Chart through the history of LSU football and you’ll quickly see some common themes come to the forefront. Most notably, LSU is a program guided by power running and tenacious defense. LSU’s greatest teams almost invariably played dominant defense and featured a dominant tail back. LSU’s passing statistics, even as the game crawled into more and more open passing attacks, remained... pedantic. LSU’s all-time leading passer is Tommy Hodson at 9,115 yards. If you want to know how that stacks up historically, here’s a quick, not at all comprehensive list of QBs with more career passing yards:
- Willie Tuitama
- Casey Clausen
- Brett Hundley
- Brad Kaaya
- Darrell Hackney
Not exactly a list of the greats. No other LSU QB has even 7,000 yards passing. Passing the football is not really what LSU does.
Which is what makes 2013 such an outlier when it comes to LSU football seasons. Smack in the middle of the Miles era, famed for grinding, violent football, LSU suddenly featured genuine QB production and, somehow, a struggling defense. Sure, LSU still had a dominant RB in Jeremy Hill, but the Tigers could pass and even featured a pair of surefire NFL WRs in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
No one could have predicted what happened when that QB returned home.
The Greatest Game of 2013: Georgia
Not long ago, we talked about the showdown in Athens from 2009. It was the reset year of LSU football and the foundations of a team that would go on to play for a National Championship in 2011. Four seasons later, LSU would travel back to Athens, this time with a different set of characters and different style of play.
It’s easy to forget, but most LSU fans reacted to the hiring of Cam Cameron in 2013 with glee. Sure, Cameron had his issues in the NFL, but the guy had a genuine pedigree. Plus, plenty of coaches that struggle at the professional level transition their systems to college seamlessly. On a micro level, LSU having an OC that would gel with Miles seemed of the utmost importance at the time, after the failed Gary Crowton experiment and the unfortunate situation that lead from Steve Kragthorpe to Greg Studrawa. Cameron brought all the things LSU fans craved: QB development, vertical passing and an NFL system. Finally, LSU would have a genuine offensive threat to match their dominant defenses.
Cameron walked into a stellar situation. Not only did LSU have Senior QB Zach Mettenberger, but stud WRs in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry as well as star RB Jeremy Hill. LSU opened the season ranked 12th, facing #20 TCU in Arlington. LSU oscillated between dominance and mistake-prone football, eventually pulling ahead by 10 on a Mettenberger to Landry TD pass midway through the 4th quarter. After dispatching a pair of cupcakes, they welcomed Auburn to Baton Rouge and steamrolled ahead to an early 3 TD lead before taking their foot off the gas and yielding three second-half scores. Still, it exhibited LSU’s offensive potential. After exploding to a big lead, giving some of it back, LSU were able to find a Mettenberger to Landry connection to seal the game. Now undefeated and ranked 6th nationally, LSU took their explosive offense on the road back to Athens, where QB Zach Mettenberger’s career began.
Georgia dismissed Mettenberger after a sexual misconduct incident, but it was a decision made easier by the emergence of star QB Aaron Murray. The two QBs who once competed for the same starting role were now competing on different teams for an SEC victory.
Georgia’s season started with a narrow loss at Clemson, but the team rallied the next week to spring an upset over no. 6 South Carolina, before taking a welcome breather vs. North Texas. Mark Richt probably had a nice list of grievances to air with an athletic director scheduling three of his first four weeks of the 2013 seasons vs. Clemson, South Carolina and LSU.
Some games waste no time getting going and this is certainly true of this one. Georgia took the ball on their opening drive and drove 75 yards in just three and a half minutes to score their first TD of the day. Not to be outdone, LSU took the ball and drove 66 yards in just 2:46 seconds, the bulk of which came on a 48-yard pass to a wide open Kadron Boone. It was an early indication of the game ahead.
After DT Anthony “Freak” Johnson snagged at pick, LSU started at the UGA 33, and Mettenberger eventually found Boone again, this time for a 4-yard TD, giving LSU a 14-7 lead. Georgia took the ball back and in under 2:00 drove 79 yards to tie the game back at 14. The Georgia QB showdown was in full swing.
Then the game went sleepy. The teams traded punts. Eventually Georgia notched a FG and LSU matched them late in the 2nd. Georgia took over again with under 4:00 remaining, and orchestrated a gorgeous 9-play, 82-yard drive to take a 24-17 lead in to the half. 24-17 in today’s game seems fairly commonplace, but in 2013, especially in the SEC, this type of offensive explosion felt foreign.
LSU started the half with the ball and put together a very Miles-esque type drive. Traveling just 53-yards on 12 plays, LSU burned over five minutes of game clock before kicking a FG to cut the lead to 24-20. Miles, it seemed, had enough with all the explosive offensive and wanted to move the game into his more comfortable, grinding style.
Georgia didn’t play along, taking the ball back and notching a FG of their own after a 7-play, 41-yard drive. Georgia held a TD lead midway through the 3rd and things were just warming up.
Mettenberger and LSU took over, driving 80 yards in under three minutes to tie the game. Mettenberger found Landry three times on the drive, once for 26 yards and then later for the 39-yard score. The LSU offense would not back down.
Suddenly, the LSU defense came to play as well, forcing a quick three and out. The momentum looked to be shifting to the visitors for perhaps the first time since they took the lead in the 1st quarter. Georgia punted the ball to the explosive Odell Beckham Jr. and he promptly fumbled, giving the ball right back to the Bulldogs on the LSU 20. Three plays later, Georgia converted the turnover to points, taking a 34-27 lead.
Still, LSU had no quit in them. After botching the previous punt return, Beckham Jr. returned the next kickoff 30 yards, opening LSU’s possession on their own 30. The offense showed up again. After a pair of carries for Hill, Mettenberger found Beckham for a 17-yard gain to close the 3rd quarter. LSU went right back to Hill to open the 4th, now breathing on the UGA red zone. A short completion to Landry and another short gain for Hill put LSU at 1st and 10 from the UGA 31. After a pair of incompletions, LSU stared down a 3rd and 10 from the same field position. History says this is a down and distance LSU simply doesn’t win often. Today, they did. Mett found Landry for a clutch 25-yard conversion, giving LSU a first and goal at the UGA 6. Two plays later, LSU found paydirt, tying the game at 34.
Georgia took over with just over twelve and a half minutes to go. No one in the stadium felt at ease. QB Aaron Murray pieced together an 11-play, 55-yard drive, spanning 4:15 of game clock, only to notch a lead-taking FG. It felt like a blown opportunity for the Bulldogs. Sure, they lead 37-34, but they gave the ball right back to an LSU offense that they knew they couldn’t stop.
LSU took over on their own 25 and things immediately looked dire. Georgia sacked Mettenberger to start the drive and on 2nd down, Mettenberger fumbled the snap, pinning LSU into a 3rd and 22. In 1965, Charlie McClendon most assuredly would have punted in this situation. The clock continued to tick and the crowd between the hedges mounted to a fury... LSU lined up in a shotgun and thought better of it, calling a timeout.
On 3rd and 23, LSU returned to the field with an empty backfield. Mettenberger took the snap, and Georgia brought only three, opting to play coverage. Mett stepped up into his protection and fired a dart to the streaking Beckham for a 25-yard conversion. 1st down, LSU. Not wasting any time, LSU got back to the line and gave to Hill, who picked up only 1. Then Mett went to the old familiar, finding Landry for 14 and then 12 yards to move LSU to the UGA 35 with 5:05 remaining on the game clock.
LSU lines up in the I formation and Mett drops into the play action, with Landry and Beckham on the same side of the field. After a beautiful fake, Mett hits his back step and fires to a wide open Beckham, picking up 27 yards and putting LSU on the UGA 8. On 1st and goal, LSU turned to the most famous play in LSU football history: the toss dive. Hill took the snap and pressed the hole before kicking it out to the left and scampering to the corner of the endzone for six. LSU leads 41-37.
The problem? LSU left Georgia over 4:00 of game clock, which they clearly did not need. Murray took over and the Bulldogs moved through the LSU defense with little resistance. Six plays and 75-yards later, the Bulldogs lead 44-41.
LSU would get the ball back with 1:42 on the clock, with one last chance at magic. Mettenberger again took a sack on first down. LSU called timeout, now 1:26 remaining. On 2nd and 17 from the LSU 17, Mett found Beckham for 18 yards, giving LSU new life. On the new set of downs, Mett tried Landry and Beckham each twice, failing to find them, ending LSU’s possession. Georgia would take over and run out the clock, sealing the 44-41 victory.
W 37-27 vs. #20 TCU
W 17-6 vs. #17 Florida
W 34-10 vs. #9 Texas A&M
W 31-27 vs. Arkansas
The Arkansas game undoubtedly featured the most dramatic ending, but it’s also the game LSU should certainly not have been in position to need a dramatic ending. The Florida game looked like high drama, but that team wouldn’t win another game in 2013. The A&M game was a dominant victory over a Heisman winner. Those never get old.
What’s the Greatest Game of 2013?
This poll is closed
Heartbreaking Loss in Athens
Beating TCU to start the year
Beating the Gators
Smacking Johnny Heisman
Thriller vs. the Hawgs