We started in the backfield with the tailbacks, and we knew what we were getting with that group in 2012. The biggest wildcard on the roster entering the season may have been Zach Mettenberger. I don’t think there’s any question that the staff, players and media (myself 100% included) placed too much expectation on Mettenberger in his first season in the SEC. He was billed as the answer as soon as the last Tiger walked back into the Superdome tunnel in January. That’s a hefty check to cash. After a season under center, we’ll talk about what we saw from the quarterbacks.
MORE THAN I EXPECTED:
I really thought Mettenberger would come out of the gate a little bit warmer than he did. He threw that interception at the seven yard line just before the half against North Texas and misfired on some makeable throws against Washington. The pick against Idaho the next week was a really bad misread, and he had problems with fumbles leading up to and in the Auburn games. Turnovers were a bit of a concern heading into the season, but I didn’t expect to see them against the poor teams on the LSU schedule. I thought he would really shine in those games. The mood Baton Rouge was pretty dismal. I think the first month of the season really caught us off guard. I know it did me.
I thought that baby was dead and gone. Not so much.
LESS THAN I EXPECTED:
LSU absolutely routed North Texas, Washington and Idaho. In those three wins by a combined 114 points, Stephen Rivers through exactly one statistical pass. Obviously, as I noted above, Mettenberger was trying to get settled in, but I think a 49-14 lead after three quarters against the mighty Vandals is safe. Rivers should have been allowed to come in and throw five or six passes just for his confidence. It almost bit LSU when Mettenberger went out in the second half of the Ole Miss game. Rivers came in and sailed one high on a third down before Mettenberger could return, but it didn’t hurt. I think you schedule those patsy games early to get guys work. Rivers should have gotten some.
I gotta be honest, I thought the quarterbacks would throw 25 touchdowns this year. They cut that in half. Well, Mettenberger did, throwing just 11. Through 12 games last year, Tiger quarterbacks had thrown for 20 touchdowns. I didn’t think there was any way LSU would drop off that drastically. There were some drops this year, and some deep throws were missed. The chances were there at times, but LSU had trouble cashing in.
JUST WHAT I EXPECTED
The Alabama Game
I think we saw over the last two seasons that the passing game is what separates LSU and Alabama. Jordan Jefferson’s strike to Rueben Randle finally dented the 2010 Alabama defense, and A.J. McCarron’s play in the Superdome was the difference in January. With Mettenberger now taking snaps, LSU had strengthened the passing game, at least from a talent standpoint. For LSU to win that game, it was going to have to be on Mettenberger’s arm. He did enough to win, throwing the ball 35 times for 298 yards and a beautiful touchdown. He was 6 for 7 on third down conversions through the air in the second half of that game. What happened after that will always stain the effort, but Mettenberger played the position the way it had to be played for the Tigers that night, and I expected that entering the season.