Last Modified: Wednesday, December 04, 2013 7:22 PM
LSU won’t have to wait until next fall to find out if true freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings’ encouraging performance last week was a fluke.
Head coach Les Miles confirmed Wednesday that senior starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger will miss the Tigers’ bowl game with the injury he suffered Friday against Arkansas.
Miles would not elaborate on the injury, but ESPN reported that Mettenberger suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will require surgery, as well as a sprained medial collateral ligament.
“We are very disappointed for Zach,” Miles said in a written statement released through the school. “He’s been a tremendous leader for our team and he’s as a competitive a guy as I have ever been around. He’s had a great impact on our program.”
With Mettenberger out, Jennings, who came off the bench to direct a 99-yard wining drive against the Razorbacks, will get his first start in the Tigers’ final game of the season.
He’ll have a hard act to follow.
Other than being inserted to run a few quarterback sneaks, the more mobile Jennings hadn’t seen any action with a game on the line until Mettenberger went down late in Friday’s game with LSU trailing 27-20.
LSU settled for a field goal to cut the margin to 27-23 after Mettenberger’s injury. The Tigers’ final chance came at their 1-yard line with 3:04 to play.
Jennings responded by completing 4 of 6 passes and reeling off a 21-yard scramble, capping the drive with the winning 49-yard pass to Travin Dural for a 31-27 victory.
LSU (9-3) will learn its bowl destination and opponent on Sunday.
Mettenberger finished the year as the third Tiger to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season, ending with 3,082. He was 19-6 in his career as a starter.
His LSU career ended Friday when he was hit by Arkansas defensive tackle Bryan Jones while completing a 32-yard pass that Jarvis Landry made an acrobatic, one-handed catch on while taking the ball away from a Razorbacks defender.
Mettenberger also suffered a sprained MCL on the hit, which severely bent his left leg back even though he was wearing a knee brace.
Prior to the injury he was projected by some scouting services to go as high as late first round in the upcoming NFL draft.
Mettenberger isn’t likely to be able to work out in any of the NFL’s 14 regional combines in March, meaning he won’t be invited to the Super Regional Combine in Indianapolis in April, prior to the draft. He could be ready to throw when LSU late conducts its pro day or in private workouts.
“I know Zach will work extremely hard to rehabilitate his knee,” Miles said. “I don’t anticipate this injury having any impact on what should be a great future in the NFL.”
It will be third time in Miles’ nine-year tenure at LSU that the Tigers lost a starting quarterback late in the season before their bowl.
They’ve fared pretty well the other two games.
JaMarcus Russell was injured in the 2005 Southeastern Conference championship game, but Matt Flynn stepped in for the Chick-fil-A Bowl and led the Tigers to a 40-3 victory over Miami.
In 2008, starter Jarrett Lee was injured in next-to-last game. Freshman Jordan Jefferson was forced into action and the Tigers beat Georgia Tech 38-3 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.