Mettenberger, LSU offense roll on

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Saturday at Tiger Stadium. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Saturday at Tiger Stadium.

LSU has played two games, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has had two near-perfect performances.

He has completed 63 percent of his passes (compared with 59 percent last season), and more than half of his 19 incompletions have been throw-aways or drops.

He’s averaging 16.7 yards per completion (compared with 12.6 last season) and 10.5 yards per attempt (7.4). He hasn’t turned the ball over, and his six touchdowns are half as many as he had in 13 games last season.

After a 56-17 victory against UAB on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, Mettenberger inadvertently put his record-setting performance of five touchdown passes in perspective when he talked about Odell Beckham Jr.’s 331 all-purpose yards, which ranked third-most in school history. Mettenberger said Beckham’s performance was “really special considering all the talent that has come through here.”

The same observation could have been made about Mettenberger’s outing. His 16 completions on 19 attempts for 282 yards were pretty rare as well.

“It’s hard to believe that five is the school record when there have been so many great quarterbacks here,” he said. “But with receivers like Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, it makes your job easy as the quarterback.”

Beckham’s 136 receiving yards made up the biggest chunk of his gaudy yardage total — which also included a rush, a kickoff return, three punt runbacks and a record 100-yard return of a missed field goal — as he had his second consecutive 100-yard receiving game. Landry came up short of doing the same after catching eight passes for 109 yards and a touchdown against TCU last week, but he still had five catches for 71 yards and two scores.

The Tigers, who improved to No. 8 in both national polls Sunday, have yet to find a consistent receiving option after Beckham and Landry.

Beyond those two, the next leading receivers — with two catches apiece — are receiver Travin Dural and fullback Connor Neighbors.

The Tigers didn’t have the football as much against UAB as they did against TCU, but it didn’t matter. Mettenberger was even more productive, and the offense gained 445 yards a week after it racked up 448 in a 37-27 win against TCU in Arlington, Texas.

Coach Les Miles noted that LSU ran just 54 plays Saturday — 26 fewer than it ran a week earlier — but still nine players ran the ball and nine caught passes. The Tigers had nine players catch a pass in just one game last season — against Football Championship Subdivision squad Towson — and they never used nine runners in a game.

The offense showed signs of coming around during the final third of last season, but it struggled before that.

“We weren’t executing too well at this time last year,” Mettenberger said.

But it’s different so far this year, and one of the more telling stats is third-down conversions.

The Tigers converted 50 percent of their third downs Saturday (4 of 8) a week after converting 68 percent (13 of 19). The 68 percent was higher than they had in any game last season, and they converted as much as 50 percent of the time on just three occasions.

For the second consecutive week, though, a turnover was a major blemish on the offense’s performance. Against TCU, Alfred Blue lost a fumble that led to a 6-yard touchdown drive. Against UAB, Landry’s fumble led to a 39-yard touchdown drive.

“There were some mistakes that we left on the field,” Mettenberger said. “But all in all, we did a very good job.”