“He’s saying, ‘I’m ready,’ in terms of leadership and in terms of what a team would expect of him. That’s what we want. We want that quarterback to step in there and say, ‘Let’s go,’ and make plays, make the throws and let’s enjoy the game. ” LES MILES, on QB Zach Mettenberger
Eleven days before LSU football’s Sept. 1 season opener against North Texas, coach Les Miles wanted to find out if junior Zach Mettenberger was ready to begin his run as starting quarterback.
Apparently, Mettenberger passed the test.
With the number of reps for backups Stephen Rivers and Rob Bolden reduced, Mettenberger attempted 36 passes in LSU’s third and final preseason scrimmage, completing 26 of those attempts for 336 yards Tuesday in Tiger Stadium, according to statistics provided by Miles.
“The order of the day was to challenge the quarterback to handle a bunch of things, and he did,” Miles said. “He’s operating the offense. We threw a lot at him today, and he handled it very well. He’s got a great attitude and he’s picking it up, and he’s aggressive and very competitive. I like where we’re at right there.”
Miles didn’t say how many touchdown passes Mettenberger threw, but he did say that James Wright, Jarvis Landry and Russell Shepard all caught touchdown passes. Odell Beckham Jr. again led the way with four catches for 100 yards, followed by Wright (four for 60), Landry (four for 20) and Shepard (three for 20).
Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue led a 218-yard effort on the ground. Hilliard had 11 carries for 67 yards and three touchdowns, while Blue had six carries for 67 yards and two scores. Freshman Jeremy Hill had eight carries for 43 yards and two scores.
Running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford both sat out of the scrimmage with injuries, though Miles said he believes both will be ready to start the season.
“Both guys will be healthy come game week,” Miles said. “That’s the good news.”
Right tackle Alex Hurst, who has been slowed by an ankle injury, participated in his first scrimmage of the preseason. Left tackle Chris Faulk, who has also been slowed by injury, played Tuesday despite being “a little nicked,” Miles said.
“You can see why veterans play,” Miles said when asked about Hurst and Faulk returning, “because they just know it.”
Strong safety Craig Loston, who was seen recently leaving the LSU facility on crutches, missed the scrimmage. Miles said that paved the way for sophomore Ronald Martin to see extended playing time.
“Both Loston and Ronald Martin are coming along with their play,” Miles said. “I think Loston will be healthy and ready for the game.”
Free safety Eric Reid, the only true returning starter in the secondary after the dismissal of cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, had an interception, according to Miles.
Mettenberger completed 15 of 30 passes for 190 yards and two scores in LSU’s first scrimmage, then went 15-of-26 for 170 yards and five touchdowns with one interception in a second scrimmage dominated by red-zone opportunities.
In the final scrimmage, Mettenberger faced a defense whose schemes were designed to test his progress.
Miles said the defense even sprinkled in some North Texas-style plays to get Mettenberger ready for the opener.
“He’s saying, ‘I’m ready,’ in terms of leadership and in terms of what a team would expect of him. That’s what we want,” Miles said. “We want that quarterback to step in there and say, ‘Let’s go,’ and make plays, make the throws and let’s enjoy the game.”
The Tigers will have an abbreviated walk-through session Wednesday and return to practice Thursday through Saturday before taking the day off Sunday. They will then begin their normal game week preparations Monday.
Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.