LSU’s Mettenberger poses rare QB threat to Bama D
Alabama’s gonna see a new animal next Saturday. Something it hasn’t seen since … oh … about mid-September. Something it’s got to be prepared for if it wants to stay unbeaten and on course for another trip to the BCS national championship game.
What is it? It’s a big-time quarterback.
It’s LSU’s Zach Mettenberger.
Through eight games this season, top-ranked Alabama has only twice allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 160 yards in a game. Johnny Manziel picked apart the Bama D for 464 yards back on Sept. 14. A week later, Colorado State’s Garret Grayson threw for 228 yards against the Tide.
Since then, the Bama D has put the clamps on opposing QBs. Of course, the guys throwing passes for the likes of Ole Miss, Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee haven’t exactly been high-caliber arms either.
They haven’t been Zach Mettenbergers.
LSU’s 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior signal-caller — to stick with the same measuring stick — has thrown for more than 160 yards eight times this season. Heck, he’s thrown for more than 260 yards six times. Three times he’s thrown for more than 300 yards with his season-high — a 372-yard performance — coming against Georgia on Sept. 28.
Only one defense has really had any success slowing down Mettenberger — Florida’s. The Gators held Mettenberger to 152 yards passing on Oct. 12. Even on that day, though, Mettenberger found a way to help the Tigers to a 17-6 win, hitting Terrence Magee for 17 yards on a key third-and-5 play on LSU’s first TD drive and hitting Odell Beckham for 22 yards on a key third-and-17 play on LSU’s second TD drive.
On the season, Mettenberger has thrown for 2,492 yards and 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions. For a little comparison, AJ McCarron, Alabama’s Heisman-hopeful QB, has thrown for 1,862 yards and 16 touchdowns with three interceptions.
Yeah, Mettenberger, blossoming this season under first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, poses a unique challenge for this Bama D. Not that Nick Saban & Co. aren’t fully aware of that.
Even last year, when Mettenberger didn’t have quite the command of the LSU offense as he does this year, he completed 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards and a TD against a stout Bama D.
Yep, Saban knows all about LSU’s No. 8.
“Zach does a really good job of executing their offense,” the Alabama head coach said this week. “He’s got a good arm. He’s a good thrower. He’s a very accurate passer. He throws the ball to the right place … and he delivers the ball to them in a timely fashion. And he played extremely well against us last year, and I think he’s played really, really well this year so far.
“They’ve got a very, very talented offense. They’re balanced. They can run it and throw it. They’ve got big-play guys, and (Mettenberger) is the guy that makes it all happen based on how he executes what they do. He’s probably playing as well as any quarterback in the league.”
Good enough to test this Bama D in a way it hasn’t been tested all season? Maybe. At least good enough to have Saban and the Bama D on high alert between now and next Saturday.
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