BATON ROUGE -- With Jordan Jefferson still suspended and starter Jarrett Lee having led LSU to a 25-point half lead, quarterback Zach Mettenberger got the most significant snaps of his sophomore season in a 49-3 Sept. 10, 2011 win over Northwestern State.
Playing the entire second half, Mettenberger completed 8 of 11 passes (the only passes he threw all season) for 92 yards, including his first, and only, touchdown pass of the season, a 19-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to little-used receiver Kadron Boone.
It was, evidently, a sign of things to come.
Fast forward a season and Mettenberger, now LSU's starter, has two touchdown passes in his first two starts, both to Boone.
"I'm starting to think KB and Zach have a thing going on," joked sophomore wide receiver Jarvis Landry who has nine receptions this season and 13 in his career, but is still looking for his first touchdown. "Something's happening, I don't know what it is.
"I've got to get whatever he has. Whatever he's eating or drinking, I need to get with Zach and do that, too."
This season, Boone has three catches, but two for touchdowns, a 34-yard strike against North Texas, then a 32-yard bomb against Washington. For his career, he has 14 catches, four for touchdowns (he hauled in another TD pass from Lee against Western Kentucky).
Boone isn't the prototypical red-zone target. He's got good size at 6-foot-1, but isn't a "jump ball" target. He's best known for running good routes and finding open spots in zone coverage.
So what's the secret to his becoming the touchdown-catcher?
"Just running the plays," Boone insisted. "And I just happened to be in the right spot."
That Boone is finding a more prominent role in the offense is a welcome development in his career. An ESPN 150 recruit out of Ocala, Fla., Boone was frustrated by the lack of playing time in his first two seasons and considered transferring after LSU's 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game.
He said his decision to stay had much to do with the guy who threw him the touchdown pass against Northwestern State.
"It was trusting Zach," Boone said. "I talked to Zach and (quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe) and Coach [Les] Miles and getting a new start with him was a big thing for me," Boone said.
Mettenberger had mostly sat behind Jefferson and Lee, two seniors. Upon inheriting the position, Mettenberger immediately worked to build chemistry with his returning receivers, who were also looking for more prominent roles after the departure of go-to receiver Rueben Randle to the NFL. Boone and Russell Shepard, who also considered leaving, opted to return, giving the Tigers depth along with Landry, Odell Beckham, Jr. and James Wright.
The latter three have emerged as starters, but under new receivers coach Adam Henry, Boone said there are more chances for the fourth and fifth receivers -- Shepard and Boone, in this case -- to show what they can do as Henry rotates fresh receivers into game.
"You just have to stay positive," Boone said. "One thing you don't want to do is have a bad attitude when your number gets called to go in a game. You might go for a pass and you drop it because you're mad about something. So just stay positive and that's what it's all about."
Boone said the margin for error is slim -- "If you don't get it done, you don't know when you're going to get another chance" -- so there is an emphasis on making the most of chances to impress coaches and, just as, importantly, Mettenberger.
As far as the quarterback is concerned, that impression has been made already.
"We've got five guys who can make plays," Mettenberger said, including Boone in the mix. He didn't say, however, that he was specifically targeting Boone.
"It's just how it worked out," Mettenberger said. "The coaches called the play and it could just as easily have been James [Wright] in that situation. But they put Kadron in there and he got the touchdown."
Landry may be a little suspicious of that claim. But for Mettenberger, it's just about throwing to the open man. And for Boone, it's about not only catching a touchdown, but also securing his chance to get to do it again.