Updated: May 24
AN LSU STORY
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 2/13/20
In the wake of Joe Burrow's 2019/2020 Heisman Trophy and national championship-winning exploits, many Tigers fans choose amnesia when talking about any other quarterback who's ever played in Baton Rouge.
There was Joe Burrow and then Steve Ensminger's mid-70s' mohawk, maybe some images of JaMarcus Russell eating KFC while throwing a football on his back...but other than that, most Tigers fans (under 40) don't even know who Billy Cannon or Tommy Hodson are.
Although the two Matts, Flynn and Mauck, managed their way to heroic national titles in the mid-2000s', there wasn't a single LSU quarterback who could throw the football, remain loyal to the university and win while doing it.
At least not until Zach Mettenberger:
The UGA transfer's breathtaking 2012-2013 run endures as a two season Burrow-prototype, a nonstop odyssey of routine one-handed circus catches from OBJ and Jarvis Landry, Mettenberger's litany of bombs to Kadron Boone or freshman Travin Dural, and pure heart finally combining with talent at the QB position in Baton Rouge.
Image result for lsu 2013 football roster
As this new higher-flying Tigers' offense peaked out from behind the shadows, Mettenberger became LSU's first quarterback to throw for 2,500+ yards in consecutive seasons, until our potential national title run was tragically halted.
While Alabama has been a dynasty for a decade, the gap between the chief rivals of the SEC West are lot closer than many would think:
Image result for lsu 2013 odell beckham junior
In 2013/14, we were a collective 7 points away from leapfrogging the Nick Marshall-led Auburn 'Tygers' and playing Missouri for a shot at the SEC title, followed by a guaranteed appearance in the BCS National Championship Game.
We'd already beaten the 2013 title game losers and SEC Champions earlier in the season by 14 points...and that was with the much-maligned Cam Cameron in his first year as our offensive coordinator
For all their individual greatness, both Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson grew up idolizing and knowing both Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry, while either current LSU star receiver based their game upon the 2013 tandem's glorified receiving histrionics...and OBJ paid this admiration forward...in more ways than one.
At the same time, Zach Mettenberger became the first real LSU quarterback since Rohan Davey and Tommy Hodson, showing aggression, poise, and a master of puppets aura about him that flamed out too soon.
He wasn't Joe Burrow:
Zach didn't get everything his way, he didn't get to Atlanta or win the SEC, he never made it to the title game against Florida State.
And because of these underdog factors, we rooted for him like we did for Joe in 2018:
We knew how good he was if given the stage and the chance...though sadly, it just wasn't meant to be.
Mettenberger was rather luckless, getting sacked 4 times in 4 consecutive plays during our harsh 2013 defeat to Alabama, losing by 3 points to both #9 UGA and Ole Miss, followed by his nightmare ACL tear on Black Friday.
Mettenberger's horrifying knee injury vs Arkansas is a moment I still remember as one of the most gut-wrenching I've suffered through as an LSU fan:
Here we were, watching our hero, our guy, the dude who was about to usher in a new offensive identity to the LSU Tigers...and here he was lying on the field, his knee in pieces...
When he went down, a collective gasp of eternal dismay was exhaled throughout the 89,000 strong at Death Valley that day, and it's still unfathomable to think his present and future on a football field was taken from him in one instance.
Regardless, he could sling the ball all over the field, showing true grit, intelligence, pocket awareness and an underrated howitzer arm.
His 22 touchdowns in 2013 were good enough to tie Tommy Hodson's 1989 single-season record, but he remained only 6 away from tying JaMarcus Russell and Matt Mauck's mid-2000s markers.....all while missing three full games after his injury.
When looking at Mettenberger's 2013 statistics, he doesn't fall off too far from the outrageous numbers that 2013 Heisman-winner Jameis Winston put up in the weaksauce ACC:
Zach averaged 0.02 less yards per attempt than Winston, threw 2 fewer interceptions, and his overall efficiency was a mere 2% off the former Florida State quarterback's QBR.
Also in 2013, when you realize Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles were only throwing a few more TDs than Mettenberger, while playing three more games in a far weaker league, the case for Zach gets easier to argue.
Our 2013 season was stone cold proof of the truth Alabama fans have tried to ignore for so long:
LSU have always been capable of offensive greatness, equipping ourselves with a plethora of successful collegiate skill position freaks who then ascend to the NFL on an annual basis. Yet, due to the constant shuffling on the staff, the ineptitude of the Joe Alleva era, and the rigid egomania of Les Miles' coaching style, we couldn't collectively accomplish those goals until 2018 became 2019.
But after Joe Burrow's carnal emasculation of all comers, this aggressive Greatest Show on Grass offense is the only way forward for every future LSU team, no matter who may be coaching....and Mettenberger's 2013 crew showed the skeletal blueprint of what was already possible...6 years before it finally happened.
Just because we won a national title a month ago, doesn't mean we have to start forgetting all our heroes.
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