Back-to-back 300-yard games put him in national spotlight
Zach Mettenberger is rapidly becoming one of the biggest names in college football this season.
His back-to-back 300-yard passing games against Georgia and Mississippi State — the latter earning him Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors Monday — are the first for an LSU quarterback in 12 years.
If he has another strong outing Saturday against Florida (2:30 p.m., CBS, Tiger Stadium), would he be against LSU building a Heisman Trophy campaign around him?
“I might have to change my name like Joe Theisman,” Mettenberger said Monday.
“Nah,” he said. “That doesn’t sound too good.”
Actually, the entire notion of a Heisman campaign doesn’t seem to sit to well with the Tigers’ senior signal-caller.
“This game first and foremost is a team sport,” Mettenberger said. “Me being a pocket passer and running about a 5.2 (40-yard dash) I need 10 guys around me to make plays.”
Those 10 guys on offense need him, too.
Mettenberger leads the SEC and is fourth nationally with a 190.1 quarterback rating. He’s completed 107 of 157 passes for 1,738 yards with 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
LSU coach Les Miles didn’t exactly endorse a Heisman campaign for his star quarterback but did say he believed Mettenberger could handle it.
“I was around Desmond Howard as a Heisman Trophy winner” at Michigan, Miles said. “I would expect that Zach would handle that kind of scrutiny.
“But again, I think we’re putting the cart before the horse there.”
For his part, Mettenberger believes he is one bad game from seeing his stock fall.
“You’re only as successful as your next game,” he said. “If I go out against Florida and throw about 50 percent (completion rate) and a couple of picks and have a bad game, I’ll be a terrible quarterback in the eyes of the media again.”
Strength vs. strength
LSU leads the SEC in red zone offense, having converted 27 of its 30 trips into 22 touchdowns and five field goals.
The Tigers also lead the SEC in third-down conversions (58.3 percent) and passing efficiency (190.1 rating), rank third in scoring offense (45.5 points per game) and fourth in total offense (488.8 yards per game).
The problem for LSU is written in the numbers being put up by Florida’s defense.
The Gators lead the SEC in scoring defense (12.2 ppg), rushing defense (65.0 ypg), total defense (217.0 ypg) and passing defense (152.0 ypg). The Gators rank No. 2 nationally in total defense and in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert those opportunities only 23 percent of the time.
“We’ll be challenged,” Miles said. “They lead (the SEC) in all major defensive categories. Again, a very sound scheme. They don’t give up big plays. Will Muschamp does a great job with that defense.”
Muschamp, Florida’s third-year coach, was LSU’s defensive coordinator from 2002-04.
LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry was seen leaving the locker room at Mississippi State on Saturday and again after practice Monday in a walking boot. He was also using crutches as he got in a car Monday to leave the LSU football complex.
Landry was not made available for player interviews Monday, generally a sign that a player did not practice that day.
That said, Miles and Mettenberger both expressed optimism about Landry.
“I think Landry will play” against Florida, Mettenberger said.
Miles was asked specifically about three injured players: Landry, strong safety Craig Loston and linebacker Tahj Jones.
Miles said he didn’t see any of the three missing Saturday’s game but added, “I think probably the one that is the furthest away is Tahj.”
Jones sat out the past two games with a hamstring pull; Loston missed the State game with a groin injury. Loston was seen outside the LSU athletic administration building Monday and appeared to be moving well.
LSU-Ole Miss kickoff set
LSU’s Oct. 19 game at Ole Miss has been set for a 6 p.m. kickoff. The game will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.
CBS will have a pair of games on Oct. 19 but passed on LSU-Ole Miss. The network will show Georgia at Vanderbilt at 11 a.m. and Auburn at Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m.
Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, a leader of Florida’s highly regarded defense, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. He had a pick six and his first career sack among five total tackles in the Gators’ 30-10 win over Arkansas. … LSU’s six rushing touchdowns against Mississippi State were the most for the Tigers since they had a school record eight in a 63-28 win at Kentucky in 1997. … LSU’s 59 points at State were its most in an SEC contest since that Kentucky game 16 years ago.