Mettenberger trying to look past struggles

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
3:00
PM ET
Nobody took Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss harder than LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. He’s as competitive as they come and is willing to do whatever it takes to win the game.

“That’s kind of how I’ve always been,” he said. “It’s something I pride I myself on -- wins and losses.”

But sometimes that competitive spirit can get the best of Mettenberger. On Saturday, he threw three first-half interceptions all while trying to make a big play for his team. Coach Les Miles attributed the miscues to his quarterback trying too hard to win.

“He’s a tremendously competitive man,” Miles said. “He wants for his team to win. He wants to have contribution. He wants to do and make the play.

“Sometimes, it takes 60 minutes to make that play. You’re not necessarily going to get that play when you call it. It depends on how they play you, how they defend and how they cover. Then you’re going to have to make other choices. I think his want to lead his team is so strong that he affected himself.”

Through the first six games, Mettenberger looked like the nation’s most-improved quarterback. He averaged 290 passing yards per game with 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He was completing 68 percent of his passes and was fifth nationally in Total QBR (88.1), up 93 spots from where he finished a year ago.

“I don’t think there was any magic pill or any secret,” he said. “It’s hard work and preparation, and just some luck, some things to go my way.”

In the last two games, however, Mettenberger has reverted back to last season's form. He has thrown for 426 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He’s completing just 56 percent of his passes and only 41 percent on passes of 15-plus yards. His three interceptions all came on throws down the field.

“I was just being inpatient,” he said. “Not really taking what the defense gave me and kind of forcing some plays there. I always trust our receivers, Odell [Beckham] and Jarvis [Landry] especially, and I thought I could force those balls into Odell, but it didn’t work out. Now I have to live with it and continue working every day to prevent that from happening again.”

Mettenberger played better in the second half against Ole Miss and showed glimpses of why people thought he might be the most talented quarterback in the SEC. With the game on the line, he led the Tigers on an 11-play, 80-yard drive, capped off by his four-yard touchdown pass to Landry to tie the game.

“I noticed that he’s vastly improved over last year,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. “I think he’s a fine quarterback and going to be a really good NFL quarterback. He reads coverages extremely well, and then he’s got the two great receivers.”

But all Mettenberger could do was watch as the Rebels drove down and kicked a game-winning field goal, ripping away any chance LSU had at playing in the BCS national championship.

“It’s tough,” he said. “You just have a bitter taste in your mouth that you want to get rid of. You really want to get back on that field and get a win. That’s what we’re looking to do this week -- go back out there and get a nice win against Furman and head into our bye week before we play Alabama.”

The Tigers will host Furman on Saturday, but it’s hard not to start looking ahead to Alabama in three weeks. Mettenberger had arguably his best game of the season last year against the Crimson Tide. He finished 24 of 35 with a season-high 298 yards passing and a touchdown.

But all he remembers from the game is that LSU lost. He hopes he can return to form in time to knock off the nation’s No. 1 team.

“Obviously, I don’t want to play a game like I did against Ole Miss,” Mettenberger said. “I’d like to amend my mistakes and play well. But at the end of the day, the win is what matters.”

Greg Ostendorf | email

Auburn/SEC reporter

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