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LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger passes against Washington in the first half on Saturday. (Associated Press)<br>

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger passes against Washington in the first half on Saturday. (Associated Press)

Hobbs: Mettenberger, Tigers showing potential in passing attack

Last Modified: Monday, September 10, 2012 2:26 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

BATON ROUGE — It’s all relative, OK?

At UL-Monroe, for instance, where apparently the War Hawks routinely throw it up 67 times for four or five hundred yards, they must be chuckling down their noses at the buzz around LSU following a 41-3 victory over Washington.

The Tigers almost made it to 200 yards in the air.

Yee-haw!

They were that close — THIS close! — just a 5-yard swing pass away at 195 yards.

Maybe this week against Idaho, or whoever it is, LSU can take another shot at it — what Les Miles said would be a “landmark” for his team.

The Vandals have been duly warned.

But, I’m guessing eventually the Tigers will get there. Maybe even throw caution to the wind, perhaps risk 23 or 24 passes one dark and spooky night and even clip the 250-yard mark.

It probably won’t be as awe-inspiring as the two Navy pilots who did the precision fly-over of Tiger Stadium Saturday night. It may not impress UL-Monroe. But it will be a thing of beauty for Tiger Stadium.

If nothing else, the dominating win over Washington showed you they are making strides.

After the North Texas game, with all the dinking and bubble-screening the Tigers tried to pass off as an aerial attack, Miles’ vows and promises all summer of a new-and-improved “vertical” passing game were starting to sound like the end of a shady radio commercial.

You know, the part where it sounds too good to be true and then the announcer lowers his voice way down and talks real fast, spurting out, “Certain-restrictions-may-apply-not-available-for-all-games-or-defenses-offer-vaild-only-at-selected-locations—subject-to-dealer-input-additional-charges-and-fees-may-be-in-place.”

Not to worry.

Saturday showed LSU is serious, that the Tigers are going to figure out how to throw the ball whether they ever need to or not.

I’m not sure when it became a stigma to run the ball whenever and most wherever you want, but it has become quite a major concern among LSU fans, especially since the Tigers aren’t ever going to run out of power running backs.

Not to worry. I don’t think the vertical passing game was an idle Miles threat. He may use code words like “balanced” and “situational” but he really wants to be more of a frequent flier.

He also has a near phobia, it seems, about embarrassing an out-manned opponent once “victory is assured” and that could be a hindrance toward clipping that elusive 200-yard mark if some stouter competition doesn’t show up soon. They’re probably going to have to crack 200 before they hit 40 points, which is when Miles slams on the brakes.

But I do think Miles is serious about turning quarterback Zach Mettenberger loose just to see what happens.

That was evident Saturday.

The difference in the first two games for Mettenberger was encouraging, if only because it wasn’t the same old comparison between Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson.

Mettenberger was noticeably more comfortable in the pocket (also very noticeably better protected), more confident in making the throws, looked off the occasional first receiver, seemed much more in control.

He got some help from the sidelines. This game the Tigers’ passing game seemed to be in the attack mode, rather than giving him some gimme, dink passes seemingly designed to make sure he didn’t screw it up and lose confidence.

He certainly “passed” the audition. It was like the play-calling trusted him this time.

Mainly, he put the ball on the money all night long.

He showed he can make all the throws. He really can be the quarterback LSU fans have been pining for ever since Matt Flynn.

So, LSU can be sure it has the quarterback to do it.

Now, they just have to find some receivers to do him proud.

And if that’s the biggest problem Miles has right now, then I’m sure he sleeps well at night.

There were at least five drops against the Huskies, yet Mettenberger still completed 12 of 18 passes. Do the math on that one. And many of them were far more challenging attempts than in Week 1.

Odell Beckham was distraught after the game, guilty of three of the miscues. He’s one of the surest-handed receivers LSU has ever had. It was like he couldn’t believe what he had done.

Jarvis Landry will be fine, too, and meanwhile journeymen receivers James Wright and Kadron Boone have stepped up their games as dependable options.

Keep throwing it, Les.

LSU’s passing game will be fine. Maybe not UL-Monroe quality, but quite an upgrade.

•••

Scooter Hobbs
covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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