LSU notebook: Miles says Mettenberger exceeded statistics vs. TCU

As good as Zach Mettenberger’s passing statistics were in LSU’s victory against TCU on Saturday, coach Les Miles said they don’t do justice to the senior quarterback’s performance.

Mettenberger completed 16-of-32 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown as the Tigers defeated then-No. 20 TCU 37-27.

“I felt like his decisions were very good,” Miles said. “He threw several balls away. He was about 80 percent in his accuracy when you factor in those balls that might well have been caught and those balls that were thrown away.”

One statistic that did justice to Mettenberger and the offense showed LSU converted 13-of-19 third downs.

“That just lets you know that the quarterback is understanding the calls and making the plays,” Miles said. “Obviously, the receivers are getting open.

“The one thing Zach appears to me to have is a greater tempo — understands what he’s responsible to do in terms of coordinating the style of play and the motion and the adjustment thereafter, understands the cadence and really is getting to play faster. I think his contribution is very significant and much improved.”

The passing game produced two 100-yard receivers in the same game for the first time in 12 years as Jarvis Landry (eight catches, 109 yards) and Odell Beckham Jr. (5-118) did what Josh Reed and Michael Clayton did against Illinois in the Sugar Bowl after the 2002 season.

But the ball wasn’t spread around as democratically as it figures to be over the long haul. Travin Dural caught Mettenberger’s first pass for an 8-yard gain and a first down, then didn’t catch another pass.

Kadron Boone was the only other wide receiver to catch a pass, grabbing one for 13 yards. Fullback Connor Neighbors had the other reception, for 3 yards, and no tight ends caught a pass, though they are expected to play a more prominent role in first-year coordinator Cam Cameron’s scheme.

“Eventually, you’ll find that there will be a consciousness that our opponents will develop that will require us to hit balls (to the tight ends) in the underneath coverage,” Miles said. “That is certainly something that we’re working on as we go.”

More time for Jennings

It looks as though Mettenberger’s understudy — freshman Anthony Jennings — will play more against UAB on Saturday night than he did against TCU when he played one down — a 2-yard quarterback sneak on third-and-1.

“Anthony Jennings should certainly have played a little bit more than one snap, we think,” Miles said. “I wanted to get him in earlier but frankly didn’t have an opportunity to.

“We’d like to see him get a couple of throws and run the offense a little.”

Alabama Tigers

Neighbors is one of four LSU players from Alabama. The others are LB Kwon Alexander, TE Logan Stokes and QB Stephen Rivers.

Neighbors, who’s from Huntsville, about 90 minutes north of Birmingham, said UAB sent him a couple of recruiting letters when he was in high school but didn’t pursue him aggressively.

He does have a tie to the Blazers though as UAB radio play-by-play announcer David Crane is the brother of Neighbors’ stepfather.

Alexander said UAB was one of the first schools to offer him a scholarship.

His Oxford High School team played powerhouse Hoover High School in UAB’s home stadium (Legion Field) at the start of his sophomore season and offered him a scholarship on the spot.

But Alexander said it was too early in the recruiting process for him to make a decision. LSU got on to him later that season and eventually won him over.

Wright catches on fast

Senior WR James Wright is a relative latecomer to special teams, but he looked like a natural against TCU.

Wright’s only previous game experience on special teams came in the opener against North Texas last season, but he said a separated shoulder kept him off of special teams the rest of the season.

He returned to the units last weekend and on the kickoff after LSU’s opening field-goal drive he slapped the ball out of Brandon Carter’s hands and recovered the football at the Horned Frogs 10. That set up another field goal.

“(Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey) is always preaching in practice, “go for the ball, go for the ball, go for the ball,’ ” Wright said. “So I guess it was deep-rooted in the back of my head to go for it when I had the chance. I saw (Carter) swinging the ball on the way down, and I had kind of over-run the play so I reached back and slapped it out.”

Wright smiled when told that the play was reminiscent of several made by former Tiger Tyrann Mathieu, who had a knack for big plays. “But Tyrann probably would have picked it up and run it in,” Wright said.