld was complete.

And that observation will get an immediate litmus test Saturday, when No. 17 Florida (4-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) arrives at Death Valley for 2:30 p.m. kickoff with Southeastern Conference’s top defense (217 yards per game) and arguably the best in the country.

Still, Mettenberger was practically flawless, particularly in the second half, when he was 9 for 9 for 129 yards and a touchdown. His lone mistake on the night was throwing too high on a screen pass to running back Jeremy Hill, an errant pass picked off by Nickoe Whitley at the Tigers’ 35-yard line with 10:41 left in the second quarter.

The meeting with Cameron at Davis Wade Stadium amounts to a mid-year progress report, too. In the wake of its victory, LSU ranked fourth in the SEC for total offense (488.8 ypg) along with third in scoring (45.5 points per game) and passing offense (291.5 ypg) on Sunday.

Asked whether the unit is performing as he envisioned, Cameron took a shorter-term view in his assessment.

“It’s one week at a time,” Cameron said. “The minute we think we’ve got the vision, you stub your toe the next week. That was the vision for tonight. Now we’ll start working in here in about 10 minutes on our next opponent. It is truly how we do it. It’s not real fancy, but we need to have the right vision for Florida.”

As for Mettenberger?

“Any guy that works as hard as he works and really cares about the guys around him — I really think the guys up front are doing a nice job — it’s just a collective effort,” Cameron said. “Our staff does a great job. Zach does a great job blending everybody together, keeping everybody involved.”

Poll position

The Tigers’ cringe-worthy first half Saturday against Mississippi State didn’t dent the Tigers’ standing with pollsters.

Behind a 31-3 second-half drubbing, LSU remained steady in the Associated Press’ weekly top 25 poll at No. 10 in the nation.

Meanwhile, the coaches are held off promoting or demoting LSU, which stayed at No. 11 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

Additionally, the first series of Bowl Championship Series Standings will be released at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Under wraps

A week ago, the bugaboo for a defense enduring growing pains was communication issues in relaying calls.

Against Mississippi State, which amassed 468 yards, the irksome correction will likely be tackling, particularly at the second level, where linebackers and safeties struggled early to wrangle receivers on quick-hit routes, along with mobile quarterback Dak Prescott and running back LaDarius Perkins.

“When everyone comes to the ball and is trying to wrap up, he’s going to keep bouncing off,” LSU outside linebacker Kwon Alexander said. “It’s just something we’re going to have fix.”

On the plus side, LSU was able to generate a pass rush in notching three sacks and three quarterback hurries, while the defense notched five tackles for loss.

Throw to run

The struggles of the run game early Saturday night were evident, but Mettenberger’s right arm made State pay for loading up the box.

Stripping out Hill’s 69-yard touchdown run, LSU’s running backs accounted for just 20 yards on 10 first-quarter carries. Meanwhile, Mettenberger was 7 for 7 in the air for 120 yards, with four of those going to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

“We decided to try and open them up with the passing game,” Beckham said. “My hat goes off to Zach. Since the beginning of the season, he’s just been on, making all the right reads, all the right throws. It’s just good to be part of that offense.”