It's safe to say LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger fell short of the lofty expectations placed on him in 2012. That was probably bound to happen, considering the Georgia native earned hyperbolic nicknames like "Mettsiah" before he ever played a game. The point still remains: Mettenberger managed only 2,489 passing yards and 11 touchdowns on the season -- an average of 207 yards and just 0.91 scores per game.
How surprising was it then, when Mettenberger pulled out his finest performance of the season in the biggest game of the year against the hulking monster of Alabama's defense? The junior signal-caller torched the Alabama secondary for 298 yards and a touchdown on 24-of-35 passing. The effort was his highest yardage output and his best completion percentage in SEC play.
Even better than that: Mettenberger went into the locker room at halftime with just 92 yards, setting the stage for an explosion in the second half.
Mettenberger completed 12-of-17 passes in the second half, including a big 14-yard touchdown on a fade route to Jarvis Landry. The red zone strike gave LSU a 17-14 lead with just 13 minutes left in what looked to be a monumental home victory.
All of that aside, Mettenberger's most impressive accomplishment was that he came through in the clutch for the Tigers' offense, time and time again. LSU faced seven third-down situations in the second half against the Crimson Tide, and Mettenberger converted five of them on completed passes. Those completions kept the Tigers moving on two touchdown drives, putting LSU in position to take the lead.
To say the performance was unexpected is a bit of an understatement. Mettenberger showed flashes of potential throughout the season, but he wasn't ever able to put it all together in the same game. In the Tigers' last game before Alabama, the 24-19 win against Texas A&M, Mettenberger completed an awful 39 percent for 97 yards. He was decent in the games against Florida and South Carolina, finishing with totals of 158 yards and 148 yards, respectively. But those games hardly lived up to the billing fans imagined when Mettenberger signed out of junior college in February of 2011.
The Alabama game, though it wound up as a loss, was the first time Mettenberger showed he could carry the LSU offense as a primary threat. It's probably not fair, but that showcase likely will lead fans to expect those type of performances much more often in 2013.