That Aha! moment.
The light came on for Zach Mettenberger last week against Alabama. We’ve been waiting all season on the 6-5, 230-pound quarterback’s breakout performance, and it just so happened to come on the night of the Tigers’ biggest game of the season against statistically the best defense in college football.
Mettenberger executed the game plan to perfection, and Les Miles added a few wrinkles on offense by starting out in a hurry up that caught Alabama slightly off guard. He was virtually flawless, connecting on 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards and a perfectly thrown 14-yard fade pass to Jarvis Landry for a touchdown.
Too many times this season we have seen Mett hold the ball too long, overthrow his receivers and show little to no confidence. There was much-improved pocket awareness, confidence and swagger in his game. In fact, Mettenberger led LSU on seven drives of seven plays or more, while AJ McCarron led Alabama on only two drives of seven plays or more.
“I think the fans and media needed that kind of game to have confidence in me,” he said. “I’m always going to be confident in my ability. I always knew I could play this game. It’s good to have that game under my belt for sure. It’s not going to mean anything – a performance like that is great – but if I go out against Mississippi State and lay an egg, fans and media are going to be breathing down my neck again. I have to go out and prepare and execute at the level I did against Alabama.”
He’s right. Fans will question his ability if he doesn’t come out and continue to develop against Mississippi State.
Sometimes, however, it just takes that one moment or one game for everything to click for an inexperienced player. Confidence is a dangerous asset to players who have the talent – and Mettenberger certainly looks like he possesses it – to take their game to the next level.
Lost in the coverage of Mettenberger’s slow development has been multiple drops by his receivers. The country saw a small sample size even in the Alabama game.
LSU hadn’t had a quarterback pass for 296 yards in one game since their last pocket passer Matt Flynn. Even though this season won’t be a championship season, Mettenberger’s breakout game was huge for the upside of both he and his team and the future of the program. Now, he must keep going.
We’ll find out Saturday who the real Zach Mettenberger is.
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE