When LSU and quarterback Joe Burrow broke an eight-game losing streak to Alabama on Nov. 9, 2019, with a 46-41 win in Tuscaloosa, Tide coach Nick Saban praised the Tigers and Burrow for their uncanny ability to convert third downs — 8 of 15 to be exact.
Burrow, who will lead Cincinnati into the Super Bowl on Sunday, did most of that, completing 31 of 39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns and rushing 14 times for 64 yards.
A previous LSU quarterback was just as effective on third downs, despite a 21-17 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 3, 2012. Zach Mettenberger converted 6-of-7 third downs on passes in the second half of that game and finished 24-of-35 passing or 298 yards and a touchdown.
“There was a stretch there in the third quarter when he hit four third-down passes,” Saban said after that game. “We couldn’t get off the field. Mettenberger played a very good game. LSU had a great game plan.”
Saban has just hired Mettenberger to be an offensive analyst. Mettenberger, a native of Watkinsville, Georgia, signed with Georgia in 2009 before transferring to Butler Community College in Kansas for 2010. After being recruited by Saban at Alabama in 2010, Mettenberger transferred to LSU in 2011. He started in the 2012 and ’13 seasons and was picked by Tennessee in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Mettenberger, 30, played for the Titans in 2014 and ’15 and was at San Diego and Pittsburgh in 2016. He was an assistant coach at Hillsboro High in Nashville, Tennessee in 2020, and at Father Ryan High in Nashville in 2021.
Alabama is also in the process of hiring Joe Cox as tight ends coach. Cox was Georgia’s starting quarterback in 2009 and a teammate of Mettenberger’s at that time. Cox was the wide receivers coach at South Carolina in 2020 and North Carolina-Charlotte in 2021.