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I Really Wanted This One and So Did Zach Mettenberger: A Breakdown of a Valiant, Forgotten Performance.

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Me I took a screenshot

So flashback to September 2013, I’m 14 years old and in my fourth year actually paying attention to LSU football. I remember being absolutely enamored with Zach Mettenberger in the wake of the 1/9/12 title debacle. I just desperately wanted a QB, that desperation actually sparked my initial specific interest in the QB position, one that exploded during the the Harris and Jennings years. Zach Mettenberger had an uneven 2012 but showed enough flashes with an all-world receiver pair to inspire some serious excitement going into 2013. That excitement was well placed, he was absolutely superb. He wasn’t just good by LSU standards, he averaged 10.4 yards per attempt which is Heisman level, over a yard more than (underserving) Heisman runner-up AJ McCarron, just under a yard more than Heisman finalist Johnny Manziel, and just a shade (.3) below Joe Burrow’s 2019. He posted a passer rating of 171.4 which was a shade under Manziel and top 5 in the country. He was a larger volume of attempts and a slightly better defense away from a trip to New York.

This week’s theme at SB Nation is sports making you cry. Full disclosure I didn’t cry after this game, I wanted this game badly, and honestly want it more and more as time goes on, but I was convinced the defense would figure it out soon after and LSU would storm to an 11-1 regular season. Oh well. That said, for Zach Mettenberger, this was a beyond emotional game, as evidenced by him fighting back tears on the sideline when all was lost. Returning to the home stadium of his dream program, a program from which he got dismissed, he had everything to prove. There, he played the game of his life. The week-of hype for this game was palpable, very reminiscent of this past year’s Texas game. All of this combined, and it was truly an everything game for Zach Mettenberger. I just loved Zach Mettenberger so much and the LSU defense not having its ONE terrible season of the decade is an all time “what if” for me. This game is the prime example of that because Zach really really balled out and they still lost. Oh well, let’s get to the tape and look at a handful of plays that characterize his afternoon.

So here, LSU is running a hitch/fade combo to the field and a simple X glance or in Don Coryell terms, “bang 8 post” to the boundary. Georgia shows two-high but Mettenberger gets the boundary safety to tip his blitz with a dummy count and the field safety doesn’t rotate to the middle. I’m not sure if their design was to keep him to the field or he just busted his assignment but this was the easiest read in the world for Zach. A first down turns into a TD for Kadron Boone when the corner eats it. (Also this was one of the best third down offenses I’ve ever seen, just notice how many of the plays included are on third down).

The funny thing about this TD, not too long after the first, is that this is something the 2019 offense did A LOT. It’s just a multi slant concept to the field out of empty, something Ensminger and Brady absolutely loved this past year. Mettenberger is reading the safety over Landry. If he runs with Landry’s slant it opens the window behind him for Boone, easy money.

This is a cool design by Cameron. So LSU shows split backs but motions the fullback out wide. This pulls a linebacker out of the box and allows you to create a 1-on-1 with both the TE and the RB running this follow concept. LSU ran a similar concept a fair bit in the Fiesta Bowl against UCF. Since the MIKE runs with the TE Travis Dickson, Jeremy Hill can just bang inside on this Texas route into space for a big gain.

This is a boring play but I feel compelled to include it because LSU ran it like a hundred times in this game. Georgia was playing a lot of just straight man coverage with their DBs and shallow crosses are a good way to make a team pay for that. The tight end runs up the seam to clear out space for Landry to just get under and ahead of his DB into. Off the play fake, Georgia’s Mike “ROBOTs.” ROBOTing is when a linebacker turns and runs to find an in breaking route or deep crosser to take off of a play fake. It’s a technique used to recover from being sucked into their fit by play action. Anyway, it clears out the middle and Landry has some nice room. Again, LSU did this the whole game and it worked almost every time.

Literally in all 3 pieces I’ve now written about QBs and passing, the Sean Payton “Doubles” concept has come up. Here is something pretty similar. This, btw, is where Mettenberger kinda snapped and went into sicko mode a bit. Mettenberger reads the boundary safety here and sees that he shades a little bit off his hash which opens up the window for Landry who runs a really nasty route. It’s just a double move where he opens like he’s breaking outward but puts his foot in the ground and bangs inside on a post. He absolutely abuses #25 here. Mettenberger reads the safety and moves his eyes to Landry’s post off one hitch and rips it for a TD. The timing on this is pretty perfect by Zach and has to be, because that window was closing in a hurry. Beautiful play by Zach.

I’m sure you guys are gonna freak out on me for this but this might be the best throw I’ve ever seen from an LSU QB. Four Verts, best play in football. Georgia’s playing 2 high and the boundary safety just explodes on Landry’s seam and Mettenberger puts it just in front of/over him and away from the corner. This is just a bananas throw. The window he puts this in is the size of an actual car window, just tiny.

Another sicko mode throw by Zach Mettenberger. This time LSU runs 5 verts which is just such a badass principle to me, just send as many people as you can vertically. The linebacker 51 stays with Dickson’s seam for a while so Mettenberger has to move to Beckham’s. The routes are close enough together that he can break and undercut the throw Beckham so Zach has to strategically put it behind him. Absolute RIP by a man who was weirdly automatic on 3rd and 15+. This improbably extended the drive that gave LSU a late lead which the defense choked.

Long live number 8, he deserved a win here. He left it all on the field.