LSU passing game finds rhythm vs. Northwestern St.
After every LSU win, the coaches and players lock arms and sing the alma mater.
So there the Tigers were Saturday night after a 49-3 rout of Northwestern State, huddled in the north end zone of Tiger Stadium and belting out the victory tune in front of the student section.
Les Miles, wearing his signature white hat, had fullback James Stampley to his left.
To his right, he had Zach Mettenberger, who wore a smile as large as his 6-foot-5 frame as he and his coach, their arms locked, stretched their vocal cords.
“I think he did it on purpose because he knows I don’t know the alma mater,” Mettenberger said. “He was trying to embarrass me.”
Mettenberger has plenty of time to learn the lyrics of the alma mater.
Barring something unforeseen, the sophomore also has plenty of time to get comfortable in the LSU offense behind fifth-year senior Jarrett Lee, who got the call to run LSU’s offense following the Aug. 26 arrest of Jordan Jefferson and has the second-ranked Tigers off to a 2-0 start.
But Saturday night, Mettenberger had a whole half of football to himself.
Making his Division I debut after starring at Butler (Kan.) Community College last year, Mettenberger took over for a (slightly) hobbled Lee to start the second half and led the Tigers to three touchdowns. He finished 8 of 11 for 92 yards, including a 19-yard hookup with Kadron Boone for a fourth-quarter score.
“It’s definitely a lot different than playing in front of 5,000 people in (junior college) and high school,” Mettenberger said. “The atmosphere was great.”
Considered the team’s quarterback of the future, Mettenberger made his first appearance as a Tiger minus the kind of hoopla that once appeared inevitable.
LSU’s fan base has seemingly embraced Lee, perhaps because he inherited the position from Jefferson under such tumultuous circumstances.
Lee’s performance Saturday didn’t hurt, either.
Lee completed his first nine passes, finishing 9 of 10 for 133 yards with a 9-yard strike to Deangelo Peterson for the game’s first points. He found Rueben Randle for 43 yards on LSU’s first offensive play, setting the tone for a passing game that rebounded from a shaky outing in last week’s 40-27 victory over Oregon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Lee came up gimpy following a first-quarter sack near the LSU goal line, but he returned for the next offensive series and played the rest of the first half.
“If we were in any game that we needed to win, Lee could have played in the second half,” Miles said. “It was always the plan for us, should we get the opportunity, to give Mettenberger significant snaps and play him.”
The passing game benefited from having Randle back closer to full health.
Bothered by tendonitis in his right knee, Randle made only one catch - a second-quarter touchdown grab - in the Oregon game. He was back to his usual business Saturday in grabbing four passes from Lee for 97 yards and one from Mettenberger for 24.
LSU finished with 225 yards through the air after mustering only 98 the week before.
“We threw the ball efficiently and caught it well,” Miles said. “We had control of the situations and were able to run the clock out. We were able to do what we needed to do.”
Mettenberger said he wasn’t sure what his role would be in the offense moving forward, but he showed the same arm strength and accuracy in his debut that made him the top junior-college quarterback in the nation last year.
He gave fans something to look forward to.
As for learning the alma mater, Mettenberger said it’s coming.
“Second game as a Tiger,” he said with a smile. “But I’ll get it down eventually.”