Zach Mettenberger looking to snap out of slump

Zach Mettenberger looking to snap out of slump

November 7th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

SABAN RESPONDS

Nick Saban was asked after Wednesday's practice about this week's Associated Press report in which Jimmy Sexton, Saban's agent, told Texas officials in January that Texas was the only school he would leave Alabama for. The report also said Saban's success with the Tide had resulted in extra pressure.

"I've already commented on all this stuff, and there is nothing new or different that's ever happened," Saban said. "I'm very committed to the University of Alabama. I love being here. I've talked about it before, and I don't need to talk about it again."

When asked if he ever recalled saying something like that about Texas, he said, "No one has said anything like that."

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger ignited his 2012 season with a surprisingly stellar performance against Alabama.

Another solid showing Saturday night against the Crimson Tide wouldn't jumpstart this season but rather restore the productive play he produced during the first six games. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior from Watkinsville, Ga., has thrown just seven interceptions through nine games, but five of those have occurred in the past two contests.

"I think there was some impatience there," LSU coach Les Miles said this week at his news conference, "and I think that's been evident the last couple of weeks. I think there is a need to recognize the style of defense that we're about to play and some of the throws that you make and some of the throws that you don't."

Mettenberger has flourished overall this season under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, throwing for 276.9 yards a game and posting an efficiency rating of 177.1. He ranks second in the Southeastern Conference in each of those categories behind Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

If he was going to experience a tough outing this season, it was expected to be his Sept. 28 trip to Georgia. Mettenberger dealt with questions leading up to that game about his 2010 dismissal from Georgia and about his mother, who works in Georgia's athletic department, but he went out and riddled the Bulldogs for 372 yards and three touchdowns in a thrilling 44-41 loss.

Mettenberger followed his performance in Athens by going 25-of-29 (86.2 percent) for 340 yards with two touchdowns in a 59-26 win at Mississippi State, but he has been mostly ineffective the past three games against Florida, Ole Miss and Furman. He threw three interceptions in a 27-24 loss to the Rebels and had a pick-six against the Paladins.

Remaining erratic against the Crimson Tide would be problematic for LSU, and he's the first to recognize that.

"They obviously recruit better than anyone in the country," Mettenberger told reporters this week. "They have freak athletes across the board, but they're also so well-coached and make so few errors."

Mettenberger was coming off an 11-for-29, 97-yard showing at Texas A&M last year when he completed 24 of 35 passes for a season-high 298 yards and a touchdown against Alabama. He has not wanted to reflect much on last season's game this week, but Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has on multiple occasions.

Saban has reason, as nobody threw for more yards against the Tide last season.

"You like to try and disguise what you're doing so that he can't anticipate where to go with the ball before he gets it in his hands," Saban said. "You would also like try pressure him and be able to affect him in the pocket as much as possible, but I think that if you have to do that by playing single-high coverage with their kind of skill guys, you're going to put a lot of pressure on your secondary.

"If he knows what you're going to do before you do it, he's going to have a really good chance of getting the ball in the right place at the right time. A lot of the timing routes they run are really difficult to defend."

Tide tidbits

Saban said after Wednesday's practice that freshman tailback Alvin Kamara is not with the team right now due to "behavioral reasons." Kamara has not played this season after rushing for 1,845 yards last season at Norcross (Ga.) High School.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.