In a word, that sums up Zach Mettenberger’s decision to enroll at LSU prior to last season.
The opportunity to start at the D-I level.
The opportunity to make a name for himself at a top-tier program.
And this week, the opportunity to beat Alabama.
“The opportunity’s going to be there for me and the receivers to make a big play and we’re going to have to execute and capitalize on those plays when they present themselves,” he said.
So far Mettenberger hasn’t been able to take full advantage of his opportunities in TigerTown, whether his doing or that of others.
Last season, he wasn’t given the opportunity as he watched his Tigers fall to Alabama the last time the two squads played.
“I would have loved to play in that game last year. I would have loved to have been the starting quarterback all year, but we had two very good, capable quarterbacks who led our team last year,” said the signal caller, knowing the right answer to give. “The opportunity just wasn’t there for me to play last year, and I guess this will be my chance to measure myself against a top caliber defense like Alabama.”
But he has received ample opportunity in 2012. Versus defenses not up to Alabama’s caliber, he hasn’t lived up his lofty expectations with just seven touchdowns and two 200-yard passing games through his first eight career D-I starts.
But all that can change and all of his early struggles will be forgiven with a winning performance Saturday Night in Death Valley. Let’s face it. This is the game he was recruited to win. But he knows it won’t be easy versus the team that’s forced the third most turnovers in college football.
“Not making mistakes could be huge,” said the junior signal caller. “You watch them, they capitalize on all the mistakes that other teams that made against them. That’s something that myself and other guys that touch the ball can’t turn it over for sure in this game.”
Unlike most fans who are already psyched for Saturday’s contest, Mettenberger will enter it with a low-key, level-headed attitude. That’s just his personality. When you succeed with that demeanor, you’re compared to Tom Brady as you’re cool, calm and collected. But when you don’t, you’re compared to a guy like Matt Leinart who has the perception of not caring enough about football to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. It’s a double-edged sword, and it’s a fine line to straddle, but there’s no mistaking Mettenberger’s confidence in himself and his abilities as the big game looms.
“You gotta be level headed. You can’t get too jacked up. Then you’ll start throwing balls into the stands. You can’t play with your tail tucked between your legs because then you’ll start playing tentative, not like you know you can,” the quarterback explained. “It’s a fine line between almost looking too relaxed and being jacked, I guess. Quarterbacks have to be really good at keeping their emotions in check during games.”
And that, he certainly does, which could work to his advantage with all the hype and all the pressure that is falling upon Baton Rouge leading up to kickoff.
“Hopefully everybody on our team is like me and doesn’t watch ESPN or read the newspaper. Even Twitter. There’s probably a thousand people knowing what kind of shoes I’m wearing because some of yal tweeted,” Mettenberger said to the throng of media interviewing him in his green and orange weaving shoes. “So just guys have to tune that stuff out because it’s not important. No offense, but what the media says is not important. it’s about the 11 guys on the field going out and executing the game plan and fighting for victory.”
Ain’t that the truth. The media won’t have a darn thing to do with who wins Saturday’s contest, but the quarterback went on to challenge those in the stadium other than the 11 guys on the field to make all difference they possibly can.
“I hope the fans have a lot to drink Saturday, and they’re rowdy Saturday night.”
Surely he meant hot chocolate with a cold front moving its way through the Red Stick this week (although Saturday’s game should be in the 60s).
But whatever Tiger fans chose to consume Saturday, a “rowdy” atmosphere will give Mettenberger and the Tigers what they oh so desperately need to take down the Tide.