LSU vs. Georgia: Drama on and off the Field

The amount of hype surrounding the LSU vs. UGA game was something like I’ve never seen before. Not only was the game a must win to keep Georgia’s National Championship hopes alive, it was also the homecoming for a certain LSU quarterback who started his career between the hedges in 2009. Zach Mettenberger was in the same recruiting class as Aaron Murray. The pair roomed together and both redshirted their freshman year at Georgia, but Mettenberger was asked to leave following a misdemeanor of sexual battery, possession of alcohol and disorderly conduct. Mettenebrger then spent a year at Butler Community College before transferring to LSU.

The storylines off the field of Mettenberger’s return, his mother – assistant to head coach Mark Richt – getting the week off, and the Georgia’s superstitions surrounding their record concerning games on College Gameday seemed to overshadow the actual game, at least until it started. The reason for all the hype was immediately clear. The game was a back and forth offensive battle with little defense until Georgia’s stepped up in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter to stop LSU’s offense and secure the win for the Bulldogs, 44-41.

Who says Murray can’t win the big games? I’ve heard it time and time again that Murray can’t win when it counts. You can’t place blame on one single player, and those who do – that’s absolutely absurd. But if for whatever reason you’re still blaming that one player, you can’t blame Murray any more. Not after South Carolina, and certainly not after LSU.

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While football is a team game, obviously, this particular one seemed to be focused on the contest between the two quarterbacks – and former teammates. Both had stellar performances, and going toe to toe served to be quite a show for NFL scouts. Murray completed 20 of 34 passes for 298 yards, four touchdown passes and one interception while Mettenberger completed 23 of 37 passes, three touchdown passes, and no interceptions.

The overall consensus is that Mettenberger is the player more suited for the NFL. Murray’s numbers are great and his experience is invaluable, but the arm strength and size of Mettenberger is what the NFL personnel executives are looking at. They feel as though they know exactly what Murray has to offer, but Mettenberger could still be a sleeper. If that truly is the case, that he hasn’t in fact reached his full potential, then they may be right.

While I wouldn’t say their abilities have them evenly matched, they are both excellent at what they do. But I would have to agree with the experts, Mettenberger is built more like an NFL quarterback, if nothing else. But the Tiger’s loss to the Bulldogs hasn’t seemed to deplete Mettenberger’s draft stock at all. Quite the opposite, actually. He carried his team on Saturday and bailed them out numerous times. Alas, he was not able to do it again on their last drive, but his talent was undeniable.

Mettenberger stated over and over again throughout that “it was just another game… Just another SEC game.” We all know that’s a far cry from the truth, but I give him all the credit in the world for trying to keep the peace and answer like a politician. We all know this was more than just another SEC game for him and for several others as well.

The ever cool and collected Mark Richt even let his emotions get the better of him. In an interview with CBS’s Tracy Wolfson after the game, Richt said with tears in his eyes, “You know, both those quarterbacks played their tail off. Very impressive.”

When asked what he said to Mettenberger after the game, he shook his head and said, “I told him the same thing [that I told Murray]. I’m proud of him. He’s a hell of a player.”

The drama off the field no doubt helped this game get even more attention than anyone would have thought. But now it’s over, and everyone can go back to their “normal” lives for a little while at least. No one knows what the SEC Championship, National Championship, or the NFL Draft have in store for us, and we certainly don’t know what will happen between now and then. Only time will tell.

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