In three of LSU’s four previous appearances in the SEC’s ultimate game, the Tigers had to rely on a backup quarterback to run the offense.
2001: Rohan Davey takes a shot to the ribs that sends him to an Atlanta hospital. Matt Mauck rushes for two touchdowns and earns MVP honors as the Tigers stun No. 2-ranked Tennessee 31-20.
2005: JaMarcus Russell goes down with a separated non-throwing shoulder as No. 3 LSU gets buried by Georgia 34-14. Matt Flynn replaces Russell but generates little offense.
2007: Ryan Perrilloux starts in place of Flynn, who separated his shoulder a week earlier in a triple-overtime loss to Arkansas. Perrilloux throws a touchdown pass and is named MVP as LSU squeaks past Tennessee 21-14.
The only time LSU’s starting quarterback made it through the SEC Championship Game was in 2003, when Mauck led a 34-13 romp over Georgia.
If ever LSU has had a split personality at quarterback, it’s been this season.
Lee started the Tigers’ first nine games — the first four while Jefferson was suspended. Jefferson has now eclipsed Lee in terms of starting and passing efficiency (163.5 to 152.0).
“He has improved in the execution of the offense from A to Z,” LSU coach Les Miles said of Jefferson. “He throws the ball so much better. To be honest with you, we have not been in a game where we have needed to throw the ball as much as we are capable. We’re looking forward to that at some time, because he can really throw it.”
Lee has come under a cloud in recent weeks with unconfirmed, un-sourced speculation from some media outlets as well as fans that he may be facing academic issues that may eventually cost him his eligibility. The innuendo led LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva to issue a statement Wednesday labeling questions about Lee’s status “premature and irresponsible.”
The fact remains that since completing just 3 of 7 passes for 24 yards with two interceptions in No. 1 LSU’s Nov. 5 showdown at No. 2 Alabama, Lee has played little. In the past three games, Lee has completed just 3 of 5 passes for 32 yards with one touchdown, and like LSU’s other quarterbacks has been shielded from the media.
Miles said Monday he would have liked to have gotten Lee into last Friday’s Arkansas game earlier but that he first wanted to “have victory secured,” a far different reality from the first two months of the season when Lee was leading the Tigers to victory.
Miles continues to maintain Lee is a vital part of the Tigers’ offensive plans going forward.
“The contributions that he’s made thus far and that he is about to make certainly in the next two games will be very significant,” Miles said. “I recognize that we would not be in the position that we are in today if it had not been for how Jarrett Lee played for us at quarterback.”
There is a third player in the LSU quarterback melodrama, one who just so happens to have previously played for Georgia.
Zach Mettenberger, a sophomore transfer from Watkinsville, Ga., right outside of Athens, was competing with current Georgia starter Aaron Murray two springs ago before being dismissed from the team following his arrest on multiple charges at a bar near Valdosta, Ga. He later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of sexual battery.
Mettenberger has played sparely this season — completing 8 of 11 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, all in Week 2 against Northwestern State. But might he play a role in helping LSU decipher Georgia’s offense?
“They might be picking his brain,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of Mettenberger. “There is so much that you can get on film nowadays, so I don’t know how much more he could add to it. We have also gone to a no-huddle since Zach left, and we have code names and hand signals that he has no idea about. I don’t think it will be a factor, but it could be.”
Mettenberger went home to Georgia this summer and hung out with some of his former Bulldogs teammates, including Murray.
“We were saying, ‘We’ll see you in Atlanta at the end of the season,’” Murray told the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press.
“It came true.”
Whether it will be true that one of LSU’s backup quarterbacks has to again play a big role for the Tigers in pursuit of an SEC championship remains to be seen.