AP UPDATE: LSU has announced that Zach Mettenberger’s playing career with the Tigers is officially over.
Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU’s 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury on Wednesday.
Shortly after Friday’s game, Miles initially expressed hope that Mettenberger’s injury did not involve any torn ligaments and that he’d be ready to return for a bowl game that the Tigers will likely play in January, depending on the bowl bid they accept this Sunday.
Instead, Mettenberger will require surgery and his rehabilitation will take place when he would have been preparing for next spring’s NFL draft.
"We are very disappointed for Zach," Miles, who is on a recruiting trip, said in a written statement provided by LSU. "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.
"I know Zach will work extremely hard to rehabilitate his knee and I don’t anticipate this injury having any impact on what should be a great future in the NFL," Miles added.
Mettenberger had been widely projected as an early round draft choice. He passed for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, getting within 266 yards of breaking Rohan Davey’s 2001 LSU record for yards passing in a season.
Freshman backup Anthony Jennings, who led a game-winning, 99-yard touchdown drive against Arkansas, likely will start the bowl game.
Mettenberger is the only player in LSU history to throw for 2,500 or more yards in back-to-back seasons and his finished his career with a 19-6 record as a starter.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has a torn ACL and won’t play in the 15th-ranked Tigers’ bowl game, ESPN reported.
LSU’s SID said he can neither “confirm nor deny” ESPN’s report, and that the school planned to issue an update Wednesday.
Mettenberger, a senior, became the third QB in LSU history to eclipse 3,000 yards in a season before he was hit low and twisted underneath a defender and blocker during Friday’s 31-27 win over Arkansas. He passed for 22 touchdowns and is fourth nationally with a passer rating of 171.45
Anthony Jennings replaced Mettenberger in the fourth quarter and quickly marched the Tigers to mid-field, then lofted a 49-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural with 1:15 left to pull out a victory in a trophy game known as the "battle for the Golden Boot."
"I was calm and relaxed because I knew my teammates around me had my back," said Jennings, who has completed 6 of 10 passes for 99 yards and a TD this season and has rushed for 49 yards. "I’ll always remember this because this is my first significant time playing and I executed. I couldn’t do it by myself, obviously."
Jennings entered the game with less than 7 minutes to play after Mettenberger hurt his left knee. And after Sam Irwin-Hill’s 65-yard punt came to rest inside the 1, the game came down to whether Jennings could drive the Tigers the length of the field in the final 3 minutes.
He responded with a pair of clutch first-down passes to tight end Dillon Gordon and receiver Jarvis Landry, and then a 21-yard scramble to set up his winning pass that kept LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC) alive for a school-record fourth-straight 10-win campaign.
LSU coach Les Miles marveled at Jennings’ "composure and poise," adding that it would have been disingenuous for him to say he "just expected that" from a freshman quarterback who’d seen minimal playing time.
Yet none of the Tigers doubted Jennings’ ability, not after he quickly rose to second-string.
"He was calm, cool and collected — what we expect from him. He’s a very mature guy," left guard Vadal Alexander said. "He took control of the huddle. The o-line knew what we had to do. … If Anthony has time, we knew he could pick apart a defense."