Georgia spoils Mettenberger's homecoming

All week the focus fell on Zach Mettenberger's return to Georgia. The former Bulldog had a performance for the record books, but it ultimately wasn't enough as the Tigers fell 44-41.

ATHENS, Ga. — As time ran out Saturday in Sanford Stadium, LSU QB Zach Mettenberger crouched on the sideline as the Georgia Bulldogs erupted in celebration.

Had it not been for a 2009 arrest and ensuing dismissal, Mettenberger may have been in that mass of red jerseys. But his path took him to LSU, and it seemed like Mettenberger's much-hyped return to Georgia would have its Hollywood ending. He'd led his team on a go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, silencing the crowd that had berated him all day.

But Mettenberger could only watch as the defense squandered the lead, and LSU failed to answer on its final possession of the game.

"We put ourselves in the best position to win the game," Mettenberger said. "Unfortunately we weren't able to connect on a few more passes at the end."

The fact that LSU was even in contention late had a lot to do with Mettenberger's performance with the brightest lights shining on him. The entire week, the focus fell on his "homecoming" to the program where he started his collegiate career.

All week he denied that this game carried any extra weight. And he had the same answer when it was all over, even if his face showed a little disappointment.

"I didn't put much stock into it," Mettenberger said. "I told my teammates that this was just another game for us."

It wasn't just another game when you consider Mettenberger's performance. The senior QB threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 372 yards. It was the first time a LSU QB had surpassed the 300-yard mark since Matt Flynn in 2007.

He also excelled on third down, converting seven through the air, including a 3rd and 22 on the go-ahead touchdown drive.

But those numbers meant little for Mettenberger, who only had one goal Saturday.

"We did a lot of good things," he said. "But not enough to win and that's the most important thing."

Those around Mettenberger were willing to heap some praise on him though. His teammates credited him for maintaining his composure after the disappointing loss.

Les Miles summed it up simply.

"Was he perfect? No," Miles said. "But he was pretty damn good."

Though it didn't have the ideal ending, Mettenberger did admit he's glad to have this game behind him. As someone that shies away from attention, he's ready for that spotlight to shift elsewhere.

"All the hype can turn from myself to our team," Mettenberger said. "We have a lot left to accomplish."

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