LSU’s Minter, Mettenberger returning home for bowl

Ben Cook

December 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm.


LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will play in his home state when the Tigers take on Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. (Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE)

The Southeastern Conference bowl parade gets started on New Year’s Eve with two games — Mississippi State against Northwestern in the Gator Bowl and LSU and Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

LSU is no stranger to playing in the Georgia Dome.

“Every time we’ve ever walked into that dome, we’ve had a tremendously loyal following. The Tiger Nation fills that dome, and we’re excited to participate in that venue again with those people that wear purple and gold,” said LSU coach Les Miles.

“I can tell you too that if I was looking for a New Year’s Eve event, and I was really trying to impress the Mrs., I think taking her toAtlanta, getting a game in with my favorite team and finding a way to celebrate New Year’s is great.

“Let’s say the game is over by about 10:30 p.m., we can freshen up a little bit, and go find a place I can twirl my sweetheart. At midnight, I’d get a kiss. To me, it will be a great weekend highlighted with a tremendous game. In our time here, every time we pull up to a stadium, we see purple and gold, every time. It’s one of those things that we play to and feel very passionate about,” he said.

“We’ve had experience there, and we recognize the venue. It’s a great place for us to play. We love the dome.Atlantais a city where the players certainly come from and like visiting. I can tell you that Kevin Minter, our defensive standout, and Zach Mettenberger are looking forward to coming down the street to play,” Miles said.

Mettenberger and Minter are Georgia natives who are looking forward to playing in their home state.

Mettenberger is a 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior quarterback from Watkinsville who started his collegiate career as a Georgia Bulldog before his path led him to junior college and thenBaton Rouge. Minter is a 6-2, 245-pound junior MIKE linebacker from Suwanee who is one of the strongest players on the LSU team.

Minter has 23 starts in his first three seasons and has logged 187 career tackles, 17 tackles for loss, four sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovered.

“I think he continues to improve,” said Miles. “I think it comes second nature for him to play at linebacker. He’s always been very physical. He’s now taken all the right angles, anticipates the cuts when the ball comes out and recognizes coverage best. His body of work’s been very good, and I would expect it to continue.”

This past week Minter was named the winner of the Charles McClendon Award as LSU’s most valuable player at the annual LSU Football Banquet.

Minter was the leading tackler on an LSU defense that was among the nation’s best. LSU was ranked in total yards allowed (296.2), points allowed (16.9) and rushing yards allowed (101.8). He was second team All-America and first team All-Southeastern Conference. Minter was named National Player of the Week twice in 2012, the first time after setting a school-record with 17 solo tackles against Florida and the other coming after a 12-tackle, one-interception performance in the win over Texas A&M.

Minter and his defensive mates will have their hands full with the Clemson offense, particularly with quarterback Tajh Boyd.

I think he’s a very talented quarterback with a very strong arm. They have a very capable receiving core, and there are big plays in that receiving core. He has the ability to move his feet, run and extend plays,” said Miles. “He was named All-American for a reason, and it’s certainly evident when you watch his film.”

LSU comes into the bowl game having won three games in a row after a heartbreaking 21-17 loss to Alabama.

“I think our football team wants to be seen as one of the best teams in college football. The goal there is not so much the finishing number, but how we can play and what we can accomplish on the field,” said Miles. “We’re playing a very quality opponent. There’s a challenge there, and it’s all motivation of playing and matching yourself up against a very quality football team. We’re really looking forward to that competition and a quality finish to a year of achievement.”

LSU has been considered one of the best teams in the country for the past couple of seasons and now they are, as all college football teams are, facing a turnover in personnel by graduation and early defections to the NFL. Miles knows that next year’s team will be a new edition and this is the final chance for this team to take its stand.

“A team that has a close bond and some real feelings for one another have that need to play well for a teammate, and I think this football team has it,” he said. “There’s a quality group of seniors and certainly some underclassmen that will certainly consider the NFL draft. This may well be a, for this team, a last opportunity to play best. I think they’re looking forward to it.”