LSU confirmed Wednesday morning that quarterback Zach Mettenberger suffered a season-ending knee injury and will not play in the Tigers’ bowl game.
In its statement, the school would not specify the injury. ESPN reported Tuesday night that Mettenberger tore his anterior cruciate ligament and sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Mettenberger suffered the injury midway through the fourth quarter in LSU’s 31-27 comeback win over Arkansas on Friday when defensive tackle Byran Jones hit him as he released a long completion.
Teary-eyed and red-faced, Mettenberger left the field on crutches.
“We are very disappointed for Zach,” LSU coach Les Miles said in the statement. “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.”
The torn ACL is a bitter end to the quarterback’s LSU career and further opens the door for true freshman backup Anthony Jennings.
Jennings, a Georgia native, is expected to start LSU’s bowl game.
Bowl news is announced Sunday. The 14th-ranked Tigers (9-3) are most likely to end up in the Cotton or Outback bowl, but others are possible.
Mettenberger will have surgery in three weeks, team spokesman Michael Bonnette said. The normal recovery time from ACL surgery is six to eight months. Mettenberger was projected as a first- or second-round NFL draft pick before the injury.
“I know Zach will work extremely hard to rehabilitate his knee and I don’t anticipate this injury having any impact on what should be a great future in the NFL,” Miles said in the statement.
In the LSU record books, Mettenberger, in just two seasons as a starter, finishes fifth in touchdown passes (35) and sixth in yards (5,783).
This past season was one of the best by an LSU QB. His 22 touchdowns, 3,082 yards and 64.9 completion percentage are all third on the school’s single-season lists.
Mettenberger’s final pass came on the play in which he was injured: a 32-yard completion to Jarvis Landry, an underthrown ball the receiver caught with his left hand with a defender between him and the football.
Jones barreled into Mettenberger as he released the pass with about 6 minutes, 40 seconds left in Friday’s game. Jones pushed past backup center Ethan Pocic and hammered the quarterback. Mettenberger’s left leg, while extended straight, was crushed beneath the 318-pound Jones.
The QB lay on the field in pain for several minutes before limping off. He was too emotional, Miles said, to speak to reporters afterward.
Pocic walked over to a wounded Mettenberger on the sideline and appeared to apologize. Pocic was in for Elliott Porter, who suffered a knee injury late in the game.
On an 8-yard completion to tight end Travis Dickson in the third quarter, Mettenberger surpassed the 3,000-yard passing mark. He’s just one of three LSU players to do that in a single season, joining Rohan Davey (3,347 in 2001) and JaMarcus Russell (3,129 in 2006).